I'm in the middle of an awesome animation session and came to think a lot about this detail. It's not a problem I have encountered, I just want to know and how you think about this :)
Say you have a character at one part of the screen which has all the focus directed at him. Then something happens at another part of the screen. Something makes a sound, or a new character appears and starts talking. And say you don't make camera movements. How long does it take before the first character reacts, turns his head and looks towards it?
You could make him react immediately, so that the focus on the screen clearly shifts. But that probably looks unrealistic. A realistic reflexive reaction time is probably around a few frames to one second (?). Or you could make him react much slower or not at all, and by doing so, keep some attention to himself, and kind of split the focus on the screen.
Which opens up a lot of other questions, how does the focus change in relation to the characters' expressions and movements? For example, If I have several movements happening simultanously, how can I make sure the viewer doesn't miss the most important one and get confused? So please write how you this magic works in your experience :)
(hope this wasn't one of those things that just felt way more interesting in my head :p )
Welllll....this gets perilously close to the whole "auteur" argument. True, independent film artists often wear multiple hats, and in an animated feature, the director frequently is the key visionary behind the film. But whether a film's "heart" lies in the direction...hmm...I think I'd challenge that. Maybe it's just because I'm a writer and have seen my share of visions be chopped to pieces by a director who didn't understand the basic point of a story and sacrificed it so he could make his own statement, but I really don't buy into the whole auteur theory. Unless you're concepting, writing, designing, animating, editing, etc. a film, the process will always be collaborative, and it's tough to pin down which part is more important than the others.
I completely agree with you, Strider, there is a lot of meat still left on THAT carcass. I think the heart of animation is the direction. Everything else is there to support that.
It's a shame for this conversation to just die out - I think this is important stuff and a lot more interesting than the usual nuts and bolts stuff we get all the time.
This is coming from an amateur-at-best, so take it with a grain of salt, but I'd like to pop if for nothing else than to help me keep an eye on what other people say, too.
I think the best lesson you can give yourself on that kind of timing is to watch movies. Tons of movies--over and over again. There's a line from a mildly obscure comedy called The Movie Hero where the main character is arguing with his girlfriend why they're at the theater again. He says that the secret to everything he's been looking for can be in any movie, and that's why he has to watch every single one (the girl then walks out on him). But the point is still relevant. Go see a movie first as an audience member who loves film. Pay the money to go see it again if it was great and this time find out why. Buy it on Dvd, slow down the scenes, watch it with friends and talk through it--watch it alone. I am kind of a shitty animator but I feel like I'm well on my way because I love to watch movies and I know what I like. I am a better storyteller than I am an animator from this, but the principles, I hope, will filter in, too.
When I'm shooting, I feel like the animators are, in at least a tiny way, at an advantage over a live action director. If you don't get the performance you like, sure, it's kind of hard to yell cut and shoot it again. And I hope to storyboard and "popthrough" (thanks for the new vocab!) on the next movie. However, as it is, where time is slowed down to a pace that no one could ever even watch a film (multiple minutes per frame) and the ability to think and adjust at that pace is why shooting is such a joy for me (there's a great Radiolab about listening to Bach slowed down to a pace where it takes 24 hours to hear one symphony and the strange things it does). Even when things don't turn out quite how I'd hoped, there's a sense of control over each and every moment that a live action direction could never do--you can, down to the frame, think about how the reaction time affects the scene.
And that is marvelously cool.
What Tony said.
I'm a hopeless amateur, but every now and then I'll get one of those moments he's talking about, where everything works and the puppet stops being a puppet and starts being a character.
I had maybe half a dozen of those moments in the disaster epic Eye of God. There was one shot where Graziella was backing away from Dr. Ball's desk and she backs into the wall, which causes her to lose her balance for a moment and use her arms to catch herself. Everything just came out lovely on that shot, and it's the best piece of animation in the whole 24 minute slog. And the neat thing was, I knew the shot was working and coming together as I was animating her. It was, as Tony said, marvelously cool.
Tony Clavelli said: