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.

IGNORANT
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,

OVER-THE-SHOULDER STAGING
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:
http://johnkstuff.blogspot.com/2009/12/scene-planning-for-tv-setups-for.html

24 comments:

Roberto Severino said...

I couldn't tell the Hanna-Barbera stuff apart from the Filmation and DIC images in the same post! A very sad state that animation went through in the 1970s and 80s. The 90s Disney drawings look slightly better drawn, but still had the cold feeling that those other cels had. Even after those two decades were over, you still find the influence from those awful cartoons in a lot of animation from the 90s.

Vertigo is an amazing movie, in my opinion, John. Glad you included the framegrab in this post. Hitchcock seems to have an uncanny talent for complex camera angles, yet never goes over the top with them. He uses them to simply tell the stories his characters were going through.

Boy, that post was great, and it really made me think. These happen to be my favorite kinds of posts.

Paul Penna said...

Notice how in the Dennis/Mr. Wilson and Dennis/Margaret panels, Fitzgerald seems to be using pure profiles to heighten the impact of what is a confrontation between two characters, as opposed to just a conversation.

drawingtherightway said...

Hey John I'm not sure if this is what you were looking for an example of a bad angle in DIC cartoons. It's from The Real Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters

Oliver_A said...

This looks like a strange camera perspective in The Real Ghostbusters:

Ugly Perspective

C said...

Interesting how the Disney one doesn't completely eliminate the face. Maybe that's thanks to higher budget.

The Jerk said...

I suspect the 3/4 rule originated in theater acting, where the actors want their faces to be seen and yet appear to be conversing with one another. and split the different with the 3/4 "open position" stance. But even in theater, they try to break it up so at times we the audience effectively get over-the shoulder shots and full-front shots, by having the actors look upstage or out into the audience toward the "fourth wall." In cartoons and comics, though, we should have no excuse for only using 2 or three angles for drawing characters. We ought to be able to draw from any perspective (as long as it supports the story point being illustrated, of course).

ScottN01 said...

"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."

Oh, please....

Oliver_A said...

More appealing shots from DiC "cartoons":

Shot 1
Shot 2
Shot 3
Shot 4
Shot 5
Shot 6

Martin Juneau said...

Did it's explain the re-use of many scenes in a lot of Saturday Mornings Cartoons? I seen that in every old Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood episodes. It's like the peoples in charge to the production never understand what really means put two characters in a disucssion correctly.

Your posts start to reach the little guy of country on me with his crude drawings to wanting to experiment what you sharing. I knowcit will takes years of experience to reach this goal in drawing but i promise to do my possible to be more stronger and more in confidence to myself and the others. Thanks so much! They never teach me that in Drawings class.

Alberto said...

Are you just advising to stay away from over the shoulder shots in animation for conversation? What about over the shoulder where character is not moving (or kept to a minimum) to establish a shot, or show the other character moving?

RooniMan said...

It always bothered me why animated movies and 1970's and 1980's cartoons used such awkward staging.

Oliver_A said...

I couldn't tell the Hanna-Barbera stuff apart from the Filmation and DIC images in the same post!

Having seen many of those series when I was a child, think that the DIC stuff is a bit more watcheable than what Filmation and H-B produced at the time.

The problem is that it's one thing to look at the drawings, but another to endure the tedious and utterly forgettable scripts all of those series had. So when John bashes "Cartoon Writers", I wholeheartedly agree with him. Those were, IMHO, the biggest plague which infested 70s and 80s cartoons.

Zoran Taylor said...

@ScottN01 - .....and thank you.


He's right. Get used to it.

Niki said...

JohnK, Do you think if we work hard enough maybe we might be able to animate those difficult shots? cause even if DIC did it badly, that means it can be done to some extent, so maybe someone good enough can get it to work?

Timothy said...

Over the shoulder shots are quite hard to draw. Though I've never really experimented with it that much. I don't really use 'humans' that much in my drawings and comics. Can't imagine animating...

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

Sorry to be off topic but I just noticed something today; Jasper the dog from "Big House Blues" is a Gross Milt style character! Ha, I'm so slow.

Also, if two characters in 3/4 perspective are stage to be talking to each other, wouldn't they just both be looking past each other?

C said...

More fun things:

Dale barely moves her head
Old Disney cleverness:
Bambi watches things

Kelvin said...

@C

Wow, that Dale character definitely looks like a plastic Barbie doll where there's an invisible hand moving it just slightly. In matter of fact, this applies to almost any cartoons after the 60's. Everything just looks like dolls. So that's what lifeless looks like!

Jorge said...

Nobody wants to watch a movie in overs - David Mamet.

I don't like Hitchcock's shot/reverse shot style. In a lot of old movies every character would face more or less in the direction of the camera, and you saw more things shot in two shots, and with long takes. In a lot of Howard Hawks films one character will have a his back to another character completely and will only turn and face someone to punctuate a story point. I like that for some reason. To me that kind of staging works better for animation than anything else you've mentioned, because it focuses on the performance of the character/animator and the graphic design of the frame rather than on cutting. It's more like a musical.

It's hard to see examples of this, but you see it all over a film like "Rock, Rock. Rock" where you can clearly see Tuesday Weld reading cuecards.

http://movieart.net/wp-content/uploads/wpsc/product_images/full.gentlemansagreement-sc6-9417f.jpg

kurtwil said...

This post definitely helped me ponder better ways to stage characters!

Bambi was very difficult for Disney to animate; one story claimed some animators took an hour per drawing of Bambi as a fawn. In any case, Bambi's construction towers over the DIC stuff here.

What the heck's going on with the Disney Hunchback? I'm trying to visualize his facial construction but but pose here draws a blank....perhaps because there isn't any?

The Fleischer Popeye (Vol 1) "I-SKI LOVE-SKI YOU-SKI" has some fascinating perspective animation pointed out by JK's commentary there.

Raff said...

Really good post.

The Filmation and DIC-y cartoons seem to abuse up shots a lot. They're very stifling and disorienting.

Craig said...

I always thought over-the-shoulder shots of POPEYE were fun. The back of his head where the neck joins the skull is cool draftsmanship.

R.A. MacNeil said...

Awesome post. Very informative.

john said...

Howdy, there, Mr. K. This is completely unrelated to the post, but I couldn't find a 'contact' button. It's a cute little Disney ditty about Mickey and Goofy getting hopped up on speed and then going to Africa to turn a buck on that happy-stuff.
http://all-thats-interesting.tumblr.com/post/706923431/mickey-mouse-becomes-a-speed-dealer