Monday, 13 August 2012

Paranorman Smears and Rambling

I found this one the world wide webasphere today and had to post it. I can't say I have ever seen/noticed a smear in a stop motion animation before but this is a great example of technological advances. Not only is it awesome that they're planning and animating smears in Paranorman but these replacement heads are being created using 3D printers. It's awesome to see a technique that came from 2D migrate over to stopmotion (and CG).

I don't know what it is about smears and multiples that gets me to excited. Well, I think I do - recently at work I have discovered that I love tricking people and getting away with things. Whether it's having characters doing unnoticeable things or getting away with smears, breaking limbs or just plain camera trickery...I love it. It's almost as if you're going beyond your requirements...which is simply to give the illusion of life and throwing little fancy things in there to really make your shots/scenes entertaining.

I fully understand that I'm very lucky to be in a job with so much creative freedom, it's definitely not the same in every studio. And, that considering the project and franchises I'm working with it's a lot easier for me to do these things. But it's very interesting because I don't throw such techniques around in my personal work. Obviously I don't have the advantage of spending 8+ hours a day on my own projects, therefore not having the opportunity to produce as many personal shots but I have only played with smears once in my own animation. I had an awesome time with them and learned a lot. The main thing I learned was that they're damn difficult to pull of well and should only ever be used when completely necessary. Looking back on what I wrote earlier, I may have made it sound like I pack all of my shots at work with smears, multiples, broken limbs and squash and stretch but the truth is...I really don't. I've had the opportunity to use special tools in places that would benefit from them. Sure I've over-animated a few things and gone a bit too cartoony a couple of times but I know when I've done it and when I am asked to change it I do it knowing that it's going to improve the shot.

Anyway, I hadn't intended on writing a load of nonsense about smears and "animation tricks" but it came out of nowhere. In conclusion, what I'm probably trying to say is:

Animators have these awesome special moves, much like video game characters. But they can only use them exactly at the right an equinox...Only, if we get it wrong we have to travel back in time to fix it. Otherwise the intent and sincerity of a character can be completely false and taking the time, to fix time wasted getting it wrong the first time still has a cost of time.

Which goes to show that a great deal of planning has gone in to the smears in Paranorman. The animator probably didn't simply think about doing it whilst animating the shot. That would never happen in a stop motion feature film...unless your director and supervisor really loved you. There must have been a perfect chance to use a smear and I bet that during the entire duration of the film...maybe an hour and a half? 90 minutes, that's 5400 seconds which is 12, 9600 frames of animation...that probably only a minimum of 10 of those frames contain a smear. I could be totally wrong, there could be 100 of them...which to me is a LOT but still...there'd be another 12,9500 frames of "normal" animation.

Ok, I'm going to stop there before I dig a deeper hole for myself. Either way, these real life smears are awesome and I hope they trick me when I see the film!

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