I’ve started reading up on acting theory again and I found a particularly good chapter in The Art of Film Acting where Comey describes the differences between film acting and stage acting. He describes the differences in the preparation of a role as well as the performances themselves.
‘Actors need to appear spontaneous and how genuine feelings for the camera. They need to play off of each others performance and react to their fellow actors.’ p11,12
The need to create a spontaneous and genuine performance is just as strong in animation as it is in acting but a large disadvantage for animators is that they cannot be spontaneous, the animation process is too slow. Additionally an animator will not have another person to play their scene off of, they may have several characters in a scene and they are responsible for the actions of all of them, there is no-one but themselves to play off of. The question for my project them becomes, ‘How can an animator make her scene seem spontaneous?’ ‘What methods can be defined to help in this process?’
In film acting the actors do not consider their performance until they have rehearsed the movement in the scene with the director. More seasoned actors sometimes do not even read the script more than a few times so that the can keep their performance genuine rather than cold and rehearsed. This is a concept that is already a solid part of the animation pipeline. All movement and timing should be well planned before the acting is considered, this is usually done in the storyboards and animatic, it is one of the first things to be produced in an animation production.
‘In a film scene, the camera and the microphone are as close as the lover you are whispering to, so you don’t need to project your voice and actions. To avoid looking amateurish, talk naturally and don’t project. p.13
Adjust the performance to suit the camera. Always take the camera in to account, the camera is your audience and everything they need to see to understand the performance should be shown in the camera. The way you use the camera will dictate how the audience experiences the performance and particularly for animation, it will change the movement of the character and how much you have to animate.
At one point Comey warns against being afraid and nervous during a performance, particularly in film because the camera will see everything you are feeling. The audience will see that you are afraid and find the performance unconvincing. While this is not a problem for an animator (your character will not act afraid unless to make them do so) it presents a slightly different problem, where actors will have to suppress certain aspects of their personality to play different roles, the animator will find it difficult to build a role as there is no base personality to base the performance on. The complete freedom in building a character can cause it’s own problems.
Subtext can be a large part of filling that base personality, the character should always be feeling something, even if it is hidden behind other emotions or actions. Emotion leads to action.
Between stage acting and film acting, animation seems to have more in common with stage acting when it comes to preparing the character. Stage actors have time to build their characters and immerse themselves in that role. They spend weeks rehearsing before opening night and then they play that same performance night after night. Animators do not rehearse but there is that same period of time getting to know their character. Animated characters have to be built from scratch, there are no existing personalities to build from. It is up to the animators to know that character inside and out and ensure that the consistency and strength of their performance. They must build their character and act for them.