Animated Storytelling Chapter Summary
The following is a summary of chapters six and seven of Liz Blazer’s book, Animated Storytelling:
The conventional wisdom is that sound is reactive to action; however, this notion undermines the profound impact sound has on affecting a story and propelling it forward.
Let sound lead story
Lead with sound, use it as the “primary compass” for your story.
- Diegetic sound is from sources that are on screen and from the physical word (e.g., dog barks or dialog).
- Non-diegetic sound ‘s source is neither visible on screen, nor implied to be present on screen (e.g., music score or voiceover)
Animation affords creative flexibility when it comes to sound
With sound effects, restraint is key. The first step, find the places in your animation where you want to add sound effects and cut that number in half. Channel your inner poet. Sound effects require restraint, an inclination for metaphor, and a love of the surreal. Before going for diegetic sound (realism), first, try a surreal sound that might further elevate your story. Consider borrowing sound effects from your film’s score.
Nothing has a greater impact than music on determining the emotional tenor of a story or the rhythm of scenes.
Build a temporary track.
In this stage, find a song to be the basis of your soundtrack. The purpose is to establish the feel you’re shooting for. Next, find tracks to represent your main characters and important situations or events that may reoccur in your story.
Consider “Silent” Music. Atmospheric music, ambient noise, and subtle music, almost imperceptible can provide a powerful emotional push to a scene. Good sound design should be undetectable while still elevating the emotional environment.
Consider “Scoring against” a scene—contrasting music choices make an audience uncomfortable and alert it that something “off-kilter” is happening.
Animation is a visual medium, so—as a rule of thumb—less dialog is better. First, match every line of dialogue to the personality of the character speaking it. Second, have your characters speak in a natural way, complete with subtext (text with a suggested, subtle meaning). Third, use dialogue to set the mood of scenes.
Narration for Motion Graphics
When writing a motion graphics script, focus on clarity and brevity. While writing, be sure to visualize images and sequences that will match your words. After a draft is complete, it should be performed and edited for timing. Once your script is recorded, select the music. Next, focus on design and animation: consider typography, icons, characters, photography, and video that fit your story.
With every sound effect or piece of dialog, carefully consider if its placement is optimized for maximum emotional effect.
Animation empowers you to create any “crazy chaos” you want, but once you introduce your world, you must stick to your rules or risk continuity issues.
Designing the Rules
First, establish your world’s time and place. Start with factors like technology that vary across decades. Time and place are the first decisions to make when creating your world.
When considering changing physical laws, ask if it will enhance your story.
Look to history for inspiration for your world’s social norms or to nature (e.g., animal mating rituals).
When creating rules for visual laws, consider space, lines, shapes, color, contrast, and texture. For motion graphics, it is even more important to create distinct visual laws.
Blazer, L. (2015). Design wonderland. Animated storytelling: Simple steps for creating animation & motion graphics (1st ed., pp. 103-111) Peachpit Press.
Blazer, L. (2015). Sound ideas. Animated storytelling: Simple steps for creating animation & motion graphics (1st ed., pp. 87-99) Peachpit Press.
Research to Inform
For my first example of effective audio, I’ve chosen Fritz Lang’s M (1931). The sound in this masterpiece about a child killer is chilling. I find Lang’s use of silence to be powerful in the film. The Criterion Collection posted this video explaining the use of sound in M.
The Hurt Locker (2008) uses intensified ambient noise and soundtrack to ratchet up the tension, so viewers can almost feel the stress the soldiers are under.
My first example of text animation is the opening sequence of season one of Weeds (2005). I like the use of the 3D space and action starting the text and removing it.
My second example is the intro sequence of Entourage (2004). I love how the credits are seamlessly placed in signs and how the added flicker of neon lights is used to draw attention to the names.
The production of my animation was plagued by complications from the onset. For my stop motion animation film, I upgraded my camera to a DSLR. Soon, I struggled with auto-focus issues, which caused the noticeable flicker throughout the animation. The auto-focus sapped the camera battery and caused it to die before I could finish reshooting the first shot. My tripod also broke mid-shoot, which adds a slight jerkiness to the flicker. If I could redo this project, I would disable auto-focus and manually focus the DSLR. Despite the flicker, I’m fairly pleased with how the animation came out. I created the opening text animation using After Effects. For sound, I used three songs and three sound effects.