Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Animated Storytelling Book review

Animated Storytelling Book review  Just recently I got a copy of the Animated Storytelling book written by Liz Blaze and published by Peachit Publishing, and here you'll find my impressions of this book that I hope you'll find useful, if you are considering in acquiring books that help you with storytelling in animation.

Animation is not just a matter of moving characters or objects in a believable way. There are certain components that need to be taken care of, so you can develop a story. Furthermore, animation is not something that you should do in an isolated way, most times than not, is directed to an audience that can be as little as one person watching TV, or as big as a music concert hall full of people whom are investing their time in watching what you want to convey,

By balancing all your ingredients correctly you get to make a great meal, right? Well, the same goes for animation. If you don't balance all the elements correctly, your story will suffer despite of having top notch resources like fancy rendering software, top gun animators helping you out and high level world artist directors with content to inspire you.

So this is where Animated Storytelling comes into play. This small book, big in content, teaches you an approach on how to take all the basic elements you need to know about telling a story, and learn how to make them work in such a way they serve the story as a whole unit.

This book encourages you to create your own animated content with some basic materials and procedures, using your own capabilities and nothing more. It won't help you to create an award winning short or whatnot right off the bat, but it will give you the foundations to build up your career as a storyteller, which is a skill you can take with you anywhere you go.

For instance, on the Weird Science chapter, which I liked a lot, you'll learn that animation is experimentation. Your characters are not affected by nothing that affects us as humans and your screen is strong enough to hold whatever thing you throw at it. For me that has to be the best chapter right after Pre-Production and Storytelling, which also have troves of useful information to learn from.

Maybe Weird Science doesn't tell you how to cope with failure while you are experimenting, but I can tell you that you should expect frustration, delays, conflicts and obstacles, even if you work on your own. And my advice would be to acknowledge those challenges you must overcome, and try to incorporate them In such a way they work for you, and not the other way around. Think of making an villain character explode and being left in an undignified state as a way to vent your frustration with your producers, clients or suppliers, it's not only pure catharsis for you, but is plain basic fun!

There seems to be a popular false perception, maybe fuelled by the truckloads of happy people portrait on every behind the scenes of every animated movie documentary out there, that animation is a one shot thing. That if you follow the rules, sign off on each step, color by the numbers and stay within the lines you should be gold more sooner than later, and there is nothing farthest from the truth than that.

Here is where I liked what I call "the pocket survival guide" format and style of this book. This won't only save you from having to go through tons and tons of content to help you out at any given moment., but feels great in your hands should you need a refresher on concepts, or need a quick shot of inspiration.

However, I'd like to point some elements which seem to be missing in the Color Sense chapter. A quick introduction to color theory and how a color wheel works to help with some of the terms like complementary colors,.or the the swatches used on page 61. Likewise, a bit more explaining on symbolism to break from the western perception of colors and their interpretation would be nice, in order to make the book more appealing and emphatic to audiences from other cultures that have been brought together by the Internet, which is the de facto distribution of digital content nowadays. And to take it an extra mile, warn about the use of colors on objects, for instance, I know a red or green hat mean different things to different cultures, which would be nice to know beforehand.

Also I would like to see some examples for the the Directional Movement concept the same way other examples were given in previous chapters. Directional Movement is a very cool concept to grasp, mostly when you are doing motion graphics. Being able to cue the audience by showing them how subjects move in and around the frame helps them digest the story in a much effective way through subtext than by any other means (although music helps a lot). Animation is a visual medium, and you should always present facts through visual leads.

Terri Gilliam's work could be used for examples as he conveys many of the trades necessary to make good storytelling through animation. His cut out stop motion shorts would make a good fit for the Technique chapter, and a good source of inspiration for the Weird Science chapter.

Some extra content should be dedicated to pauses in timing. Sometimes changing the duration of a shot or changing the timing of the actions of a subject is not enough. You should recur to pauses or holds to allow the audience have a very quick break, so you can give them the time necessary to absorb an idea or concept, enjoy a beautiful moment you put some good effort to create or get them ready for the rest of the roller coaster ride you got them into. 

Pauses are the commas of a sentence that give your content texture and should be used with flow in mind.  If you have heard a computer voice reading a piece of text, you have noticed that the pauses are sudden stops caused by the commas, hence phrases come out stiff and without life, so you should mind the pauses and make the proper arrangements to prevent sudden stops that could kill your shots.

To conclude this review, I have to say that Animated Storytelling is the book you'll need by your side while bringing that great idea of yours into fruition. It's not only a "pocket book" to help you solve a particular problem that you want to solve, or add that bit of spice that your short is missing. It's a resource you will be able to refer back again and again as you grow as an storyteller.

Thanks to Liz Blaze for all the teachings and thanks to Peachpit Press for creating this great book that is direly needed by those of us who want to create better animated stories.

God bless.

For more details on this book, please check the following links:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your lovely review. I am thrilled you like the book! I only wish I showed it to you earlier so I could have used your notes on color and directional movement! I was committed to covering a lot of concepts while keeping it simple. As some ideas are covered quickly, I hope Animated Storytelling will help readers stay focused on their films while also serving as a jumping off point for further inquiry. Thanks again for this wonderful feedback! -Liz