How to Succeed in Animation
On the screen you may see two passionate lovers, apparently naked, engaged is what seems to be sexual intercourse. What you don’t see is about 50 film crewmembers engaged in their various tasks, just outside of the camera range. What you don’t notice is that the scene is likely broken up into numerous shots from different angles. Each one of those shots requires special lighting adjustments and camera positioning. They may have been shot hours or even days apart, and not necessarily in the order that you see them… thanks to another magician called the Film Editor.
Take a simple screen action: An actor opens the door of a room, and is quickly seen coming through the door into the next room. For scheduling and set construction reasons, the shot of him or her coming into the next room might have been shot first, and the shot of his exiting the other room – which was edited to be the first shot seen – may have actually been shot later, and maybe not be in the room supposed to be adjacent, but maybe even be in another country. If it’s done deftly, you accept it as actual.
So what are you seeing? You’re seeing exactly what the director wants you to see, and in the order he wants you to see it. The camera is technically lying. Whatever truth there may be in a movie goes beyond the individual camera shots, to the sequence of shots that convey the story. If there is a truth in a movie, it is how the director manipulates the technical elements of filmmaking to tell an acceptable story. So the magic of movies is just as much in the ordinary shots as it is in the spectacular digital effects we see so much of these days.
Those “The Making Of…” features on DVDs are carefully designed to make you appreciate some of the magic of filmmaking. The fragmentary tidbits are mainly designed to lock us in as rabid ticket buyers. But they do provide an inspiring glimpse, and if you’re perceptive, and you have the lust to be a filmmaker, all the tools you need are now available, even to people of modest means. And with YouTube, you have a chance to display your talent or lack of it. “Everyone can be a filmmaker.” I suppose that some will. If you are a potential daVinci, and you want to be an artist, then here is the art form of our times!
Cinema has all the elements to make it the greatest art form of all time, and it was basically developed during just the last century. Cinema, whether on film, projected onto a movie screen or seen on a TV or an iPod or Pad, combines nearly all known previous art forms into one: Story-telling, drama, acting, mime, comedy, fantasy, painting, sculpture, music, song, dance, graphic arts, design, fashion, sculpture, architecture - art of every kind and description, can be combined into this one medium….
Did I say “the last century?” What if I told you that what we are doing had its clear roots over 35,000 years ago?
Whether we call it film, movies, cinema, video, or whatever, it is my feeling that the 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.
My late friend Alexander Marshack, who once was a photographer for the LIFE picture magazine, and later an early TV director, ultimately became a foremost expert on the beginnings of human art and graphic communication, writing, that is... He traced art and writing back at least 35,000 years. His story was told in National Geographic magazine.
What interested me greatly about Marshack’s work was 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.