Camera Lens Choice!
These are some guides I did specifically for the Green Lantern Animated Series. I learned most of my knowledge of CG camera lenses while working on Clone Wars (with Maya). I could see the rules being different on a live action set.
Also, note that this indicates stylistic choices I wanted on Green Lantern. Tron Uprising, which I think is a beautiful looking show, tends to use a lot more wide angle lenses than we did, which is what gives it that extra “anime” look.
If you work in traditional animation, you probably don’t have to think much about lens choice - unless you work in anime, or Avatar the Last Airbender.
I learned some great tips from my former teacher Shawn Jeffery at Sheridan College. We would analyze the layout of masterpieces like Mulan, and talk about staging and composition. He told us the importance of staging a scene as not to distract the viewer from the story being told. Layout artists do this by combining foreground, mid-ground and background objects and letting perspective and depth cues lead the eye towards the focal point in the shot. He taught us about screen axis, the invisible line that keeps characters on opposing sides of one another during a scene to avoid confusion. And when to break the axis line, like in a fight scene or dramatic moment when you want the audience off balance. These tools are important for all storytellers but often animators don’t think about.
But animators DO need to understand how to compose and stage shots because the characters themselves should be positioned properly. Obviously when you are working in a studio and get a shot from layout much of this has been worked out, but it still can be improved on (sometimes greatly) with some simple rules.
The things I think about when staging a shot:
1. Always mind the format of the project you are working on, letterbox, 4:3, etc. Try to work with the action and title cut off marks on screen so not much important stuff happens outside of these regions.
2. Avoid staging characters straight front or sideways, have your character angled in more in 3/4 for more depth and appeal.
3. Avoid cutting off character with the camera plane at joints; the ankles, the knees, the neck or the elbows. This avoids a disembodied feel. Always cut off the body in mid shin, leg, upper arm or neck if possible.
4. If there are two characters in a shot, when you position one higher then another they will be more dominant, and vice versa. Even slight shifts really make a difference.
5. Always try to follow ‘The rule of thirds’ Place the focal point of the character, or the character himself in a wide shot, in one of the magic ‘thirds’ of the screen. To find these spots, divide the camera plane with two lines horizontal and two vertical, thus separating the plane into three equal parts:
The four points — upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right — are the best locations to place the element of interest. Having a character dead center or far left or right is difficult for the eye to track. If you place your character (or its face for example) in one of these locations it will enable you to view it naturally. Studies have shown that when viewing images that people’s eyes usually go to one of the intersection points most naturally rather than the center of the frame.
More info on the rule of thirds:
There are many good books on subject of composition, from photography to film to animation. And you can watch great movies. Most have really good composition you can steal or use as reference for your shot. There are examples for almost every situation out there.
Lastly, this isn’t really a composition tip, but when animating try not to have much of movement too far away from the shots focus point. For example, if a character is standing and talking in a mid shot, and his face is in the upper right third or the screen, you don’t want his hand down by his side making lots of movement taking the viewers attention far from the face, where all the important stuff is going on. Hope that helps a bit!
Guest blogger jmart (Jason Martinsen)
Labels: Jason Martinsen
Sculpting The Hand (by Philippe Faraut)
Philippe makes it look so easy. His technique is really interesting. While I’m the type who would sculpt the hand in pose he only poses the hand once the base has been formed. With clay that soft though I don’t think I’d dare create it without an armature like he did.
I think regardless of style or personality, your character should run properly. Awkward run ruins everything.
Don’t believe me? Try running the wrong way, see how far that gets you.
For clarity’s sake: the difference between right and wrong here is the arms. Your arms travel opposite your legs.