Chapter 4: Animation Tech-Talk
Whether we call it film, movies, cinema, video, or whatever, it is my feeling that root idea for a dramatic sound and light presentation in a darkened room goes all the way back to our human beginnings; that it actually fulfills humankind's earliest artistic and storytelling cravings. I have a friend, Alexander Marshack, who once was a photographer for LIFE magazine, and then an early TV director, who has become a foremost expert on beginnings of human art and graphic communication... He traces art back at least 35,000 years. His story was told in National Geographic magazine.
What interests me greatly about his work is what he has discovered and postulated about the cave paintings of Europe. First of all he reminds us of the weird feeling we have when inside a cave... If you've ever been inside a large cave, you'll know this feeling. And if you've ever been deep inside a cave and turned off your light, you will know what dark is! It is a total blackness and quiet we can experience in no other way, especially with the deathly feeling of being under tons of rock.
OK. Now Alex Marshack points out that all those beautiful paintings we know of have been made maybe a half-mile deep inside the caves. Why did those early artists do that when it must have been enormously difficult for them? It certainly proves that they were able to produce light. Hollowed stones have been found inside the caves, which were probably oil lamps. They also had to be able to bring in drawing and painting utensils, to make scaffolding, and to mix colors on the spot.
Flattened areas of stone have been found with enough residues to indicate they were used as palettes. But it can be assumed that they did not drag all those animals in there to use as models! Yet these paintings are marvelous examples of drawing skill by any standard. These were trained artists! What is especially fascinating to an animator is seeing that many of the drawings were attempts to convey an image of motion!
But this was a time of primitive and exceedingly difficult life, when just staying alive and hunting for food was the predominate need. But yet they felt it necessary to support "professional" artists! From this we have to assume that these so-called cave men had a more advanced social organization than we might have thought, and that they were able to bring in a surplus of food, and that not every man or woman had to spend full time scrabbling for existence - that the society 35,000 years ago could support and train artists!!! Again why? All of these deductions by Alexander Marshack got me to thinking that these people had a culture and a lore they wished to preserve, to pass on - a need to tell stories!
It struck me: What more imprinting way could there have been for those people to inculcate their youth with the legends and lore of the community than to lead them into the icy vast darkness of a cave, to a deep, forbidding gallery, always the one that was the most sound resonant, (Cave-age Dolby Surround sound?), and in flickering oil lamp light, illuminating wondrous images, tell the tribal tales, in an atmosphere of guaranteed attention. The first "animated movie" presentation!
So we can see that though the technology of animation has changed a bit in the last 35,000 years, the aim is the same: to tell stories in the most dramatic, riveting, and attention-holding way we can. Technical advancements come thick and fast in our times, but we mustn't let them rule our work as a thing unto themselves. Technology is an ever-evolving tool, but our use of it must always be the same: to tell our story!
If you learn anything, learn to keep the clarity of what you are saying, or the gag you are presenting. Don't fall victim to the mannerisms of the moment and let the technique smother your story!