Friday, August 22, 2008

What am I doing? : Before a dialog shot

Hey everyone!

What the heck am I doing these days??!!........... Well, I'm really having a blast doing some test shots with my favorite characters from the movie, Madagascar, just to get used to everything. Yep, thats what I'm doing right now. Well the past few weeks have been pretty busy really... and now you know why I'm not replying to some of your emails. Sorry about that!

This is really one of the most productive part of my life as I am learning a lot from great people.
Before starting on today's topic, I would like to briefly write what I'm doing these days. I've returned back to Bangalore and have joined Dreamworks Animation India. I am surrounded by a big group of talented Indian and French artists. Everyone here is super talented and I'm learning a lot from almost everyone. We are working on tests shots and ramping up for our first show.

In my trip to Glendale, I met a lot of animation ninjas and got an opportunity to learn directly from them and see how they work. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a class with James Baxter and I also got some really cool tips from him-which is gold for me. Here in India, I'm learning loads from some super talented French animators who already have experience working for DreamWorks new movie, Madagascar 2. It's really great working together with these guys and discussing animation all day long.

Check out this super awesome short film, Oktapodi, which has been created by my very good friend Julien Bocabeille (who works here with me as an animator) and his team at Gobelins. It was named best of show at CG confab Siggraph's Computer Animation Festival. Oktapodi also won the audience prize. It tells the story of two octopi and their comical escape from the grasps of a stubborn and determined restaurant cook. Everyone at DreamWorks Animation is really proud of Julien and this great achievment. Oh yeah... we didn't miss the party! We had great food and we all danced a lot... haha...!! It was great fun!

I have been learning a lot everyday and here's some of the stuff which I have been learning these days. Thanks to my to my instructor Tim Ingersoll for sharing all these cool notes. Just thought to share with you all!

Starting off an acting/dialog shot...

Break down the soundtrack:

When animating an acting/lip sync shot, the most important part of the workflow is listening to the soundtrack very closely. This analysis should happen at three stages.

1) Before starting with animation (this is a good moment to break down the sound. It will give you a lot of insight into the mood, he character and the intention of the performance... imagine how that character would behave while waiting for a bus). Also, mark where the character is breathing or could breathe (very important!).

2) While doing the mouthshepe pass ( listening to the actual track while posing the shapes is crucial. Get the sound file in a loop while working).

3) After finishing animation (this is where you simplify and clarify). Zoom in on the mouth, play it back at a slower speed, scrub. Do you love the shapes? Can you push it? Is it punchy enough, but still fluid? Don't dismiss it as something not really important! It's not okay if it's just kinda of working. A good lip sync will make your scene fly. Its the last touch of perfection. And remember that the audience's eye is most likely going to bounce back and forth between eyes and the mouth.

A super cool tip:

When listening to the track, approach your analysis in the following way:

Don't listen to the words.
Don't listen to the meaning of the dialog.
Listen only to the sound.

The characer might say: "No" instead of "Yes"; or "I hate you" instead of "I love you" is, in the confinement of our job, irrelevant.
What will and should ultimately dictate our work is sound itself.

The sound will tell us the real deeper emotion of the scene. "I hate you" can be the most romantic phrase ever spoken, its the tone and the sound which will reveal the truth hidden just beneath the literal meaning.

Get into your office and act out your scene not by performing the literal meaning of the take, but by reproducing the sounds of the take.

My suggestion:
Don't "speak" as you act, almost sing. SING!!
Don't use real words, mumble.

Just focus on exactly recreating the sound, the pitch, the frequency, the intensity, the loudness.

This will expose the true nature of those sounds and not just the lips and the mouth, but facial expression, head movement, neck and shoulder interaction........ and so on.
You will discover that just like it's impossible to keep your eyes open when you sneeze, it's also impossible not to squint your eyes slightly on the highest notes, or not to flex our eyebrows in falsetto, or keep your chin lifted if you make a very low pitch sound.... and so on.
Each specific sound actually forces certain physicality on our bodies. None of these true and most basic elements of our acting are given to us by "what" the character is saying, but by "HOW" the character is saying it.



Prasad said...

It's good to hear that you are back here ... now we can hope to have cool blog updates very often ... have seen that short already ... awesome animation and concept ! and ya thanks a lot for sharing those fantastic tips with us...

Unknown said...

thanks for the tips! thanks for sharing them !

Anonymous said...

Hi amrit,congrats on joining Dreamworks(India)and best of luck for your future ahead...;-)

Aparna-Appie! said...

welcome back! :)
n great pointers there...

Mathew Rees said...

Thanks for those excellent tips Amrit. It's always good to get more pointers on how to approach dialogue shots. Congratulations on getting work at DreamWorks too!!


Anirudh said...

nice insightful tips...thanks man!

Anonymous said...

i like your every post. its very helpful to me.

Chris Palmer said...

Thanks for posting your notes! Super-informative blog!