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Sorry for the long wait of updating the 12 Principles of Animation. I know it was a long wait; however, I'm looking to update some more and to complete the series. With that said, let's talk about Staging.

Films have interested many of us when we watch them in theaters, television, and our personal devices, for both live-action and animation. Seeing the characters communicate to each other, as well as seeing them move on screen, captures our attention and interest. How animators keep our interest in viewing the show comes from the principle Staging, where a lot of decisions are made to tell the story.

Staging not only sets up the scene with the backgrounds and environments, it helps the viewer understand the importance of the idea being shown. Like the scene from The Lion King, where Simba is on the ledge screaming after Mufasa was killed by the stampede: The camera zoomed out from Simba's head (allowing us to know what he's thinking) and seeing a very wide shot, understanding the depth of what's to come. While there are many shots to choose from for each scene, this is where you will need to do some decision making to help make the scene better for the presentation. Understanding the 180 Rule can help set the shots up for the scenes as well (a video link below to further explain the 180 Rule in the Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck section of Examples).

How to do Staging: Staging is our virtual and invisible camera to showcase what is happening on screen, and why it is relevant. Not every scene you can stay on too long, otherwise you might lose interest from your viewers. Variety of camera shots and angles help carry the storytelling, providing the different ideas and concepts necessary for the animation. Be mindful to not be too complex with the motions, as it could easily confuse the audience. As always, figure what is the main action/idea, and cater to that action/idea for the shot.

Examples:
Joker's Eulogy You can never go wrong for Staging when it comes to Batman: The Animated Series, as each episode felt like a short film. This scene is one of my favorites, as we get to see The Joker emotionally (a bit) gives an eulogy for Batman. Through his speech, we get to see some camera movement, as well as cutting from the Joker to Harley Quinn and the fellows in this scene.

Notice some parts where we see the full body of the characters, as extreme close ups (camera really focusing on the character's face, like 0:37 where the Joker talks about his dream), and some other shots. Take note also how these shots were chosen for the dialogue, and to continue the story. All in all, all the thoughts and ideas keep the sequence consistent and not as confusing.

Jessica Rabbit's performance Who Framed Roger Rabbit has been a powerful film, displaying amazing techniques for fusing live action and animation. Most hand drawn animations prefer not to animate the characters with the camera following around much, but animation director Richard Williams decided to take that challenge of the live action element. You can see how believable Jessica is in this scene, as she interacts with the crowd.

There were some full body shots, some medium shots, and even cutaways to focus on Eddie Valiant as he (and viewers) be amazed of Jessica's performance. The shots edited here really established the tone for this scene, which was to show how amazing Jessica is, as well as continuing to push the film's relevance in film history. Every shot you make, you want it to be as strong as possible, so people can watch it again and again…even after a couple of decades.

Daffy Duck vs. Donald Duck For the most part in this scene, the 180 Rule is established on the shots we see on screen. However, we do see a bit of (possibly) rule breaking at 0:58, where we have the black piano on the right side of the screen, then flips to the other side of the screen at the 1:00 mark.

Normally, a cut like that could lead to confusion. I feel what makes this a pass is that for 1. Daffy and Donald are having a very crazy and insane battle on stage. With them going back and forth, I am sure the direction was to showcase how extreme they were feuding, as well as to show power of hand drawn animation being displayed in a live action setting; and 2. Before this shot was shown, it was pretty established at the beginning of where the pianos were on stage, in relationship to the audience. We only see them do that one more time, but with Daffy at the black piano (1:05). For that, it's safe to say it didn't lead much confusion as it could have.

Father's Day Bear Presentation The cutting and Staging for this part of the video is interesting, as we see the characters perform in front of Pa Bear, as well as seeing Pa's reaction. Almost like a tennis match if you will. The one angle we don't see used is behind Ma Bear and Junior Bear facing Pa Bear straight on. For that, I believe, it is to keep us seeing what Pa is seeing, and from time to time see his displeasure. This was directed by Chuck Jones, and he used camera shots very well for his animation during the Looney Tunes era. Definitely check him out.

Exercise(s):
1. To practice Staging, watch live action films/television shows, and freeze frame the different shots for the project. Take notes by sketching the layout of the scene (not making it fully detailed, but focus on position of the characters, and how the background is setup). As you draw the different shots, see which shot is being used (you can find the different shots here and what they're named). This definitely helps for understanding shots when doing dialogue, camera pans, and editing from scene to scene.

2. If you have access to a video camera on your smartphone, photo/video shoot camera, or even your computer, do some scene shooting. See about creating a 30 second scene or a one minute scene, and practice working with the 180 Rule in your shooting and editing. The more you try using a real camera, the better sense you'll have for the animation camera when animating (both for hand drawn and CG).

I know there was a lot said in this entry for the Principle of Staging, as it is really important to keep the story tight and strong for your viewers. Great animation in the world won't work if the Staging is not done right. I hope this helps you for your animations.

We'll continue next time with Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose, and how it helps with animating characters with those elements. Feel free to comment or to ask questions if you like, and thanks for reading!

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August 7, 2014
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