Sunday, 25 November 2007

The Gun Show

I think if I were to ever own a gun, it would be a blunderbuss. Mainly because of the name. A great, big, oversized one that I'd mount somewhere so that people visiting my apartment couldn't miss it and would thus be compelled to comment.
"Oh, that?" I'd say with carefully-rehearsed nonchalance, "That's just my blunderbuss." I'd feign indifference while inside I'd be overly-gleeful that I'd had a legitimate excuse to say the word out loud.
These are the small pleasures that seem to genuinely make my day. While giving this some contemplation I made an executive decision to crowbar said firearm into my film. In the storyboard the Hunter and Duck face-off near the end with shotguns, but I figured the Hunter would probably collect different types of gun and, like me, probably just want to have a blunderbuss around so that he could have an excuse to say the word.
That's the great thing about creating characters, they can have whatever personality traits I bestow upon them, for I am their GOD. Here's an example - there's nothing in my film that lets you know that the Hunter has a secret, guilty fondness for Girls Aloud, but he does. How do I know this?
Because I fucking say so and I am his indisputable creator!
That power-trip is another gleeful pleasure. It's frankly astonishing that I'm single.
As the gun is pretty much ornamental, when the Duck tries to fire it he discovers it isn't loaded. Instead he opts to throw it at the Hunter's head. This action is represented in a very short, two-second shot, but one that took a lot of trial and error to get right, so I thought I'd break it down.

Firstly we have the animatic shot, which is just a still from the storyboard with the soundtrack already constructed. We hear the gun being thrown, connecting with the Hunter's head, his own gun going off and then the resulting rumble of debris start to come down from the ceiling. It's a fairly busy two seconds where pretty much every frame is sound-dependent, plus it's an important action that needs to be presented clearly. To start with we have the Duck's action, which comes down to three motions: the throw, the reaction to the Hunter's gun going off, and looking up at the ceiling as it starts to come down. When timed and animated the line test comes out like this:

I'm pretty pleased with the head movement and the slight squash/stretch with the reaction. After fiddling with the timing to get it exactly right the line test can be detailed, inked and coloured to get this:

For the Hunter we carry out the same process, breaking down his movement to three actions as well: about to topple after being hit, getting flung forward when his gun goes off, then cradling his head once he's settles back to his original position. Here's the line test once the timing has been worked out:

And, like before, once I feel happy with the movement, I do the inking and colouring to get this:

There's a bit of cheating going on with this shot. The first and most obvious one is that he (while sporting a thatch that would make Kay Parker seem bereft by comparison) has no actual genitalia to speak of. I figured I'd blur the crotch area for the finished film but throw in a bit of grisly detail because...uh...I'm not sure. There may be some quite deep-rooted issues there.
As far as the actual animation goes, you can probably tell that for a few frames his torso is the same drawing while his head and limbs are fully animated. This was really just to conserve time and labour - if I hadn't done the foolish thing and made him so hairy I probably would've drawn each of those frames separately. I've also employed some cartoonist license with the physical action itself - technically the gun's recoil would fling his body backwards, not forwards. But in a film where the antagonist is a reanimated, talking duck, the laws of physics aren't a primary concern. Mainly it's because this way works better with the way the shot is framed. Here's how the (nearly) finished shot works with the background and additional animation comped together:

This is obviously a funnier visual when viewed in the context of the film rather than as a perpetually-looping, miscoloured, animated GIF. As the animator, though, there's a desire to see everything you produce repeated and repeated until your brain no longer attempts to make sense of what you are looking at. As an audience member, well, there's a good chance that if you closed your eyes to sneeze at the wrong moment all the work in a shot like this would go unacknowledged. Hopefully this film will, when completed, come across as greater than the sum of its parts. That's a phrase, right? I've heard it somewhere. do I end this entry? Um...


Sorry, I panicked.

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