Monday, October 9, 2017

"Heart of Steel", Part One, Act Three (Part Eight)

This is a post of storyboard pages 67 through 72. I boarded this section.

Bruce (now dressed as Batman), enters the Batcave, tries to access his computer (not realizing its been possessed by Hardac) and is promptly attacked by the servo arms previously established in Act Two. The episode ends on this cliff-hanger.

I find it interesting that Bruce goes into Bat-mode while, as far as he knows, he still has a guest in the house. I suppose there’s a case that could be made for either pose (Bat or non-Bat). The bottom line is the co-producer, Bruce Timm, had set the rule that Bruce Wayne would never enter the Batcave. So, whatever the pros and cons, the decision was made in advance.

This is the last installment on my biog series on The Batman TV Animated Series, episode #39, “Heart of Stone” part One. Part Two will commence in a day or so.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Heart of Steel", Part One, Act Three (Part Seven)

This is a post of storyboard pages 63 through 66. I boarded this section.

This sequence interests me because of it reveals some aspects of film continuity I’ve only recently become aware of: the focal “area of interest” as one assembles a montage. 

I recommend y’all watch the YouTube video by Linday Ellis, “Why is it So Hard to Remember What Happens in Transformers?”
It’s part of a series of video blogs where Ms. Ellis enunciates a broad range of film theories I have not previously been exposed to; in this case, areas of interest within a frame and their placement in succeeding images within a montage sequence. 

To paraphrase, Ms. Ellis theorizes one of the reasons for Transformer flick’s unmemorablility is that the focal area of interest jumps all over the place during montages, making it difficult for the viewer to absorb (and remember) any given montage.

In the case at hand:

(C86) INT. Batcave; Randa, in the lower left quadrant of the composition, finishes her work at the main console, walks o.s. in the lower left corner.

(C87) INT. Wayne Manor Front Door; Bruce enters through cam left half-door, strides left, calling out for Alfred and Randa.

(C89) (This panel is hard to read, so I’m including a panel enlargement with the three areas of interest highlighted.) We see, but might not notice, Alfred’s unconscious form lying in the lower left corner. Bruce strides in from upper-middle left atop the mezzanine, stops, calls out as he spots Alfred, then rushes down the staircase. 

Scene (C89) makes me nervous; I can’t decide if this is good filmmaking or bad. As a storyboard panel, I had to go to extra lengths to allow the reader of this blog to even know what is happening (in the panel). As a piece of film, however, it would work well enough; even if one doesn’t spot Alfred within the palatial expanse of the layout, one would pick up Bruce as he enters. (Film-maker note: The eye sees movement above all else, even if it’s in the tiny uppermost corner of a frame.) To load the readability dice, I position Alfred at the left-most corner of the carpet so that it serves as a pointer. It also hooks up nicely, graphic-image-wise, with scene (C90).

The question is, is this good filmmaking to have all the action clumped in the left side of the frame(s)? One might reasonably ask why I didn’t re-draw the BG from a different angle to allow Bruce to travel through a larger swath of the compositional space, perhaps placing Alfred in the foreground of a lower angle, emphasizing his unconscious form. In this case, the answer is probably that I was too lazy, and it would have  cost money to re-draw the stock BG from a different angle.

Also, though I’m sure it was unconscious on my part, scenes (C86) through (C89) all confine the area of interest to the left third of the compositional space of each scene, providing a easier read for the audience. This is a good thing, or perhaps bad considering one’s point of view.

Note: I mistakenly mis-labeled (C94) as being a separate scene; it is actually intended to be the bg for scene (C93), drawn as a separate panel to be of maximum utility for the lay-out department.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"Heart of Steel", Part One, Act Three (Part Six)

This is a post of storyboard pages 54 through 63. I boarded this section.

Having subdued Alfred, Randa is free to explore Wayne Manor. She steps into the library in long shot (C75); cut to medium close-up providing a better view of the futurist goggles she now wears (C76).

(C77), (C78) & (C79) comprise a brief montage of P.O.V. pans through Randa’s X-ray goggles; this effect was achieved by superimposing the normal BG layer as a 40% DX (partial transparence) over non-transparent renderings of the structure of the architectural elements underneath. The pan of the montage ends on the secret entrance to the Batcave.

(C80) Match cut to the “real” (non-P.O.V)  BG; Randa steps in, striding across room to book case, stops, pulls out the exactly correct book to cause the Batcave entrance slide open. She unhesitatingly descends the offstage staircase, exiting frame.

The challenge of expository coverage is to get through it expediently as possible. I believe that it would have been incorrect to dramatize this material. In my opinion, one needs to choose one’s spots for emphasis. If one starts big, one has nowhere to go but up (to ridiculous heights as in your average John Woo movie).

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Heart of Steel", Part One, Act Three (Part Five)

This is a post of storyboard pages 42 through 53. Mike Goguen and I did alternate sections. I put my watermark on the pages that I (at least) roughed, even though they were (or weren’t) clean-pencilled by Mike.

In scenes C65 and C66, Randa zaps Alfred with the taser established at the end of Act Two. I may have storyboarded it, but don’t ask me where she pulled the taser from. 

I didn’t feel the need to highlight Randa’s weapon (i.e., showing it in close-up as it subdues Alfred) since it was  adequately introduced in the previous act, in precisely that way.

By the way, scenes C63, C64, C64 and C66 are all examples of “cutting on action”, i.e., an action is started at the end of one scene and completed in the next. This is called “invisible cutting”.

Transition back to Bruce’s office at Wayne Enterprises. Upon reflection, I think this section errs in that, in scene C47, the office is established as being a bustling hive of activity.

 After that set-up, the security officers are forgotten, drop out of the location. If I’d been storyboard supervising, I’d have directed the board artist to add the security guards into the BGs of other scenes (like C71).

I like C69 for its economy and brevity. We established Alfred “going down” in scenes C65 & C66; all that is needed is the shot of his unmoving legs. My only caveat is that I probably could have shortened the length of the pan so that we could spend more time on the phone and the legs and less moving across the desktop.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Heart of Steel", Part One, Act Three (Part Four)

This is a post of storyboard pages 30 through 41. Mike Goguen and I did alternate sections.

I roughed pages 30 through 35, Mike cleaned them. The worked was assigned thusly by the episode’s director, Kevin Altieri, partly because he preferred Mike’s version of Randa Duane, partly to help me make the deadline. Scene C44 appears to be drawn by Kevin.

I direct your attention to scene C46. I wanted to start with the medium close-up of Randa’s non-reaction to Bruce’s question/ accusation, but show Bruce answering the phone without cutting This was problematic because the phone had been established in the stock BG as being on the opposite side of the room. This would necessitate a 180 degree pan, but how to accomplish this in animation?

I had recently screened an anime feature about battling samurais (I forget the title) where I observed the effect I wanted. I asked Kevin if he had any idea how it was achieved. He knew immediately, directing me to do a normal, flat  B.G. pan across the room while animating Randa turning-in-place in the F.G.. 

 So, on page 32, Randa cooly lowers her fork and turns toward the o.s. phone as it rings. On page 33, Bruce walks through frame in the F.G. On page 34, the camera pans to Bruce, maintaining Randa’s  position within the composition, animating the simulated camera turn. On page 35, Bruce hangs up the phone, says a terse goodbye to Randa, and strides o.s.; the camera trucks in on Randa as her eyes narrow ever so slightly.

I was really quite proud of this shot. As far as I know it was the first time it had been used in American animation. (Afterwards, I saw it frequently.)

The following section is all Mike’s. Transition to Bruce’s office at Wayne Enterprises in the aftermath of the robo-compact’s hacking the Wayne Tech server. Bruce and Lucius discuss the safety of their data. In scene C52, the camera cuts to an exterior through-the-window shot, and pans to the robo-compact hiding nearby on a convenient ledge. Naively unaware that they are under surveillance, the clueless humans reveal that the real data is back at Wayne Manor. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Heart of Steel", Part One, Act Three (Part Three)

This is a post of storyboard pages 21 through 29. Mike Goguen and I did alternate sections.

I storyboarded pages 21 through 23. I want to draw your attention to scenes C30, C31, and C32. This  sequence of scenes would normally be done as a shot/reverse-angle type of thing in that scene C30 and scene C32 would be mirror images of scene C31. I opted for something more symbolic, i.e., Gordon shot from slightly behind, looking away from camera (towards o.s. Barbara). This was intended to give a more alienated  effect, emphasizing that this sequence is from Barbara’s point of view.

In the late 80’s/early 90’s I was heavily into Alfred Hitchcock, deeply influenced by “The Murderous Gaze”, a critical treatise by Robin Wood, and the Hitchcock/Truffaut book. I was particularly
interested in Wood’s analysis of Hitchcock’s use of point-of-view. Among other things, the master would evoke p.o.v. without resorting to actual p.o.v. shots. That is at play in this little sequence, insofar as I contrived to make it her p.o.v. (instead of a impersonal narration) by continually framing Gordon from “over the shoulder” in every scene he is shown.

Mike did pages 24 through 29. Randa Duane’s compact goes into action, trying to invade the Wayne-tech server. I suspect Mike designed the compact himself, as we were working slightly ahead of the design crew, as I recall. It’s mildly humorous, in a deadpan sort of way.