I’m wrestling with a decision with regards to my mime film and it has reminded me of when I was reading Don Graham’s book, Composing Pictures.
Throughout my animation studies, the vast majority of sources have spoken about drawing in such a way as to give a feeling of dimension – to fool the audience into thinking that the two-dimensional image they are looking at has a third dimension. The current trend of 3D movies is perhaps the most extreme example of film-makers treating the screen as literally a window to the imagined world beyond.
In Graham’s book, much emphasis is given to doing the exact opposite – reminding the viewer that they are observing a flat surface. It’s an idea that I couldn’t quite get my head around when I read it, and in the time since I still haven’t quite grasped. Why would you want to go out of your way to make the audience aware that what they are looking at is nothing but a depiction of a reality?
I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I tonight found myself doing just that. I was looking at the image that I uploaded in my last post, thinking that I hadn’t quite managed to tie the mime character into his surroundings. He looked to me like he was part of a separate image (well he was exactly that, just superimposed onto that background, but I was trying to avoid it looking like that). I decided to have a go at rectifying this by fiddling with the layers in Photoshop. However, while I found that I was able to tie him into the background simply by allowing the underlying paper texture to show through him a little, and muting the white of his face, hands and trousers, the result was less pleasing to me.
I decided to play around with doing the exact opposite. I lifted him away from the background with a simple drop-shadow and put a white edge around him, with the intention of making him look like a paper cutout placed over the background image. I liked the effect, shown in the accompanying image (click it for a clearer view), but what would it look like if he were to walk away from the ‘camera’ and into the background? He’d follow the rules of perspective, getting smaller as he moves into the distance of course, but he’d remain a very obvious cutout on top of the background image.
This has flagged up a question in my head – is this weird or not? It sounds like it should be wrong, and yet I find it quite an appealing concept – this conflict of creating an illusion of three dimensions, without allowing the viewer to forget that it’s only 2D.