Thursday, 8 November 2012

3 things I like, and 3 I don't.

Starting off with things I like, here's #1:


Megamind, for me, is great. I think animation suits this type if thing, to make characters that can do things impossible in the real world.
Anyway, that's not the thing I like the most about it. I find it very funny! Some of the expressions in it are great!
They command some real empathy. You can connect with Megamind when he's in disguise as Bernard, and he talks to Roxanne about what she thinks of him.
Some of the gags in it are great too, one in particular that I like is when Metro man is being hit by objects and he doesn't even shift a bit. This is kinda a violation of the principles of animation, but it works so well!

For #2 I'm going to suggest a film I like:


There's a few reasons why I like it. One of those is because it deals with dreams, which I find fascinating. Another that it deals with the impossible, but in a fairly realistic way - it's a bit like the Matrix in that sense - A whole new world that brings its own rules that you can have an awful lot of fun testing out.
This particular picture from Inception I find striking. I like old stuff, really really old stuff that looks like it's been there for ages and totally forgotten about. It has a real sense of mystery. Things like this remind me of a dream I once had where I stumbled across these three huge spires that were so incredibly large they were mind-blowing. It almost hurt to dream about it. Since then I've just found old things like those buildings (the smaller of which I found out is a real building. (OK I found out that it's not a real building but there's a place called Liepaja in Latvia that looks very similar.))


If I could recreate that sense of scale awe in 3D I'd be very happy.
I suppose you could say that the reason why I like Inception, and this stuff, is because it triggers a deep down sense of adventure. And Inception is totally badass, there is that.


Japanese Cartoons.

I think the main reason why I like Japanese cartoons is because they are about much better things than you tend to get in western cartoons, certainly back in the day. Oh, and there seems to be a whole lot more of them.

Where else can you watch a cartoon where someone's took on the role of the grim reaper, or is the pilot of a massive robot, or is some type of ninja? If only they had played these cartoons on a proper channel when I was young, not a cable one. Then I would have never left the house! Actually, thinking about it, that's probably a bad thing.

I'm a fan of some of the episode-based anime. I enjoy watching stories unfold over the course of a few episodes, but there are some shortfalls to this. One of which is the quality of the animation - having to pump out a new episode every week (or the equivalent) means they have to cut some corners. Scenes with characters standing still, repeated animation, still things that move over the screen, is all disappointing. So is reducing the frame rate of action sequences. That's cheating!

This is where Studio Ghibli films come in. Some of their films are fascinating and because they've not got the same time constraints they can take their time with their animation, resulting in some beautiful films.


Things I don't like:


Old Disney cartoons - I don't mind some of Disney's hand drawn cartoons. I've seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Jungle Book... Probably more. I also used to like stuff like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, so it's not that I dislike hand-drawn stuff, or old cartoons, or Disney specifically.

Conveniently, the video thumbnail is exactly the right frame to represent what I don't like.
They made the characters soppy and pathetic, and when they move the squash and stretch seems over the top. They almost seem to be made from jelly. Appeal is one of the principles of animation but these characters lose appeal with me because of this. Maybe I just appreciate a more realistic style of animation.

Also, another one of my gripes with Disney is the songs. When I was a kid I'd be happy to watch a Disney film but I'd always be dismayed when the characters started singing. It doesn't happen in real life! I found it disappointing.


Animation in video games:

It's always over the top.

When I think, 'dodgy animation in video games', I'm always reminded of the way the character in Metroid Prime would stand when idle. She'd gently dance side to side, and her hand (the other one is a gun) would close and open. Admittedly you didn't see this often, being a FPS style game, but it was stupid nonetheless.

It seems almost as if the producers have thought, 'shit, we need this character to move, what can we do?' and 'ooh look, we can move this!' and the result is characters that weave around when they're idle. This over-the-top-ness is generally the problem with video game animation.

If I were to animate a character's idle pose, I'd have them looking around a bit, and thinking, maybe shifting their weight from side to side every so often.

There is one game I've played recently where the animation is impressive - Uncharted. The way the character touches walls when he goes near them, and the seamless transitions between cutscenes and gameplay were great, and they drew me more into the game. Maybe a more realistic character commands more empathy?

Massive, obvious shortcuts

This ties in with part of what I said about Japanese cartoons.
I find it detracts from the enjoyment of a cartoon when you can really tell when an animator has done something to save time. Moving a still thing across the screen, looped animation, parts where only a character's mouth moves. Done right, all of those could work, and I'm sure they do.

I remember in particular this dodgy cartoon I saw before which was some kind of medieval hero type thing. Anyway, oh no, the town was set on fire! And oh no, the same 4 people ran away from the buildings in the same way over and over!
For me it just doesn't work.

It seems to me that I'm a fan in particular of a realistic style of animation. Not that it can't be about unrealistic things, an not that you can't use exaggeration, sparingly, perhaps.
It's my goal to learn how to do this well, and to build a good portfolio in the process... And that's why I'n doing a Master's Degree!

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