To anyone still reading these posts, hello! I’m sure it’s been a busy time for all, since October is such a long month and doesn’t have many holidays. I’m already desperately looking forward to winter break. This week I have something a little different for you guys: a resource. Sure, I enjoy writing about artists, but it’s fun to switch it up. Some of the art tutorials and guides I’ll introduce over the next couple of weeks have practically changed my life— that’s how informative and necessary they are.
The first resource I’ll introduce comes from a blog called Flooby Nooby, run by Canadian art director Ron Doucet. Back in 2013, he published a series of posts analyzing the cinematography of Pixar’s The Incredibles. Everyone remembers that movie, right? I’ll be honest: before reading those posts, I had a very vague idea of what ‘cinematography’ even meant. I thought it had something to do with the lighting in a scene, and something to do with the color scheme. Actually, cinematography encompasses both those areas, but in animated films, it especially concerns the composition of the shot: how each frame in a movie is designed to best communicate the narrative to the viewer. Flooby Nooby’s 3-part series is quite lengthy and exhaustive, but I really recommend it for a thorough understanding of composition. All composition has a purpose; whether it be to lead the viewer towards a focus point, to keep the eye moving, to establish relationships between characters, or to facilitate the atmosphere and emotion of a scene. For anyone who wants to get better at communicating through art (this should be all of you!), but especially those interested in comics, illustration, or graphic design; this series is essential.
If you didn’t know yet, The Incredibles is a great-looking movie not only because of its aesthetics and animation, but because it tells its story so clearly and efficiently. For a quick-and-dirty comparison, Michael Bay(director of the Transformers movie series) is pretty well-known for his floundering compositions and messy shots— both of which leave the viewer confused and disoriented. Flooby Nooby covers nearly all of the movie, so I’ll just pick and choose what really struck me!
Types of Shots:
The extreme wide shot is used to establish the wider setting of the film. It doesn’t feature characters; instead, it tells the audience about the environment. The long shot is used to place the character in that environment. The full shot is most focused on the character, but still leaves enough space to see their whole body, their interactions with the environments/other characters, and dynamic movements. The medium shot is heavily used throughout the film, leaving enough space to see the setting but lending the scenes a specific nature, and emphasizing gestures. The close-up shows mostly the bust, and conveys emotion. The extreme close-up does the same, but heightens drama or intensity.
The Rule of Thirds:
This one is pretty self-explanatory! Many people have probably learned this rule in some capacity, but it bears repeating. If you divide any frame into thirds like the scenes above, placing subjects and focal points at the intersections of those lines creates more interest and dynamism than if you place them elsewhere. Putting a focal point at the smack-dab center of a scene is also strong compositionally, but it also gets old fast.
The scenes that Ron marked up to show the leading composition lines blew me away when I first saw them. Leading lines are just what they sound like: lines that lead the viewer’s eye to the focal point of a scene. The more you reflect and search them out in any composition, the more obvious they become—but that doesn’t diminish their effectiveness, or the skill it takes for storyboard artists to implement them into a scene.
This is probably exemplified by the triangle formed by connecting the heads of characters who are speaking or interacting with each other. It’s a good format to express relationships and create a connection between characters on screen. It can also be used to “balance” a shot.
Can you spot the triangle in the images below?
Please, please, please read the whole series, it’s literally priceless for learning all about composition. Enough, I think, to experiment with and implement for a lifetime! What I’ve mentioned here isn’t even a fraction of the information given; Ron covers topics like foreground/background contrast, camera angles, framing elements, line of action, character design, and positioning character interactions for clarity, just to name a few. Happy reading, and here’s the link to the first part of the series for anyone who missed it up top.