Animated Storytelling Chapter Summary
The following is a summary of chapters four and five of Liz Blazer’s book, Animated Storytelling:
Color has tremendous storytelling power: it expresses emotion, clarity, and meaning. The three standard color characteristics are hue, saturation, and value.
- Hue refers to the color name (e.g., blue)
- Saturation is the intensity of a color
- Value is the relative lightness and darkness of a color (the lower the value the closer to black)
“Color script is a sequential visual outline of how you intend to use color in your animated film” (Blazer, 2015).
The first step is to define a single color for your story. Think of a color that fits the overarching mood of your animation. With a color selected, create a pre-color script (PCS), which is a representation of your storyboard by color. Each board or act is assigned a color. It’s best to start with key moments that would benefit from color emphasis and fill the rest of the frames in a manner that supports those moments. The right hue, saturation, and value in key moments amplifies emotions and clarifies intent. After selecting the hue, saturation and value for key moments, fill the supporting frames with solid colors.
With your pre-color script complete, use it as a guide to color each board of the storyboard, which should be digitized by now. Once all your boards are colored, move onto selecting colors for supporting characters, background, and props for each shot.
- Limit Your Palette. To limit distractions, it’s best to use fewer colors. Limiting colors allows viewers to focus on what’s most important in the story.
- Support (Don’t Upstage) Your Subject. Having too much color in the background distracts from your subject. Use white space as a buffer (an open area around your subject) or high contrast or complementary colors.
- Select One Thematic and One Accent Color. Pick a dominant thematic color and an accent color (consider complementary colors or analogous colors)
- Use Saturation Mindfully. Saturated colors should only be used in important places because they can steal the spotlight if used incorrectly.
- Use Surprise Color for Punctuation. A surprise color (one that jars the eye) at a key moment enlivens motion, ties together a key idea or triggers the story climax.
- Design for Movement. Make sure background colors don’t compete with moving subjects. The goal is to draw the eye toward the subjects.
- Make Your Own Rules. Just be sure to be consistent with your selections, so your piece is unified.
Animation is fertile ground for experimentation, and experimentation is essential to getting the most out of your story. Create “Bad Art.” Take a scene from your story and make it as absurd as possible (e.g., exotic or unconventional color choices). This will supercharge creativity, and nothing enhances stories more than inventive, creative decisions.
Work on the “edge” of your skill set. Find that area where you’re uncomfortable and focus there. This is where your creative genius will happen. Focus your experimentation on the gaps in your skill set.
Create personal projects that represent the work you want to be hired to do. Personal projects help you identify the stories you want to tell. Treat personal projects with the same level of professionalism as the work you’re paid for.
Experiment with your film. Create a graph with each scene of your story numbered on the left and a series of columns to list areas where you can experiment. Examples of areas to experiment are technique, design, transitions, sound, movement, and sources. Next, go through each of your storyboards and search for places where you can experiment and make notes on your graph. Don’t forget transitions are animation’s most powerful tool, or that movement is animation’s most important aspect.
Blazer, L. (2015). Color sense. Animated storytelling: Simple steps for creating animation & motion graphics (1st ed., pp. 55-69) Peachpit Press.
Blazer, L. (2015). Weird science. Animated storytelling: Simple steps for creating animation & motion graphics (1st ed., pp. 71-85) Peachpit Press.
Research to Inform
I enjoy how this stop animation incorporates an actual environment and clay. It’s pretty cool.
This is a beautiful short stop animation, The Sea is Blue, inspiration was the writer-director’s sister’s coma. It has a sweet message of appreciating people. It was created using stop-motion and CGI to animate the faces.
This impressive stop motion animation required almost 1800 images! It is very clever and exemplifies a lot of cool simple things one can do with stop-animation. I love the framing and perspective shots used in this short. Who knew a desk could be so much fun?
This short is so creative. It uses paper cut-outs to create an almost like comic book effect, very cool. I also really like the subtle sound effects.
This stop-motion animation was created by students and took eight weeks. I really enjoyed its puppets and the little twist at the end.
Pre-production Linear: Linear-LostRemote
My linear story is a journey narrative. A remote lives on an end table. Its life is thrown into chaos when it topples off the end table and rolls under a couch. Its obstacle is to find a way back to the end table, which is high up for the remote. The solution the remote comes up with is to use a box as a step to reach the couch and ultimately the end table.
This idea was appealing because it appears to be manageable, but it would require throwing my living room, which is small, into disarray. I’m also unsure how to animate the fall scene.
Pre-production Non-linear: nonLinear-dumbbellDanceParty
My non-linear story idea is a dumbbell dance party. It will use the book ending format. The theme is finding fun in simple things. A small dumbbell rolls into the frame, music starts, and the dumbbell dances. a partner joins the dance and one of the dumbbells morphs into a larger dumbbell. When the music ends, the large dumbbell turns back to its smaller state rolls off the frame the same way it entered the frame.
I’m leaning toward my non-linear dumbbell dance party idea because I think it will be easier to shoot and won’t throw my living room into disarray.
For my test animation, I decided to animate an adjustable dumbbell putting itself together, complete with a wrench. I was hamstrung a little by my camera’s tendency to go into battery save mode and retract the zoom as a result the animation jumps on a couple of different occasions. Further complicating the process was the weight mat shifts unintentionally. It slides on the rug. When I try this again, I will try anchoring it with a weight plate or something. Hopefully, it will keep still.