Sod the "I haven't posted in ages, here's a bunch of miscellany" style post, let's have a good look at something cool!
So recently I was looking on Youtube for a car commerical I once saw that used Aphex Twin's Gwely Mernans to good effect (it had the car being chased by a wave coming up from the road). I never did find that particular ad, but the "aphex twin commercial" search term did turn up this little gem by Studio AKA.
This ad features some of the boldest transitions and camera moves I've ever seen, and is a great example of how much you can get away with in animation.
The whole thing has a really frantic pace to it. It's the sort of that that gets jarring when it's used in a 10-minute or longer cartoon, but for a 50-second commercial spot it's perfect. The entire thing is animated on ones, with a constant boil, but it's a necessary thing for the pacing to work, rather than simply being a case of "expensive rather than good" animation.
The bird character's design is extremely simple, but he's still immensely appealing, just because of his super jaunty 8-frame walk cycle (4 frames per step).
As we move away from his field and see the rubbish bin the view moves relatively slowly and smoothly.
Then he does a little 3-frame take...
before we get a slower move following his movement through the pipe.
The quicker camera moves are, as I said, really bold, almost downright abusive. They're the sort of thing that works even if you don't consciously register it.
How long does it take a bird to leave a building?
Enter another one?
And these two camera moves are still handled very differently. The first one comes very abruptly and suddenly, but the second has a significant, gradual ease in, and while it doesn't ease out, the way the revolving door slows down gives the illusion that it does.
There's also a variety in framing distances and angles. Before the first of those two transitions, we have a static mid shot.
This variety in framing is interesting in and of itself, but it also facilitates the variety in timing. The extreme long shot lets the camera pan very slowly, while this turning move into a close-up makes for a very pleasing ease in and out.
Also, even though there's lots of (very clever) cheating going on, it's not just a way to compensate for lack of skill on the part of the animators. Stuff like that move up the stairs, or the slow moves towards the bin and the plant pot are just flat-out hard to do.
Another "screenshotting every frame" move, because I still don't think you've scrolled enough yet.
My favourite transition actually comes fairly early on, when he enters the bathroom. I watched it a few times, knowing something weird was going on, but when I went through it frame-by-frame to figure it out my mind was utterly blown.
The first frame.
The last frame.
The shot that follows is also probably my favourite single shot in the whole spot. It's such a lovely angle, and getting to see the bird's walk bob from side-to-side is a real treat.
What's so great about all this complete nonsense is that it couldn't be done any other way. You couldn't do this shit in 3D or live-action. It's a spontaneous, fluid joy that can only be brought about by sequences of drawings.
After this, something very clever begins to happen: changes are made to the fundamental rules that we've grown accustomed to, which is a way to signal that we're getting to the end.
The bird moves into a drain...
When the bird enters the water, we get an even more fundamental change: his walk cycle slows down, and even becomes inconsistent. He manages one step of 4 frames...
And, to come back to how I even found this crazy thing in the first place, the music fits all this perfectly. Donkey Rhubarb is from that sort of earlyish period in Richard D. James's work where he was putting out alot of structurally simple dance music, emphasising not so much melody, harmony or rythm as pure timbre. The wirey, steel-drum-like instrument that underlies the whole track is immediately distinctive and appealing, and matches the spare, angular designs. The clattering rate at which it plays is appropriate for the mental pace of the animation. The vibraphone-like lead that comes in at 00:15 implies expansive space with its long, reverbing decay, and perfectly accentuates the long journey our protagonist the bird is taking. When he finds the worm, the contrast of the classical piece that totally interrupts the proceedings is brilliant, as is the second interruption of the cymbal crash when the end card comes up.
All that talk of bold camera moves reminds me of a little episode from my 3rd year of uni, when me and a couple of other animators ended up, along with some graphic design students, being stuck with having to make a stupid viral film for Channel 4 at a time when we really didn't have any time.
(actually, now that I look at the credits, I remember that there was actually only one other animator! She doesn't seem to have a site of her own, but she has a director's page on Sherbet's website)
This whole project was a big mess of basically everybody just moving things about as quickly as we could in a mad dash to get the whole thing done. Some parts didn't need everybody, and at the bit where the paperclips unfold and stab the paint tubes (1:06) I end up moving the paint tubes, and directing a couple of the graphic designers animating the paperclips. They had a very hard time believing in how much I was telling them to move the paperclips for each frame. I had to do alot of insisting, and in the end it could actually still be faster than it was. But this isn't to discredit them at all: it's the sort of thing you simply can't know unless you've actually got the experience. That was, of course, a very small case: I consider myself neither experienced nor confident. The sort of confidence you'd need to do the camera moves in this commercial can only have come from years of experience. I bet the guys who directed this have been at this animation thing for ages.
So Jonno, where's your token creative effort for this post? I was going to do a drawing of Cirno from the Touhou games, because I've been rather obsessed with the music from those games lately. But then I remembered that she already has a literally infinite amount of fanart, I've still not figured out how to interpret anime characters to make them interesting, I hate drawing characters in isolation anyway, and it's also a scary business to actually get that far into the pink bishoujo ghetto that is Touhou's character designs, and just got cold feet and couldn't do anything. But then there was a "draw an anime character you like as a reaction image" thread on /a/, and I remembered that I've been watching and enjoying His and Her Circumstances lately, so I figured I'd just do that instead.
I'll probably write something about this series once I've watched it all and read at least some of the manga. Then I've only got to watch Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, and I'll have seen everything important that Gainax has done. After that, I'll have to decide whether I really want to watch shit like Hanamaru Kindergarten and (ugh) He Is My Master just because Gainax did it.
I think this post might have the most images in a vertical line ever. Sorry. I almost wanted to just screencap every frame of the thing. At least it's better than me whining about how much of a loser I am, right? ;_;