My knee-jerk reaction is to say there really isn’t a signficant difference. Perhaps, the director for an animated film has to have a good idea of what can and can’t be done through computer graphics or hand-drawn animation, but that would just be a guess.
If a director is great at directing live action, will they also be great at directing animation?
I guess the way to answer that is to watch Ralph Bakshi’s cartoons followed by The Cool and The Crazy
some Frank Tashlin cartoons followed by the Jerry Lewis films he directed then some Robert Zumeckus cartoons and live action films.
Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to do that.
Absolutely there are differences.
“In live-action films for example you’re always swimming in chaos, trying to create normal,” he said. “In animation every bit of dialogue is written and never deviated from. Every character is designed and the computer lends itself to the performances. You find yourself going with your gut and hoping your frontal lobe doesn’t explode. You venture into the unknown, which is joyous because you get to use your own techniques, which basically means you don’t have to make adjustments due to a weather change. But there’s also that fear of being crushed, combined with the realization that you’re asking your audience to relate and then root for an animated lizard covering most of a 60-foot screen . . . There are no gifts in animation, no accidents or unplanned moments that often enhance a live-action film. You have to lay out all your camera angles on your reel in pencil, and that’s your storyboard. You must remember that in animation."
As a producer in the animation industry, I would have to say that some aspects are very similar and others would probably feel very different/frustrating to someone that doesn’t have experience in it. A lot of the fundamentals of live-action production are present in animation—-like the use of storyboards/concept art, scripts, camera movement/blocking, realistic lighting schemes, etc. But there are some differences. I think one of the biggest differences is in how the main characters are handled/approached. In live-action, generally, you cast and direct humans. The director works face-to-face with the person(s) that will appear on camera and that person turns around a performance with their own stamp on it. In animation, you obviously don’t direct the characters—-instead, you direct the artists (usually several) that make the characters come to life. And there are usually layers of other directors/managers in between those artists and the main director, which is who the director will actually speak to. By the end, the direction has filtered down through several hands and the characters’ performances have been crafted by several different artists over time. In other words, it’s a different workflow/structure. But the fundamental ideas about blocking, performance, color, set design, lighting, pacing, etc. all still apply.
The other big difference (off the top of my head) is that animation doesn’t exist in the real world. It’s made up. So, the only limitations are really your imagination/talent and how much time and money you have to spend. This can be pretty tough to wrap your head around as a director. It’s interesting that something so wide open creatively as animation is can also be so slow-moving, painstaking and methodical.
The camera exists everywhere in animation. Every single angle that can imagined can be used. You can make scenes that would almost HAVE to be chaotic and blurry in perfect clarity while still remaining hectic (compare Mamoru Oshii’s Sky Crawlers to any live action flying sequence).
I don’t think so. But there is going to be expectations whenever someone makes the switch from animated to live-action and vice-versa.
One major difference I can think of – in animation you won’t go all Kubrick and shoot 70 or 140 takes and then cut it all together in the editing room – you pretty much edit in the storyboard phase and use (almost) everything you shoot. I’m speaking as a stopmotionista, I suppose CGI is very different, allowing you to make changes at any stage and see it from any angle, or change lighting any time you please.
Also in stopmo there’s a good deal more seat-of-the-pants (desperate) improv than in other types of animation. Because it’s what’s known as “straight ahead” animation, you have to start with frame one and proceed frame by frame – there’s no going back or inserting other frames after the fact, no key animators and in-betweeners like you have in cell animation. If you suddenly notice something is going off, you have to just go with it and try to find a way to fix it, and if you can’t then see if you can use an unplanned cut there or something. But of all the different animation types stopmo is the most improvisational (though it’s a good idea to have a good solid plan to start with). Though that varies according to the type of production – if it’s a music video and you have to hit certain marks exaclty on the beat, or if there’s lip sync, then everything will be meticulously planned out down to each frame.
I teeter toward the more improvisational approach myself, being a one man show and not doing lipsync. I love the fact that stopmotion is actually a performance – you really have to steel yourself when you shut off the house lights and turn on the set lights and get ready to shoot frame 1 – there’s no stopping until the shot is done, and your state of mind really affects how things come out. You don’t want to stop to answer the phone or anything because it will break your flow – you really do need to see it through to the end all in one go if possible. Sort of like acting in extreme slow motion.