Posts tagged acting

Entertainment in Performance

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The Japanese group Gamarjobat really knows how to take old ideas and make them entertaining.  These are simple gags that we’ve seen a thousand times yet I find myself smiling and laughing as I watch utilize these simple tricks in their performance.  I would say it’s a mix between the setups and misdirects, the sounds they use to imply the emotion and sell reactions, the interaction between the two, as well as knowing the simplicity of the gags themselves can be used to add humor to the show is what keeps me watching.  Simple but well executed.  Overall some fun mime work to watch!

Over-thinking your acting

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When you get up in front of the camera to act out your ideas you need to remember to let it flow naturally.  The more you think about what you’re doing, the worse it gets.  Whether you are acting out an intense dramatic moment or merely walking from one side of the room to the other, you can’t over-think your actions.  Over-thinking makes it feel forced.

If you start your animation from bad reference footage, guess what you’ll end up with.  Bad animation.

Here is an awesome clip from 30 Rock of a character trying to act in front of a camera and over-thinking every move he makes.

He concentrates so hard on the physical actions he performs he forgets how to do them.  Suddenly he doesn’t remember the natural way to walk.  He doesn’t know what to do with his hands when delivering dialogue (another common problem we see in animation).  As a solution, he wants to hold a prop (something we go to as well) and then comically ends up with a prop in each hand!  HA.

If there is enough interest we can dive into this topic further, but mostly this was just an excuse to show this clip from 30-Rock.


Acting study: ‘Opulence, I has it.’

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Every once and while commercials come around that are just brilliant. This commercial caught my eye, not only for it’s originality and attention to detail, but also for the acting choices. This is not meant to be anything in depth, but I thought I’d point out some things I thought worked well and what maybe didn’t.

First watch the clip:

The first thing that stuck out to me was how fresh and spot on the acting choices were for our main character. Besides his surroundings and what he’s literally saying, you get so much support about who he is by how he acts and the way he moves.

I’ll just list my favorite parts and what I think they communicate:
– Overall, his movements are slower and more controlled. One of my former acting teachers told me that an easy acting choice to show class is to think that the poor and lowly move very fast and scurry around while the rich and powerful move only a minimal amount since everything is done for them. When he sits back into the chair, notice it’s at his pace. His point towards the bust he prefers lingers there and he only retracts his index finger. Again, all very minimal, but of course, meaningful at the same time.
– His status is also portrayed at the very beginning because he neither looks at the grape he’s about to eat nor does he look back when he hands the bowl away. This shows that he expects everything to be in it’s place and bending to his very will. Again, small choice, but makes a big difference.
– When he chooses the bust he likes best, two things stick out to me. First, he never has to look back at the other bust to compare. Second, the fact that he chooses so quickly. Both of these things show that he knows what he likes and always gets what he wants.
– When he sits down on the couch and turns on the TV his movement is, again, very minimal. Think about how powerful that is and then think about how you would have animated it if you got that line of dialog. I don’t know about you, but I would have over-animated it. I can already think of a couple of head accents and such that I would have added. I would have been wrong. 🙂
– “I jump in it.” is another great example of how we, as animators, would have totally over-animated a piece of dialog. My first reaction to the line would be to maybe add an eyebrow accent, but all he does is a head nod. Just awesome.
-That laugh and reaction to kissing the mini giraffe is priceless. Not only does it cap off the commercial with a fun idea, but it serves a few interesting purposes. First, the most obvious is to show how spoiled he is. He laughs like a kid in a candy store. Second, considering he was pretty minimal throughout the commercial, this adds brilliant contrast. The minimal movement earlier in the commercial serves not only to show his character, but also to accent this last acting choice. If he was as giddy for the whole commercial, this last bit would not have sold.

Now this commercial isn’t all roses. The pretty lady sitting right next to him on the couch WAY overacts. My assumption is that she should be playing bored and unimpressed maybe. Just too much movement and too many ideas going on to be believable.

Let me know your thoughts.


Specificity in Character part 2

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Let’s elaborate on specificity in character.  In my first post I said it wasn’t enough to just slap a lab coat on the rig and call him a doctor.  He has to be a specific person. A specific doctor.  A unique character.

This is not a concept exclusive to animation.  Live action actors must also accomplish the same sort of specificity to be successful*.  Not being a live action actor myself, I can’t venture a guess how one ‘becomes’ a character; though perhaps when they put on a lab coat it actually changes the way they feel and informs their choices.  However, I do enjoy watching talented actors portraying wide varieties of roles, and even though I don’t fully understand the intricacies of the process, I am entertained by the results and fascinated by specificity.

For example, in my personal opinion, Philip Seymour Hoffman (imdb here) is a talented actor capable of such transformations between characters.  He successfully communicates his characters to the audience on a number of levels.  For the sake of argument, I found four images from four different films:

Essentially, the same ‘rig’ is being used in each film.  He is the same height, weight, skeleton, hair color, etc.  And sure, the costume is changed in each – but that’s not enough, remember? To me, the overwhelming concept in these images is not how he’s dressed, it is how he is posed.  How he carries himself is what communicates his character.  In fact, two images feature a character dressed in drab clothing, and two feature a character in elegant, powerful wardrobe.  Yet, despite some costumes being practically interchangeable, none of these characters feel similar.  He has found unique and specific ways for each character to behave.
Number one would never hold a glass like number two.  He just wouldn’t.  Nor would three or four.  I don’t feel like number four could be as internal and reserved as number three (or hold his own hand in such a gentle, comforting way).  And I can’t see number two holding his arms above his head in the way number four does. In fact, I don’t think number two would ever raise his arms above his shoulders, no less his head.  Number one feels more shy and introverted while four feels extroverted and loud.  I could go on and on, but look for yourself and find more specificity dividing these characters.  Now think about this: all of these are just still images.  We are only looking at how these characters hold themselves in a freeze-frame!  Apply motion to it and the differences become exponential.  Then you can find specificity in movements, not just posing.  As animators we control movements on a frame-by-frame basis.  There is no reason not to make posing, and movements, unique to a character.


*successful artistically.  You can be also wildly successful in hollywood if you are very attractive and have marginal talent.

Movie still-frames:
Image 1: Boogie Nights
Image 2: Capote
Image 3: Doubt
Image 4: Along Came Polly

Gesture vs Lip-sync

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Here’s evidence that proper acting and gestures are more important than lip-sync.
(It’s a clip Pete Docter showed in a lecture a couple years ago.)

It works really well and makes me laugh every time.
So make sure your character’s body sells the line before you go crazy trying to get the lip-sync right.


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