Drawing from films
Drawing from films is a ridiculously useful exercise. It’s not enough to watch films; it’s not enough to look at someone else’s drawings from films. If you want to be in story, there’s no excuse for not doing this.
The way this works: you draw tons of tiny little panels, tiny enough that you won’t be tempted to fuss about drawing details. You put on a movie - I recommend Raiders, E.T., or Jaws… but honestly if there’s some other movie you love enough to freeze frame the shit out of, do what works for you. It’s good to do this with a movie you already know by heart.
Hit play. Every time there’s a cut, you hit pause, draw the frame, and hit play til it cuts again. If there’s a pan or camera move, draw the first and last frames.
Note on movies: Spielberg is great for this because he’s both evocative and efficient. Michael Bay is good at what he does, but part of what he does is cut so often that you will be sorry you picked his movie to draw from. Haneke is magnificent at what he does, but cuts so little that you will wind up with three drawings of a chair. Peter Jackson… he’s great, but not efficient. If you love a Spielberg movie enough to spend a month with it, do yourself a favor and use Spielberg.
What to look for:
- Foreground, middle ground, background: where is the character? What is the point of the shot? What is it showing? What’s being used as a framing device? How does that help tie this shot into the geography of the scene? Is the background flat, or a location that lends itself to depth?
- Composition: How is the frame divided? What takes up most of the space? How are the angles and lines in the shot leading your eye?
- Reusing setups, economy: Does the film keep coming back to the same shot? The way liveaction works, that means they set up the camera and filmed one long take from that angle. Sometimes this includes a camera move, recomposing one long take into what look like separate shots. If you pay attention, you can catch them.
- Camera position, angle, height: Is the camera fixed at shoulder height? Eye height? Sitting on the floor? Angled up? Down? Is it shooting straight on towards a wall, or at an angle? Does it favor the floor or the ceiling?
- Lenses: wide-angle lens or long lens? Basic rule of thumb: If the character is large in frame and you can still see plenty of their surroundings, the lens is wide and the character is very close to camera. If the character’s surroundings seem to dwarf them, the lens is long (zoomed in).
- Lighting: Notice it, but don’t draw it. What in the scene is lit? How is this directing your eye? How many lights? Do they make sense in the scene, or do they just FEEL right?
This seems like a lot to keep in mind, and honestly, don’t worry about any of that. Draw 100 thumbnails at a time, pat yourself on the back, and you will start to notice these things as you go.
Don’t worry about the drawings, either. You can see from my drawings that these aren’t for show. They’re notes to yourself. They’re strictly for learning.
Now get out there and do a set! Tweet me at @lawnrocket and I’ll give you extra backpats for actually following through on it. Just be aware - your friends will look at you super weird when you start going off about how that one shot in Raiders was a pickup - it HAD to be - because it doesn’t make sense except for to string these other two shots together…
Every morning I come walking in,
through the big old studio door;
To an empty space devoid of din
The silence I adore.
I love to work in quiet zen,
despite my early rising;
the only sound is of my pen,
my storyboards revising.
At times I’ll hear a voice somewhere
between the walls and rooms;
And although my psyche is aware
my working pace resumes.
The stragglers eventually file in
to fill their desks and seats;
The clamber of my artist kin
A dissonance, non-discreet.
And so you know my daily fate
My peaceful plight lambasted;
With a shrug and sigh, I faintly state:
"It was real nice while it lasted."
Thank you very much! :D
Thank you! Another for the list!
Thanks for sending me some cool questions today guys, they were fun to answer! But now I have a question for you!
Oddly, one of the few things that creep me out in animation is when the camera smash zooms into a character’s mouth, usually when they’re screaming or singing or to be used as a scene transition. Like this:
Sometimes there’s a vibrating uvula, like this:
And sometimes even the uvula has a face or mouth and screams, like this:
My friends and I have a good laugh whenever we watch some animation stuff and this happens, and I thought it would be funny if I just compiled as many of them as I can find into one compilation video, probably with some stupid but fitting song playing over it, just for kicks and giggles. So far I’ve found only about 13, but I know there’s more of em out there!
If any of you can think of any instances of these in a cartoon/show/movie and can direct me to where I can find it, it’d be greatly appreciated!
Oh, I watched GameGrumps for a while when it started, mostly for Jon. I think he held the show together, because he was both funny and genuinely passionate about the philosophy and art of video games.
I don’t want to open up a whole can of worms, but over time I grew tired of watching the show and stopped watching, even before Jon “left”. I’m happy that he’s doing his own thing now, and I wish him the best!
I totally will! Thanks! :D
I like them both for different reasons, Benedict for his graphic simplicity and sense of design, and Takamoto for his appealing and superior draftsmanship (He came from Disney working as Milt Kahl’s assistant!). As far as their Hanna-Barbera work goes, although Benedict set the style that Takamoto used as a springboard and built off of, I like Takamoto’s work a bit more.