Barring unforeseen complications, all the key poses and BGs have been turned in to director Jeffrey Lynch and checked over by Howard Parkins, an assistant director. It's time to shoot.

No matter how great a job the animators have done, everything needs to come together under the camera. That's where Pete Michels shows his stuff. Pete is an animation timer. His job is crucial to making everything come out okay.

To do his job well, Pete has to know about how animation, as well as an animation camera, works. He has to be able to use tools such as field guides and stopwatches. He has to know that the camera shoots two frames for every drawing. He has to write out the instructions of what to do with the art.

Pete takes the audio tape of the dialogue, the storyboards, and the key poses and writes them out on an exposure, or "X," sheet. This sheet shows how the dialogue breaks down (by syllables) and where in each line the keys are drawn. It tells the camera what should be "exposed" on each frame. The timer has to decide how many frames it will take to get from one key to the next. Pete is instrumental in determining pacing. If the scene is supposed to be slow, Pete can add time. If the scene is quick, Pete can take time away or add movement within the scene to give it a sense of drama. The little stuff also falls under Pete's jurisdiction. If two characters are conversing in a scene (which could be extremely boring in an animated piece), the one talking is getting all the action. Pete compensates and adds ancillary motions, such as eye blinks, that keep the other characters from being static images.

Like Mozart, who could compose without listening to music, Pete has to animate without actually animating. He has to know what it's going to look like and write that on the X sheet. Each character, as well as each background, is animated on a different level of film, and Pete has to make sure all of the levels will work together before he sends it off to the camera department to shoot the sequence.

The first time the sequence is shot, it's called an animatic, and it is the equivalent of dailies or a rough cut in live action. The animatic is also referred to as a pencil test; it is a rough look at what the finished product will look like without color and without a lot of the ancillary action. It looks a lot like a filmed comic book, with the key poses taking up as much screen time as it takes to get to the next one.

Once the animatic is delivered, Jeffrey, Pete, and Howard all watch it with the producers and the writers. They fix anything that doesn't work and completely redo anything brand new. Otherwise, that's it for the animatic. Usually, there is only enough time and money to do it once. If anything really complicated needs to be shot before the final is finished, it will be done on videotape.

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