Saturday, June 19, 2010

3/4 left to right camera angle VS Over the Shoulder Shots

Cartoon scenes are most often staged with all the characters looking at each other, each drawn at a 3/4 angle.
Does it make sense? When you talk to your friend, do you each look askance at each other, or do you look directly at each other?
Good cartoonists like Howie Post can make it look natural - but when Saturday Morning cartoons developed fear and conservatism to the point where everyone was afraid to draw, the ridiculousness of this staging became completely apparent.

If we were to make literal sense, we would stage the characters in profile and have them looking directly at each other, but there is a rule against that in film.

PROFILE 2 SHOTS (I'm not sure why, but I know how we love to obey arbitrary rules.)...maybe because 2 profiles facing each other can look very mechanical. It's also hard to get a lot of expression out of perfect profiles. ...if you wanted to have your characters make expressions...
It is possible to get some dynamism and asymmetry into profile 2 shots, as Owen Fitzgerald demonstrates,

In live action, they have solved the problem by using over the shoulder shots (which is also an unnatural way to view a conversation-but we have gotten used to seeing it and accept it).The over the shoulder shot doesn't work well in animation though - partly because many cartoon characters don't have shoulders - but mostly because it's hard to draw the back of a cartoon character and make it look good.Saturday morning cartoons loved over the shoulder shots, I think partly because they don't work in cartoons- and anything that doesn't work well in cartoons has to be used - to relieve the shame of having to work in cartoons.
You can see how awkward it is to draw -let alone animate - let alone get some acting out of this angle.
DIC really loved awkward camera angles that they themselves couldn't draw. I remember they would get mad if you staged anything where the characters might actually end up looking good in the shots. They purposely wanted every shot from an angle that no one could draw- just to guarantee that the finished cartoon would look awful. -I wish I could find some examples online, but no luck so far...wait! here we go! - thanks to Oliver and drawingtherightway...

Here's Owen making it look easy again.He's one of the rare cartoonists who can make things look good from any angle.

Rotating a 3/4 (above) to fake an upshot-VS actually drawing the head tilted up and back (below)A good rule of thumb for animation staging: if it's hard to draw one drawing from a certain angle - it will be at least 12 times as hard to animate it.

That's why this is a convenient way to stage 2 characters talking to each other: