Semester One Reading List: Book Reviews

Brown, B., 2012, Cinematography: Theory and Practice – Image Making For Cinematographers and Directors: Focal Press, Second Edition, USA,

An excellent book that explores the methods and processes it takes to create a scene for a film. This was a very helpful book for many of my projects. It explains a lot about the angles of shots and perfect lighting techniques, etc. along with some very useful examples from films and their cinematography methods; it has helped me to understand the thought that must be taken to create a visually interesting scene,; the cinematographer’s part within the production is to keep the audiences’ attention making the scenes interesting and easy to read on screen.

A film must visually tell the story even without the dialogue. This is what I have learned from my experience of the storyboards; it must be appealing, and the cinematography has to guide the audience, throughout the entire film. It is a challenging process to create a perfect shot, and therefore it is one process in which the director is fully involved with the cinematographer to make sure his vision is thoroughly progressed. In some cases the cinematographer can make a decision for a perfect shot; they are the artist, so the director at times will take their advice for a certain scene too.

Fresnels Units are lights with Lenses. Most Film lights employ the stepped Fresnel type lens, with a few exceptions that use simpler plano-convex lens such as a Dedo or an ellipsoidal (Leko). A Fresnel lens is a stepped ring design that reduces the thickness of the lens to save on the cost and also prevent heat build-up in the glass, which can cause cracking.

LED Lights A new and very popular source is LED lights, which are small and extremely energy efficient, which also means that they produce much less heat than tungsten lights (where the electricity produces 90% heat and only 10% light). LEDs have been incorporated into all types of units, although few of them have the long reach of PAR or a fresnel. For lighting fairlyclose to the scene, however, they have many advantages. Their compact size means they can be hidden in many places on the set and also makes them easier to handle and rig on location. There are also many LED lights that run on batteries – these can be very useful for handheld work, camera mounting and other conditions where AC power may not be available or it is just not practical to run and AC power cord. Certainly a hand-held camera operator is not going to want to be dragging a power cable around all the time.

Motivated Light Light in a scene may come from many sources, including lights that are actually in the frame such as practicals, windows, skylight, signs, and so on. In some cases, these sources are visible but do not provide enough output for proper exposure. In this case, the sources may only serve to motivate additional lighting that is off-screen. Some cinematographers and directors prefer that most or all lighting in a scene be motivated in this way – that the viewer somehow understands where the light is coming from. In these frames from Honey-dripper, the light is motivated by the lamps, but the actual illumination comes from sources not shown in the frame.

  • Avoid flat front lighting. Lights that come more from the sides and back are usually the way to accomplish this. Any time a light is right beside or behind the camera; this is a warning sign of possible flat, featureless lighting.
  • Use techniques such as backlight, kicker, and backgrounds, accentuate the actor’s features, and create a three-dimensional image.
  • Beware of shadows and use them to create chiaroscuro depth, shape the scene, and mood. Don’t be afraid of shadows; some cinematographers say that “…the lights you don’t turn on are as important as the ones you do turn on.”
  • Whenever possible, light people from the upstage side.
  • When appropriate, add texture to your lights with gobos, cookies, and other methods.

Continuity of content applies to anything visible in the scene; wardrobe, hairstyle, props, the actors, cars in the background, the time set on the clock. As discussed in the chapter Set Operations, it is the script supervisor in conjunction with the various department heads who must ensure that all of these items match from shot to shot.

These kinds of problems extend from very obvious – she was wearing a red hat in the master, but now it is green hat in the close-up – to very subtle – he has a cigar that was almost finished when he entered and now he has a cigar that is just started.  While the script supervisor, on-set wardrobe, and prop master are the first line of defence in these matters, it is still up to the director and camera man to always be watchful for problems.

As with almost anything in film there is a certain amount of cheating that is possible; the audience can be very accepting of minor glitches. Absolutely perfect continuity is never possible and there is a large grey area.

Beiman, N., 2007, Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts: Focal Press, London

This was a brilliant book that focuses on storyboard process and shots, character development and the overall story. It has some fantastic examples of animated storyboards and characters; an excellent read that explains everything. There is one part that shows silhouettes, these silhouettes read well and depict typical attitudes of two characters.

This book has been a brilliant companion; I decided to take it out from the library, to read, to help me understand storyboards and the process that goes into them. It is a lot of work, but, in my opinion the storyboard is the heart of the film or animation. It is there for reference and to help direct the crew. Storyboard meetings are fun, when a team gets together and runs ideas off one another and to see those ideas sketched down is simply wonderful. The images themselves animate what the story is about, even though they do not move.

Linear and Non-Linear Storytelling A linear story progresses from A (beginning) to B (middle) to C (resolution) in sequential time. A situation is established at the start, a composition arises in the middle section, and resolution of some kind comes at the end. Most feature-length animation works in linear format.

Linear stories can also work in reverse, as seen in Piet Kroon’s short film T.R.A.N.S.I.T. The film opens as a man is immigrating to Argentina after a murder. It progresses into the past to show how the character’ relationships made this outcome inevitable.

Non-Linear animation concentrates on creating an effect or mood rather than telling a carefully plotted story. Many short experimental films fall into this category. WAKING LIFE is a rare example of a feature-length non-linear film conveying moods or emotions, re-search different artistic styles, colour, sound, music and effects that will create the desired impression in the viewer’s mind.

You may not wish to make an autobiographical film, but elements from your life can add a dash of reality that strengthens the situation and characters.

Comic Boards and Animation Boards Comic and graphic novel artists also use storyboards to rough out their projects before creating the finished artwork. There is, however, a major difference between film and comic storyboards. The comic artist has complete freedom to design frames and panels on the page. Panels may be vertical or irregularly shaped. Effects can be added to the panels borders, or characters can burst right through them.

David Chelsea in Love by David Chelsea

Motion pictures and computer graphics are more restricted in their staging. The motion picture screen or computer graphic is an unchanging ‘frame’. The animator creates variety in staging by moving the camera, animating the characters within the frames, or cutting to a new camera angle. The frame is always horizontal.

Academy Standard – 1.33:1

Wide Screen can be up to – 2:1

The animation storyboard artist must first foremost be an excellent actor. While it is true the voice actor give 50 percent of the character’s performance, it is the storyboard artist’s work that determines the acting that we see on screen. The animated characters are developed on the storyboard before the voices are recorded. The animation storyboard artist performs all the character parts; he or she creates dramatic pacing and cutting and indicates the settings and emotional moods that layout artists and animators will develop in the final film. In addition, storyboard drawings are frequently used as acting and design reference for character designers who may be working on the production at the same time that the boards are created. So the animation artist is also a bit of a casting director!

Here is a list of animals and their symbolic meanings. Some animals have been used to represent more than one human trait and opposing traits are sometimes represented by the same animal.

  • Lion (brave, the king of the beats)
  • Lamb (meek, mild, innocent)
  • Mouse (timid and defenceless)
  • Rabbit (clever and resourceful or timid and defenceless)
  • Bear (brute strength, brawn without brain)
  • Cat (sly, cruel, deceptive, and self-centred)
  • Cow and Sheep (unintelligent, docile, a follower)
  • Dog ( loyal and brave or a fawning servant)

Log Lines

  • Surface appearance can be deceptive. People come in layers, like onions. – Shrek
  • A freak turns his defect into an asset, redeeming himself and his mother. – Dumbo
  • Magic comes from personal initiative and the working of conscience.  – Pinocchio
  • A callow youth learns to accept his responsibilities. – The Lion King
  • There is some good in every character. – Lilo & Stitch

Bordwell, D. and Thompson, K., 2013, Film Art: An Introduction: McGraw – Hill International Edition: New York

Another excellent book that provides all the techniques and introduces the art of film; this is a wonderful book that provides interesting information on films throughout the years; it has many interesting cinematography, frame dimensions and shape references from films.

The book wonderfully breaks down the techniques of a film’s process; it provides insight into how a certain film was challenged, and is mainly about the structure of film. It is an excellent introduction to the world of filmmaking, and teaches and informs on every possible aspect of the film industry, from editing, to lens and camera work, to directing and narrative alternatives.

This book has acted as a guide to the cinematic world; it has been a great source of research to finding interesting information; I have often looked to this book to understand some aspect of filmmaking and to find ways to solve and discover.

Screen Space In many respects, a film shot resembles a painting. It presents a flat array of colours and shapes. Beofre we even start to understand the image as a three-dimensional space, mise-en-scene offers many cues for guiding our attention and emphasizing in the frame.

Dialogue and Aggression In each “dialogue,” on profile devours the other chops and mashes its components mercilessly, and spews out the bits. After several such ravenous encounters, the profiles are reduced to mush, metal shards, and paper scraps. Finally the profiles emulsify intp smooth rounded heads. This shift into identical heads is puzzling but becomes coherent in retrospect. We’ll see the process of reducing differences among the “speakers” conclude later parts.

“Passionate Dialogue” gives us a more familiar story. Human figures made of smooth clay, reminiscent of the busts at the end of “Factual Dialogue,” face each other across a table. One is male, the other female. They share a kiss, and this leads to a complete merger of their forms, an analogy to copulation. Once they have split apart, a lump of clay is left over. It tries to get their attention, but both mistreat it. When the man tries to mash the “baby” into the woman’s face, she scratches his face, and soon they are tearing each other apart. In the end both dribble into a mass of clay.

An Example of Traditional Animation: Duck Amuck During the golden age of Hollywood short cartoons, from the 1930s to the 1950’s, Disney and Warner Bros. were rivals. Disney animators had far greater resources at their diposal, and their animation was more elaborate and detailed than the simpler Warner product. Warner cartoonists fought back by exploiting the comic fantasy possible in animated films and playing with the medium in imaginative ways. Warner Bros. cartoons revealed in fast, violent action. In Rabbit Seasoning, shotgun blasts keep rearranging Daffy Duck’s features. The Warner team exploited an impudent tone as well, making Daffy and Bugs Bunny wisecracking cynics far removed from the sweet altruism of Mickey Mouse. Warner’s comedy was often surreal, letting character speak to the audience or mock studio executives. The unit’s producer Leon Schlesinger appeared in You Ought to Be in Pictures, letting Porky Pig out of his contract so that he could move up to live-action features.

Of the many Warner experiments, none went further than Duck Amuck, directed by Charles M. (Chuck) Jones in 1953. It is now recognized as one of the masterpieces of American animation. Although it was made within the Hollywood system and uses narrative form, it has an experimental feel because it asks the audience to take part in an exploration of techniques of cel animation. As the film begins, it seems to be a swashbuckler of the sort Daffy Duck had appeared in before, such as The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950), itself a parody of one of Errol Flynn’s most famous Warner Bros. Films. When Daffy is first seen, he is a duelling musketeer. But when he moves to the left, he passes the edge of the painted background. He’s baffled, calls for scenery, and exists. A giant animated brush appears from outside the frame and paints in a barnyard. When Daffy enters, still in musketeer costume, he is annoyed but changes into a farmer’s outfit. Such quick switches continue throughout the film, with the paintbrush and a self, with dizzying illogic.

Duck Amuck’s use of animation techniques is just an unconventional as it is narrative form. Because the action moves so quickly, we might fail on first viewing to note that aside from the credit title and the familiar “That’s All, Folks!” logo, the film contains only four separate shots, three of which come in quick succession at the end. In Duck Amuck, the only certain space is that of the frame itself – a quality quite different from the clearly established settings provided in more conventional cartoons.


Edgar-Hunt, R., Marland, J. and Rawie S., 2010, The Language of Film: Academia, London

An excellent book that informs the language of film, explaining what is meant by form and angles; it also gives excellent tips and case studies on films, providing information, synopsis and key connotations.

Thomas, F. and Johnson, O., 1981, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation: Disney Edition, New York

This animation book “Bible” is an exceptionally good read. From this book I have learned much about animating principles; it is a great volume that provides exciting in-depth history and reference of animation, and really gives a fantastic view of the Disney Studios.

I call it a bible because there is so much within its pages and it is also a very heavy book.

  1. Show the expression change!
  2. Avoid making a fast move while changing the expression.
  3. Change your expression before the move, or at the end, when the character is moving slowly enough for it to be seen.
  4. Do not lose the expression change in an active secondary action – such as a hand waving, a big arm action, or follow through on clothes.
  5. Avoid looking up for a frown, unless it is sinister, domineering one.
  6. Do not hide a smile with the head titled down too far or behind a big nose or moustache.
  7. Be sure you have the right staging to show all the expressions in your scene to best advantage.
  8. Have you the right expression for what your character is thinking? Are all parts of the head and face related to this one idea?
  9. Do not change shapes too much all over the face.
  10. At times, hold activity on the face so that just the month is moving.
  11. As we were told so many times before we learned: It is change of shape that shows the character is thinking. It is the thinking that gives the illusion of life. It is the life that gives meaning to the expression.

Nine Economical Ways that Animation Can Build Emotions in the Imaginations of the Audience

  1. Rear View – Sleeping Beauty: The two lovers look off into the distance and dream their private dreams. Since their feelings are better imagined than they could ever be shown in detail, the audience dreams along with them.
  2. Shadows – Snow White: Shadows are usually associated with suspense and drama. They can add interest and variety to a continuity while saving the time needed to draw all the detail on each character.
  3. Shadows Over the Character – Bambi: Faline watches transfixed off the intruder. The excitement of the situation is better conveyed by her whole attitude, with the shadows of the action passing over her, than it could have been by just the concerned expression on her face.
  4. Overlays – The Jungle Book: Baloo is desperately searching for Mowgli who has just run away. Having Baloo partially covered by the branches in the background makes a more rewarding scene than trying to draw his distraught face.
  5. Dramatic Layout – The Ugly Duckling: Overpowering shapes and a path of action going down the hill both add to the feeling of depression as the Ugly Duckling slowly walks away. The Portrayal of his feelings relies on the layout that makes him look small and desolate.
  6. Pictorial Shot – Cinderella: Cinderella had been prevented from going to the royal ball. Her keen disappointment is best communicated by the romanticized view of the castle where she wants to be. A background with a strong mood can save difficult animation.
  7. Effects Animation – Bambi: Fine animation of forms from nature can establish a mood either by symbolism or showing what the character sees. Falling rain, a storm, approaching fire will quickly create strong feelings. The stark colours of these autumn leaves foretell the harshness of the approaching winter.
  8. Head Drawing with Camera Moves – 101 Dalmatians: Some expressions cannot be strengthened by movement. Instead of moving the character, a simulated feeling of activity was achieved by slowly moving the camera – in this case, trucking into a closer shot of the dog’s eyes.
  9. Offstage Sounds – Lady and the Tramp: No animation is needed on a comprehensive shot of the locale if appropriate sounds can build images in the imagination. The entrance to the dog pound in Lady and the Tramp looks forlorn and mournful enough, but it was hearing the howling and the barking and whining of the dogs inside that really told the story.

bambi autumn scene

cinderella window scene

Williams, R., 2009, The Animator’s Survival Kit: Faber and Faber, London

If there is any animation book an animation student must have, this book would be it. The survival kit is that rare instruction text book that provides the goods. It demonstrates and explains everything and anything about how to be an animator.

The great thing about this book is that it acts as an instruction book that teaches you how to animate. I have enjoyed reading through its pages, and it has provided a good source of reference for me when I need to understand something about animating a character.

 Hahn, D., 2008, The Alchemy of Animation: Disney Editions, New York

The Alchemy of Animation gives readers the chance to look into three different art forms; on technics from hand-drawn animation, to stop-motion and Pixel animation. It has seventy year worth of animation history to draw from; an amazingly pleasure, from start to finish.

(, 2014)


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