Saturday, 1 May 2010

Existential Musings

My philosophy on animation??

Well, to anyone who knows me even a tiny bit this is going to be obvious... but I believe that a perfect union of sound and image is absolutely central to the success or failure of a piece. So many times I have seen a piece with beautiful visuals fall flat on its face for lack of a decent soundtrack, and... well, it really winds me up. For a character-based piece, I believe that the leitmotif is very important, and when I wrote the music for Last Show, I wrote it with the thinking that every character has its own "theme" - although in a three-minute piece when each theme is played only once it perhaps doesn't come across so well! A good example of leitmotif is in the Doctor Who score.

I also think choice of instruments is very important. There's a great little documentary on The Full Monty extras DVD where Anne Dudley, who wrote the Academy Award-winning score, talks about the part in the film where Dave wraps himself in clingfilm in an effort to lose weight - then eats a Snickers bar. She uses a brass ensemble to narrate the moment when he wraps the clingfilm around and around - building up to a crescendo - then when he bites into the Snickers, a pathetic-sounding harmonica replaces the brass.

Ironically, the best soundtracks are the ones you don't even pay attention to, because they compliment the visuals so perfectly. Unless you're me, of course - nowadays I quite often find myself noticing and appreciating a good soundtrack, where I didn't before. Soundtracks that don't compliment the visuals jump out at you, and have a jarring effect on the pace of the film.

Now I should probably talk about something that is more specifically animation-related... Pixar's advice to anyone applying for a job in animation (as opposed to modelling, rigging, etc) was that the characters in the reel do NOT have to be visually stunning or even particularly well-modelled: "Your showreel could feature an argument between a cube man and a sphere man... as long as the ACTING is there, it doesn't matter." Pixar demonstrated this with Luxo Jr - a basic model that acted beautifully. Bad acting destroys an otherwise beautiful animation piece just as real-life bad actors destroy an otherwise beautiful film. Sadly, while I can definitely appreciate good and bad acting, I am not a natual actor or animator myself... so there may well be a lot of headaches next term while I try to get things exactly right.


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