Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Inbetween XI

My internet connection is up and running again, so I thought it was time to post something personal for a change. At the moment I'm playing around with a gigantic box of crayons my brother gave me for Christmas...
colored pencil

Coming soon: Voice Over in Cinderella and The Milky Waif, continued

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Milky Waif – cheating continuity – part 3

I've been experiencing trouble of all sorts, including with my internet connection, recently, so there might be some delay in publishing comments... But back to the subject:

Cheating proportions and perspectives

This is the first time Jerry tiptoes out of his mousehole into the kitchen. The perspective on the wall is rather forced but not obviously so. Jerry’s size appears to be pretty accurate compared to the mousehole and the green stool leg which is all that counts for the audience at this moment. From the overall picture we deduce that the square tiles are about as wide as Jerry is high.

So when we look at the second picture, it looks as if Jerry had been growing because not all of these tiles are square any more.
This is even more the case in this next frame where we don’t have the cupboard for comparison. Taking into account the size of the square tiles, Jerry is almost as high as the cupboard behind. So clearly the perspective isn’t forced on the floor, only on walls and furniture. The important proportion here is between Jerry and Nibbles.
You could measure Jerry and you would see that neither he nor the shot width change sizes during this pan. But easier than that, you could just look at the pan as a whole to see that it’s completely linear except for the forced perspective already mentioned:
The slight reflections give the floor a nice polished texture. Although the horizontal lines are absolutely straight and we are looking at the wall at a 90° angle, the floor perspective fools us into believing that the camera isn’t always straight on but first slightly to the left, then flat on in the middle and later slightly to the right. If the camera had to be straight on all the time, one had had to animate the tiled floor like in Ken Anderson’s famous Three Orphan Kittens scene.

What I’m getting at is this: during projection this shot looks all natural and consistent, yet it is competently crafted using many inconspicuous cheats.
Then two shots later, Jerry comes running from the left still on the same floor. All the horizontals are parallel, there are no verticals, only diagonals that are fairly parallel, which is all perfect for a medium fast pan. BUT: look how small Jerry suddenly is compared to the wall and to the tiles! Although he’s still running in exactly the same direction as in the first pan, he is far closer to the wall.
It all makes sense when we see him in correct proportions to Nibbles, Tom and the bowl of milk. As spectators, not only do we not care about the proportions of the background elements, we simply don’t notice it as long as the character proportions are correct. Probably, the tiles were drawn larger simply because they look good that way. This however has two advantages, whether planned or not: the tiles themselves don’t draw too much attention to themselves, they certainly wouldn’t strobe (this pan is faster than the first one) and they show the mice as really small vulnerable creatures compared to everything else.

In really fast pans, the tiles merge into one single strip of green to prevent strobing and perspective changes completely as can be seen in the following excerpt of a never-ending background loop.

It’s obviously the same floor as this pan connects Tom’s fridge area with Jerry’s mousehole. All the cupboards are gone, so the repetition is less obvious (the chair helps, too).

The same pan is used a second time later in the movie where Jerry suddenly brings Tom to a halt (like it is only possible in a chase cartoon). There we are reassured by the bowl reflection that it’s still the kitchen floor.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Milky Waif – cheating continuity – part 2

Daniel Caylor of On Animation posted the following link in the comments: The Background Stylings of Don Driscoll. In September he wrote an interesting analysis of some original T&J shorts and their Cinemascope counterparts. Even if I don’t share his enthusiasm for Driscoll’s backgrounds at all, the comparisons are well worth studying.

Some more on cartoon colors:
As I have already stated in the last post, the most important trait of these backgrounds is their softness so that the characters read clearly. This is done by way of saturation and also by way of having low contrast on almost everything in the background. Basically it is high key lighting.
Even in a light/shadow composition, the contrast is kept rather low. 
The large form is accented by white rims.

In terms of storytelling, this even high key lighting is paramount because the characters have to read in front of every part of the picture, not just a preconceived pool of light. So no part of the background should attract attention to itself. Additionally, perceived spatial relations and perspectives have to look more or less normal in order to make the paintings work as backdrops for such fully dimensional cartoon characters.
The Tom and Jerry palette is usually limited to a few main colors, different in every short, but always rather unobtrusive and as low contrast as a realistic setting allows for. In this example, cyan/green and magenta/red are rather dominant (in pastel versions of course) like in so many different works of illustration and art.

Note that in the green RR example, shades of red are merely absent, probably due to Roger wearing glaring red trousers. The red is not only complimentary but also much more saturated than the green making for a clearer hierarchy. He’s wearing only primary colors, by the way, a clear indication that he was conceived in the 80s, no matter how many 40s allusions…

So far I have only written about Tom’s realm (kitchen and living room). Almost the first two minutes play in Jerry’s “apartment” however:
In the establishing shot (and the later close-up with a different flagstone) you can see a clear pool of light. These backgrounds are variations of the basic blue-yellow cold-warm color relations, if rather subdued.
 The blue which is not really that dark is simulating relative darkness. Note that in areas to be perceived as dark there are no yellow parts worked into the carpet. This also comes in handy when they use the faintly yellow straws later on. Since these backgrounds never have to accommodate Tom, the blue-gray areas can be rather large and make Jerry standout easily. Walls in front of which Nibbles has to be seen are never plain gray. Everything is prepared for Nibbles to be have a good silhouette while hanging from the stick next to Jerry’s head later on. Here the props (blankets) are in soft pastel colors, not saturated primaries like the violent props in the kitchen. Apart from the obvious tactile element of softness, it enhances Jerry's (and certainly Nibbles') round baby appearance.