This weekend at Ringling College was a big deal for senior computer animation students - they were having their final project short films critiqued. I was able to attend a few critiques yesterday, and it brought back fond memories of my time at Laguna College, watching all of my animation friends present their animatics.
The RCAD students had some great projects. Dreamworks director Steve Hickner came to critique their films and give a lecture on eye-tracking, combining shots to eliminate unnecessary cuts, and establishing the geography with the main character.
Here are a few tips:
- Steve reiterated several times that many student films have too many cuts and they begin to look choppy. He also emphasized that he does not like using dissolves between frames unless the story calls for it. Whereas having too many cuts make a film look choppy, too many dissolves causes the action to lose its snap.
- When telling a visual story, establish as much as you can in the opening shot. Give a good silhouette, reveal the geography of the environment and how the character fits into it.
- When showing a character reaching for something, open up the pose. In other words, use the arm farthest from the view so the audience's view is unobstructed by the arm.
- Steven Spielberg says, "Every third shot should re-establish the geography".
- Use shots, angles, point of view to establish scale. Make it obvious how big and small everything is compared to everything else, and then exaggerate it.
- Steven Spielberg says, "Having the camera at eye level is the LEAST interesting viewpoint. Shoot slightly above or below instead.
- Use Google images of skies to add in as backdrops to your animatic. Make the environment as real as you can - clean it up!
- Stack your storyboards to see where the eye-trace will line up. You don't want your audience having to move their head. The eye movement should be very minimal. Do a camera adjust so the subject will appear near the same spot in the previous frame.
These are the main points that Steve made, which he demonstrated through four student films that he reworked. As I was listening and watching, I kept thinking of how so much of this relates to narrative illustration and picture books. I'm really glad to have been able to attend this lecture and apply these tips to my own work!