Thursday, December 15, 2011

Animation Lighting

Advanced animators often consider lighting even during character design.

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Successful lighting for animation relies on a combination of thoughtful character design and carefully orchestrated lighting. Animators should design their characters with potential lighting schemes in mind, then stage and light their scenes for the clearest silhouette, and in a way appropriate to the content of the story as it unfolds.

Related Searches: Light and Character Design

and character design are inextricably intertwined. In live action projects, the major factor that determines the shape of a character silhouette is the actor playing that character -- and to a lesser extent the costuming. In animation, you must take care to design a character that will read clearly in profile. As you make work on your character designs, periodically trace outlines of each and fill them in with black to see how your choices have affected their silhouettes. A character should be readily identifiable by a monochrome silhouette alone. If not, go back to the drawing board and rework your model sheet. Likewise, the silhouette of each character in a production should be distinct and different enough from the others that an audience member would be able to distinguish them from each other in a silhouette lineup.

Basic Lighting

Acclaimed cinematographer and USC professor Woody Omens recommends that his students "light from the bottom." In other words, begin with no light, and add lights thoughtfully and with intention until your scene has been adequately illuminated. The opposite approach involves setting up a bright key light, or main light source, and a fill light, or secondary light source, and then adding flags and bounces to adjust the results. Lighting "from the top" has a long tradition in cinema history, but thoughtless reliance on the method can potentially weaken a scene. Though bounces and flags do not exist in a 2-D animator's vocabulary, lighting from the top has been overused by classical animators as well.

One Object, One Shadow

In the real world, many sources of light fall upon any single object simultaneously, making a overlapping array of shadows. But in the artificial worlds of cinema and animation -- at least in most cases -- a character should have a single shadow. When using 3-D models for 2-D, characters pick out the most prominent shadow in a scene and do not attempt to recreate the rest.

Light and Emotion

Anyone who has seen a noir film from the 1940s or 1950s can attest to the potential power of truly emotional lighting. Imagine if "The Maltese Falcon" or Roman Polanski's neo-noir "Chinatown" took place in rooms as bright and sterile as a hospital room, instead of the dimly lit locales film fanatics have come to know and love. Low-key lighting can signal moodiness, mystery, sadness or suspense. Flat, even lighting feels neutral. High-key lighting can signal happiness, confidence or clarity. Take time with your choices and try to light for the highest emotional impact for the scene in question.

ReferencesJohn K Stuff: Animation School Lesson 7: Combining Construction With Clear SilhouettesPhoto Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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