I wanted to talk a bit about TEXTURE. It’s still something that’s really difficult to put into words. So I’ll do my best in passing what I know about it. I’m referencing the character of Feather’s McGraw in the shortfilm “The Wrong Trousers” once again, beause of the simplicity of this film in many levels. Also because I can’t get enough of this film and this character, period.

Now, one thing I wanted to point out, just because the character design seems simple, doesn’t mean that what’s achieved through this film and this acting is any less challenging. In some cases, it’s even more challenging. Through the performance/timing/holds of this character I thought animator Steve Box more than succeeded in creating an interesting, misterious, rich and deep character, when all he had to work with was a simple ball, two flappy arms, two simple legs and dotted eyes. It goes to show you how skilled this animator is.

So first watch this clip from the short. I’m only going to be talking about what I thought of the performance and how the breakup of the timing really created the scene and added texture to the scene. Other elements such as the score and the direction played a big role in this segment. But the acting portion of Feathers is so strong already, I wanted to focus on this:

This character still blows me away.
Ok, I thought this would be a good introduction to texture in movement/timing. Currently we have different things going on timing wise in here.

  • Feathers finishes his calculations. Starts to walk at a certain speed/timing. The timing of the walk almost feels as if Feathers is in a hurry to get somewhere.
  • The scene builds suspense as Feathers is aproximating the cardboard box.
  • Feathers suddenly stops and looks at the box. The move is really fast.
  • Feathers just holds there. Staring.
  • The score/cutting to Gromit’s ECU do the rest in the next shot.
  • Feathers starts a different type of timing/feel on his walk. This time, the tilt side to side, is giving us a different attitude on the walk. Almost as if the walk is saying “who do we have here….”. Note this walk is a lot slower than when he was in a hurry.
  • Comes to another pause. This time the timing and starting to look away is almost saying “oh, maybe it was nothing”
  • Starts to walk away again, this time with a walk with timing in between the hurry walk and the curious walk.

So, what the timing in the walks and pauses have given us, is some sort of texture. Think of it as a way to breakdown movement/timing. Not all walks are the same. There is contrast between one walk, the sudden turn…and instead of walking again fast, there is some nice slow walking. Basically almost giving us some musicality in the pace of the shot somehow. In terms of timing blocks, this shot in my head could almost be represented as follows:

You can almost plan out the pacing of your shot, and how fast things will go or not. At the very least, it’ll give you an idea of the overall structure of your shot. Where do you want things to go fast, how about slow moments in your shot. But always remember to ask yourself WHY. Why are you choosing a particular moment to go slow (whether it’s a walk, an action, an attitude). Is it because of the story? the personality of the character? a reaction to something that happened (like in the Feathers example).

So it’s always good to step back at your shot…and think about what you are going to do with the shot. Not just performance wise…but also timing/pacing wise. Whichever way you want to represent it. I have found animating and testing shots to music sometimes helps in getting a better understanding on keeping an audience enganged through texture, through breaking things down in a shot. That way the audience won’t be either bored with repetition, or exhausted/lost from trying to follow unexpected/uneven patters.

Somewhere in the middle.
Have a great week everyone.