Some days ago I talked about the new Horton Hears a Who trailer, from the folks at Bluesky. I think I wasn't fair enough with this one, which deserves a post for it alone.
After watching it a lot of times, I've decided to write about an aspect of it that was a pleasure to notice: their awesome composition.
Yes, the animation is stupendous, the assimetric modeling is beautiful and the more cartoony (or less photoreal) render are other things that make this film a strong candidate to be the best animation of 2008. But the reason I want to talk about their great scene compositions is because it's a less obvious thing, harder to achieve and - still - extremely important to make a film stand from the crowd.
Those guys really thought about the film as a whole, not a bunch of parts assembled. Keith Lango wrote about it in 2006, which is a strongly recommended reading.
It is possible to make extreme flexible rigs, uber detailed modelings, lightings that could make Caravaggio smile and execute wonderful animations. Putting all those things in a scene is pretty harder to do, and Bluesky has made it. Take a look at some screenshots I took:
The blurred background is made in a way that guides the audience's eyes to the main subject: the flower in which the speck lands. The visual hierarchy respects the rule of thirds, making a stong composition. I've highlighted in red the path suggested by the background and the yellow lines mark the thirds.
Here, the door guides our eyes to the main subject, and there are no distracting information. Notice that the bookshelf is inclined like an arrow to show us where to look.
Both the buildings and the parapet guide our attention to the mayor, who walks to the left "third".
The tree branches here are carefully positioned to not compete with the little blue rodent, making a frame around him. Horton, the main character here, gains attention not only by his size, but also for his position on the imaginary grid.
This is one of my favorites: look at how his hand is on the main point of interest and how the formulas drawn on the blackboard make a spiral to guide us to it.
Another cool use of the thirds. The top of the table occupies the whole bottom third, the scientist picks the right third. They make a frame to the mayor, while the blackboard perspective guides the look.
How could one not see the melted snowman? The houses and the water make the frame, each children stand on a vertical third and the stairs are there to make sure we don't look elsewhere. =)
Finally, a scene where Horton is not on a third, but the background creates a clear frame where everything works smoothly.
It may be just a trailer, but we can also learn a lot from it. =)