One of the most challenging shots I’ve done was the final scene of my sophomore film, “The Gift.” The film is about a little boy fishing with his grandfather and the shot in question was a pretty lengthy shot of the little boy waking up and realizing that he had caught a fish on his reel. He looks up at his grandfather before excitedly pulling the fish out of the water.
The reason why the shot was so hard and challenging was because I had two characters interacting for the better part of 700 frames. At the time, the shot felt quite insurmountable not only due to its length but also to the fact that the main character, the little boy, had to go from many different states of mind -- from being asleep, to waking up, to becoming quite excited and then finally catching the fish.
This is a shot that I overcame by doing meticulous planning. First, I used thumbnails to search for the most interesting and entertaining poses to sell the acting. Once I had these poses down, I blocked them in and got my general timing and overall feel for the entire shot.
At this point, I fleshed out the shot by adding breakdowns to see how fast or slow I should go into and out of my key poses. Once I was happy with the overall feel of the shot, it became a matter of taking each chunk of the scene and tying down the keys and breakdowns and then adding more in-betweens to smooth out the action.
Although it was done in 2D with pencil and paper, it really taught me that animating is very much like sculpting. You work on the broadest, most important elements first and add the little details later on. Similarly, in animation, you are mainly breaking a shot down to its most essential parts (finding your keys and main story-telling poses) and then slowly fine-tuning it as you go along. The advantage of this method of working is that you are afforded the chance of stepping back and assessing your work thus far and making necessary adjustments along the way.
To see “The Gift”, go to www.cchuareels.blogspot.com
Guest blogger Chris Chua