Throughout the semester, the animatic has gone through four revisions – the latest being the very end of December, after a review of the feedback following the December 16th presentation.
During the presentation, we were given some advisable feedback, including the suggestion to review how the animation should play out. The relationship between the boy and the bear was still not communicating fully to our audience – something which is vital for the piece to evoke empathy from within the observer.
A few weeks previously, we invited our classmate, Ryan Hollinger, to sit with us and go through our animatic shot-by-shot, hoping that with his knowledge in film analysis that he may be able to suggest shots and changes that would give our piece more emotion and reciprocate a stronger response from the audience.
For the presentation, Rachel had produced a three-dimensional animatic using assets and base models that were available so that she could stage the characters within the environment, and set some basic animation transitions to give the impression of movement and timing. However, the response was that the direction of this animatic was no longer coherent and that the audience were having difficulty processing the narrative that was playing out through the animated short.
To rectify this situation, I personally took on the task of updating the narrative through new sequences (although some of the original storyboard created by Katie did remain). I spent the time during the Christmas break u-hauling the entire animatic to reflect the recent feedback, and incorporate the suggestions that Ryan recommended would help develop the piece to evoke emotional and personal connections in relation to the narrative.
(E.1 – Shown above, the finalised two-dimensional animatic)
Featured below are the paraphrased notes that I had taken during our discussion with Ryan.
- The purpose of the forest should be the presence that is making the characters edgy and uncomfortable.
- Whilst the boy and the bear are having their innocent play time, the background should be creating a tension that leaves the audience unsettled. It should be implied within the scenery, and by drawing out the opening shot you allow this to manifest.
- Keep the bear legs shot – it is expected to be menacing and predatory, whereas the following frame contradicts the expectation and questions the connotation that is connected to the danger of bears.
- The establishing shot featuring both the boy and the bear together immediately removes that threat. If that is what you want to communicate, draw out that shot – invite the audience into the story during those first few sections.
- At this point, the audience is being treated as a voyeur within the situation. Mirroring the beginning sequence of Psycho – the camera is listless until it chooses a story to follow. Implement that within the first few shots.
- The opening shot should not be an intervention – let the audience observe the world.
- Keep the boy and the bear within close proximity to one another – but there is an emotional distance that illustrates a hierarchy. If you wish to imply anxiety – you create that emotional distance between the boy and the bear by being alienated.
- There is emotion in the narrative – the boy and the bear are on their own, isolated – and that is where the anxiety is coming across.
- The boy has an innocence and naivety. The isolated path shows the journey travelled, and the boy’s positive attitude towards it.
- Maintain the boy and the bear within frame – the audience is part of them – they are looking up at the sky with them in a sense of wonder.
- The bear is both a friend and a guardian – by the boy being left alone, there is an emotional distance being created. He is separated from the thing that he loves.
- When the bear and the boy are reunited, the audience shares in the relief of the boy because the emotions have been evoked. It is clear that the bear also needs the boy, suggesting the equality in their relationship.
- When the bear loses his confidence – you want the audience to be subconsciously aware of that atmospheric shift.
- When they approach that log, you want to be aware of their hesitation. The bear encourages the boy to cross the log, reaching the side that is lush with plantlife and tranquillity. The bear is left on the other side of the log, where the environment is bleak and oppressed.
- The key point is that yu tried that confidence, but your anxiety overcame it. The role of the therapist stabilises the situation.
I felt that the team benefited by having another member of the class work in collaboration with us to discuss the narrative and camera choices of the animated short. By being impartial, we were able to have an accurate account of what he perceived the visuals of the animatic meant. There was relief amongst us when Ryan was able to pick up on the subtle messages that we had been trying to communicate through the action and behaviour of our characters, and he gave us some really good advice on how to push that further.
I do have to admit that some of the suggestions that were recommended had been made previously during the thumbnailing stages of the production, but at the time had been dismissed. At the time, it felt like some members of the team were quick to dismiss certain ideas before hearing the member out – this has been a repetitive issue, as it has previously occurred during the design stages also. I understand that this is part of the collaborative experience, but I found it hard to cope with my frustration as if those ideas had been respectfully considered weeks previously, the team would have been in a slightly better position than they currently are.
Revising the animatic multiple times did become quite tedious – especially when the control of the animatic was delegated to me. There was a lot of drawing assets that had to be created, only to be removed during the next revision. It was disheartening, especially under the additional pressure that had been sinking in steadily since the December 16th deadline.
However, I knew that the team and our additional hands were relying on an animatic that was comprehensive, concise and clear about what actions were required – so I persevered, which enabled me to complete the fourth and final version of the animatic in just under a few days. The animatic is a visual manifestation of our original concept, strengthened by the various bits and pieces of advice and feedback that we have received throughout the semester. Fingers crossed that with some luck, we may be able to create an almost completed three-dimensional render of the same piece by January 16th.