How does a film director relate to the animator?
In stop motion animation the director and the animator are often the same person in which case it's vital to differentiate between the two roles.
Director of the animation:
- A clear vision
- oversees the creative process
- casts the characters
- chooses the location of the set
- decides on lighting, camera position
- Directs the characters
- Sets a mood for each scene
- Chooses a shot list
- creates characters for close-up, mid-shot and long shot, side profile, head-on
- transforms the characters eg in an explosion
- designs animated backgrounds
- creates props
- develops transitions between shots
- creates contrast between character and background
- offers ways for characters and background to interact
Between them, the director and animator agree on a storyboard. Story telling involves introducing characters which the audience can relate to, setting a challenge for the main character which leads to conflict which reaches some kind of resolution by the end of the film.
In animation, characters are few and all are generally introduced in the opening frames. This offers the viewer forewarning so they can anticipate what may unfold and part of the fun of watching film is to be surprised at an unexpected turn of events.
Viewers expect a film to refer back to films seen in the past: borrowing, parody, adaptation, and modernisation are central film-making and lead to recognised genres with styles and typical storylines such as gothic, realist and anime.
Once the storyboard is agreed,
An animatic is helpful in translating the storyboard into an animation. An animatic is a series of clips or stills using the characters which is played out in real time to test for timing and clarity.
The animatic may be shown to a naive audience in order to judge its effect. Once the animatic is adapted, the shot list is next. This is a list of all the planned shots in the film, which helps in deciding in what order to shoot the scenes. Usually this is completely different to the final sequence as the opening and closing scenes oftren closely resemble each other, with crucial differences. This saves time in building sets and animating the characters. In craft animation there have to be reserve copies of the characters as the process of filming can damage armatures or models. The shot list may indicate essential shots and optional extra shots. But in practice, some shots work better than others.
Filming throws up all kinds of practical problems. Lack of time, change in lighting, weather and incidental factors may all prevent the non-essential shots being taken.
So what happens next?
Directing involves ditching shots which fail to come across and developing new shots which explain the story better. It may be necessary to make new models of central characters and to change the set to reach internal consistency. When the clips are joined together, some scenes may stand out as inconsistent and need to be thoroughly reworked.
Throughout filming, the director is asking:
How does this shot develop the story?
In animation this especially involves transformation and transitions which are impossible in live filming. After each day's filming, the question is: what worked best today and how can filming tomorrow take in these lessons?