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Pre Production Introduction - Character Design

Year One- Introduction to character design, storyboarding and animatic creation for animated production.
by

Jodie Wick

on 6 October 2014

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Transcript of Pre Production Introduction - Character Design

Character Design, Storyboard and Animatic...
Character design covers all realms of storytelling, whether in the form of a novel, play, poem, computer game, film etc; in whatever format you choose to tell your story your characters have to be believable. Animation (and any other design practice) can benefit through the lucid manipulation of information into new classifications, concepts or descriptions. In 'Poetry in the Making', by Ted Hughes, the poet recommends the reader to familiarise themselves in great detail with the real in order to imagine the unreal.

Hughs offers the advice:' Imagine what you are writing about. See it and live it. Do not think it up laboriously, as if you were working out mental arithmetic.' (Hughes, 1969, p.18)

This applies to animation too.
The importance of life drawing!
Observation drawing means that you are developing the widest possible visual vocabulary. Meaning you can concentrate on:
• Actions
• Timings
• Movement
• Weight
“At times you will have to animate stuff where you can’t just be cute and coy. Those are the times when you’ll have to know something about drawing, whether it’s called form or force or vitality, you must get it into your work, for that will be what you feel, and drawing is your means of expressing it.”
Bill Tytla
Well conceived characters allow the audience to believe and empathise with them. Individual and original.
To make character design work the character and movements have to be believable. This is why it is important to study the human and animal figure and understand it. You're not always trying to achieve realism, just believability.
Characters have to be believable no matter what they look like.
How do we make them engaging?
Most writers agree: Archetypes not stereotypes are a good foundation for character design.
Stereotypes:
Simplified caricatures of people with a narrow range of behaviour-making every member of a certain group seem the same. Often these characters are offensive, as stereotypes take away the humanity of the character you are portraying.
Archetypes
Archetypes are elementary ideas or subconscious character models that span time and cultures but, are kept fresh, current and relative through reinterpretation and re contextualisation. Through giving your character a personality and appearance specific to its back story and environment you will create an entirely original piece.
To Consider ...
The Concept of the character you design relates very closely to what it is going to do and also to the technique/ medium used for drawing it.
Design to the back story or environment- drawing can complement narrative or vice versa.
Much of the characteristics that can be built into the design of the character are capacity for movement or lack of it.
Exaggeration
Temperament and disposition become evident from what the character does e.g. wicked, good, clever, stupid.
What it does relates back to the capacity for movement.
Every aspect of you character is relative.
Gender
The Style and design gives the audience the essence of character, environment, situation and context.
Coraline Clip
Once you have defined your protagonist, you next need to give them a personality and history which accordingly assigns traits and moods. How they came to be as they are in the first place. Some of this information will be contained in the text (if you choose to use a piece of literature) or analysis of the object. However, you may also add information to create a back story and therefore a more credible and original character.
The narrative can be defined by the movement of your character
Characterisation can lie more in what the character does than what it looks like. With imagination, any object can be turned to a hero or heroine of a drama.
Accordion Dog
http://vimeo.com/9733185
Lonely Little Teacup by Linnea Sterte: http://vimeo.com/33792425
'Bert'
Character Model Sheets
When beginning to make a film you will start with some idea of what you want your character/s to look like, around the storyboard stage your characters will develop- at this point you will draw up a definitive model sheet.

Research your subject thoroughly, reference and experiment before settling on a style or technique.
Once you have settled on this...
Character Model Sheets
Character Model Sheets are templates of the characters used by the animation staff on a film or production.

They Provide: (For Each character)
Construction
Structure
Proportion
Design
Usually several model sheets are needed for each character to show the physical and design aspects. For this project you are only required to create one. Each animator, artist has their own style of drawing. The model sheet guides artists working on a production toward making all the characters look “ON MODEL”. “ON MODEL” means the model sheets have been followed to perfection as if one artist (instead of many) has drawn the character.
If there are differences in the characters appearance, even subtle ones those characters are considered to be “OFF MODEL”.
•Character poses showing volume, proportion and construction. (front, back, and three-quarter view)
• Character in action
Once you have learned to draw a character from every angle, the next step is to try drawing the character doing different things and showing movement. This is one of the key elements in successful animation: if the artist can show emotion and natural flexibility and distortion in their drawings of figures, there is little doubt this will translate well when the animation is complete.

Movement sketches also help the animators get an idea how the various positions and expressions of the characters change with each transition.
•Close-ups of character in differing emotional states (surprised, elated, angry, and so on …).
Facial expressions are so varied we could spend a week studying them alone. It has been said that there are around 3000 distinct facial expressions common to humans. Many books have drawings of common facial expressions, which are good to know but don’t rely on them too much.
Observation!
Expressions are subtle and we are trained to read them from far away. Everything needs to be obvious, but at the same time stimulating.
•Character line-up showing the scale of all the characters in relation to each other. You may also want to show the scale of key props to your character.
And Finally …
Other points to remember …
• Sketch and refine your character design, allow your character to evolve before you standardize your characters appearance.

• Any object can be an animated character. The more complicated your character the more time consuming the animation.

• An animated object without features or appendages will appear as a force of nature. If you want to add personality in your character, you must add some features and/ or appendages.

• Think about who your character is- make up a short biography. Put across the essence of your character- effects of its environment, situation and context; this can be shown through style and technique as well as design.

• Finish off the character with clothes, fur etc. Remember a striped shirt is a striped in 25 frames per second! Keep it simple!
A pony tail or neck tie helps exaggerate action.

• Once you have created your model sheet another good idea would be to see if someone else can comprehend or even draw the character based on the information provided on your Model sheet.

• Good Design is important- good design must support the story.

• Good design helps you look beyond just the initial image/ proposition and see what the character is all about (colour, clothing, posture etc)

• Consider that the design is based on the story you want to tell (e.g. Beavis and Butthead’s crude design style matches the type of humour of that show. Finding Nemo’s characters saying Beavis and Butt Head’s dialogue wouldn’t work) (Simpson’s works great for the shows context, and at the same time it is not very aesthetically pleasing in design)

• Think about how realistic and engaging your character will be. Consider the seven basic archetypes as classified by Joseph Campbell: hero, mentor, threshold guardian, herald, shape shifter, shadow and trickster.

• General appeal- who is the audience? Does it engage the audience?

• Personal taste; create a design that you are comfortable working with

• How simple or difficult will it be to animate and draw? Does it achieve your desired effect?
• Remember that it will be animated- will the character move well?
• Do your research! Know your character inside-out, and then design from the inside out. Know what they love to eat, who their best friends are, what they do when they wake up in the morning, etc.

• Also consider design of Location/Environments/Backgrounds as you devise your character.
Pick an object...
Example Of How To Use Help List:

Object: A Sheep

Name: A sheep or lamb if it’s a baby

Size: Sheep are quite small/ could be as big as a house maybe with millions of sheep inside it

Shape: Sheep are sort of dog shaped, four legs, cloud shaped, woolly, boxlike covered in fluff

Design/Function: The look of a sheep relies on its wool, shaven, unshaven, eats grass, provides wool can be eaten/ metal outfit, Mohican hair cut

Material: Woolly/ Change to Spikes

Colour: Generally black and white/ What about coloured wool

Number: Sheep are usually kept in herds

Environment: Sheep are found in fields and outdoor settings/ could a sheep be found in an office? City Council Hall? Protesting?

Movement: They waddle on their little legs around the fields all day eating grass. A sheep is a four legged character and can walk, run, trot and jump.

Senses: Sheep can be seen, heard (and tasted!). They can be smelt and touched

Myths/Stories: It is perceived that sheep are stupid/ an intelligent sheep?

Parallels: Sheep tend to gather in herds, they constantly follow each other/ but for a change ‘The sheep that turned’ (anarchy)

Gender: A male sheep is a ram; most farmed sheep tend to be female
Consider the following criteria as you analyse the object:

Object:
Name:
Size:
Shape:
Design/ Function:
Material:
Colour:
Number:
Environment:
Movement:
Myths/ Stories:
Parallels/ opposites:
Gender:
Create a character based on your analysis and discussion of that object. Make up a back story, tell us about its motivations, temperament, environment... Then introduce the character to the group tomorrow.
Animation Storyboard
Its extremely important to start off with a solid concept of what a storyboard is.

Storyboards are primarily used:

As a tool for working out the core idea and structure of a project
Identify differences in the structure of a script
Graphically portray action described in a script
Portrayal of physical gags that can't be written
Ensure cohesion of the job for others working on the project
Act as a blueprint for the project
Sell the idea to other people
Think of it as an outline form of developing your film concept

The basic form is always the same, a collected series of single pictures, each of which represents a distinct visual sequence or narrative element within the project being developed. (Laybourne, K (1998) The Animation Book. New York, Three Rivers Press)

Storyboards help explain a concept whether that be to peers, tutors, fellow animators or producers and clients.
Psycho (1960) 16 f
Good visual standard (all happens in around a minute)
John Wayne, Stagecoach (1939) 8f
Very detailed Action
Godfather 12f
Complex sequence-meanings (Soundtrack holds it together)
Context
...look toward Hitchcock, Welles, Kubrick and Scorcese for inspiration rather than always at other animation. Consider the work of Mike Leigh – devise character in a way that facilitates narrative.
"By creating a rich back story and ensuring the characters experiences are seen from a range of perspectives, narrative can emerge through exposition and suggestion, and as dramatic events." (Brad Bird talking about working on the Simpsons)
You are asked to create a storyboard straight from concept and develop it to presentation standard for your assessment.

Work in Landscape format to fit on the plasma screen. Suggested final storyboard size 1920 x 1080 pixels 72dpi
Every scene must serve a purpose
Cutting is used to shift the audience's focus to important aspects of the story. Storyboard out all the key motions and the beginning and ending of each action, not just one drawing per scene (if you can in 12 frames) as this will make your ideas far more clear. Make sure the viewer will be able to follow the flow of the scenes without getting confused, pacing etc.

Action sequences often cut from scene to scene. There is always a reason to cut though; something to show.
Do not move the camera unless necessary
Use the camera to reveal jokes, or again, to direct the audiences focus to something necessary for the comprehension of the story.

"While staging is no substitute for story, I felt then, as I do now, that the camera is an unseen character, the eyes of the audience. It can assume a million different natures: a restless child, a cold killer, a fly on the wall..."

…staging can really help to tell a story
Jump Cuts
A "Jump-cut" is a cut from scene to scene that appears to "pop". It usually comes from cutting from one angle/ framing to a very similar angle/framing. This is very jarring to look at, as it will appear that things in your scene (i.e. Character will jump into their new position in the field) (Skwigly Magazine)

Try to make sure that the camera in the new scene is dramatically either closer or further away to that character.
Composition
Make the most of space- make your shots as interesting as possible
Depth-try not to set the shot up too obviously- straight on or straight profile. A good composition has a variety of sizes and spaces and makes use of positive and negative space.
Don't cross the line
If you want to you must have a shot which is on the axis to clarify to the audience where they are being taken
Be creative with your composition but avoid complex angles
Remember you might have to animate that scene. It might be worth considering if it's appropriate to your character eg a mouse's perspective on the POV, taking ourselves out of the world of humans.
Be sure that your animation and camera instructions in your action columns are extremely clear
Continuity
Make sure everything remains constant throughout a sequence
Don't be lazy with your poses
Light Source
Especially as you only have twelve to draw! Get across the action you want to convey using the appropriate amount of poses with the space you have
This can really add to the atmosphere and feel of your piece. The Human brain expects light to appear from above, mimicking the suns rays, when the light is placed from below it is unfamiliar to the brain. In horror, mystery and suspense stories, this can provide a simple means to produce the mood desired by the piece.
Make sure the characters are acting in the correct camera direction
If one character is speaking screen right, the other character must reply screen left
Action should happen center screen
General view that eyes should be 1/3 from top of screen
Remember safe area
Always make it visually stimulating- draw the viewer into the scene.
Strong Posing
Don't position the balance of the weight of the character in the center of the shot, it tends to cramp the scene and action, try to place the weight off center, create a feeling of more space at the front than the back. Variety in the space makes it more interesting to the viewer.
Six shot exercise
Good exercise to try and will get you used to shots and framing, as well as how to tell a story visually
Exercise...
From one of the following key words/ situations develop a six shot storyboard incorporating each one of these shots in the most comprehensive order:
Advice for the brief
Remember its not a comic strip and won't be seen as a whole on screen.
Animatic
Individual images from the storyboard are recorded to coincide with timing from the storyboard. As a result, an animatic provides a sense of how the finished work will look on screen and reflects the running time of the final piece fairly accurately.
The Big Story
"Drawing is very useful in preproduction; when we build a story there’s a lot of round –trip, or revisiting of the intended narrative, and a rough drawing is quick to make and quick to throw away if the idea it illustrates does not serve the story adequately. It is in the storyboard where the action is clearly defined and the intentions of composition are settled in a particular direction and with a specific artistic point of view."
Rule of Thirds
See CS Character prezi for further detail:
http://prezi.com/tciq_qyep9fg/cs-character/
To Note: This is just a practice, you will all need to create your own individual character for the crit and final assessment of this project.
Commuting Pets:
http://commutingpets.tumblr.com/
See: http://www.bfi.org.uk/live/video/832
4.40- 9.11

'Observation is the measure of truth'

As an animator you build your knowledge of what's fake because of your experience of real-life
Full transcript