Color Composition : The Relationship of Layouts and Backgrounds to Animation From am Animator's Viewpoint

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From the collection of Hans Perk at A. Film L.A. and reprinted here with his permission.


[...]and the feeling of sincerity was lost.

These two points - correct scaling and firmly planting the character's feet in accordance with the background perspective - should be especially stressed by the layout man in his discussions with the animator.

Keeping a workable background, regardless of any elaborate quality it may have, is one of the most important factors in animation. Portions and spaces in the background must be kept clear to allow for action working on the background, such action to stand out and not be lost or weakened by distracting detail. This is sometimes rather difficult to do. The animators may spoil the composition at times because they want to move something in a manner not allowed for by the background. I think, however, if the animator and layout man discussed their problem and adjusted their ideas, they could probably arrange the scene so that whatever hampered the animation could be placed to as good advantage elsewhere in the background.

Props are another factor that sometimes hinder or limit animation. The prop may be too close to a character that has only limited space in which to work, The animator hesitates to move a prop, but by keeping animation in one spot he loses freedom. This is another point that could be discussed by animator and layout man, and such adjustments made as would result in greater freedom of action and character, and more harmony throughout.

Regarding shadows: As a general rule I think shadows add to the depth of a scene and give contact with the ground. I think they can be overdone. Their use should be determined to a large extent by the atmosphere or mood of the scene. If a strong light comes in from one side of a scene, one would naturally expect to show a shadow on the ground.

Mood and atmosphere: These play a great part in our backgrounds. Instilling into our backgrounds whatever mood dominates the character, and then trying to bring out that mood more effectively in the backgrounds, is a worthwhile objective. For example, in JUDGEMENT DAY, while Pluto was on trial down in the caves - the backgrounds themselves presented enough dramatic possibilities to outshine the animation, I thought. The backgrounds were well conceived and executed, and the mood was in accordance with the demands of the story.

In the first part of that picture, there were several things in the background that annoyed me. The color of some of the props was not subdued enough and interfered with the action - (example: Pluto against the brown davenport.) That is another point that must be considered in planning props. We should avoid having a character working on one side of a scene, with something behind him painted so strong in color that the entire scene loses all sense of perspective. Under such circumstances, the audience keeps seeing the prop while trying to watch the animation. It is very important to keep things subdued where important action is to stand out. [...]