It’s been busy lately…and the left over time I’ve had, it’s been nice to be back in having a social life again. But I wanted to come back to where I left this post a few weeks back. I will be bringing up more things on eyes in the future. This is just another post on things I’ve been thinking about lately.

So something I wanted to bring up in this particular post, is that, just because we have the controls to animate eyes/pupils, darts, eyelids, brows….from an acting point of view doesn’t mean we always have to over animate them or always have darts. Always pay attention to the acting first, as that will always dictate what your character will do. So to illustrate this point, I wanted to bring another clip from the film “Casablanca”. Again, it’s a film where the cinematography allows us to pay close attention to the acting especially in shots like these were the acting still holds up (in some of the characters):

In this clip there is clearly not much stuff going on in the face. Not nearly as many saccades/ eyedarts as in the previous example. Do we always need darts to keep the character alive? No we don’t. In fact, sometimes a character will get more attention the less he’s doing. In a room where people are looking everywhere constantly, and one person is still looking at one place, our attention will go to that character. It’s a simple composition/contrast issue. If there is a lot of movement in the screen we are attracted to stillness….if there is a lot of stillness in the screen we’ll be then attracted to motion.

We do have a couple of eyedarts in the beginning. A simple eyedart and an adjustment eyedart afterwards. From a mechanics point of view, I read somewhere that when we dart, there is sometimes a second eyedart that follows right after. We look/scan somewhere (first saccade), then right after we focus (second saccade) on the place we wanted to look at in the first place originally. Ingrid Bergman does this at the beginning. However, the fact that there are no many eyedarts in her performance, doesn’t mean she’s not alive in other ways both in the eyes/face:

  • The head slowly drifts towards the right. The fact that the eyes are so still while the head keeps drifting is making her thoughts/memories deeper in my opinion. Sometimes we drift slightly if we are really thinking about something important…until that one person in front of you goes “HEY! I’m talking to you! where the hell are you?!”. That has happened to me countless times. 🙂
  • We still have some keep alive movement in the overall body/neck…very subtle…but keeping things alive in the overall character. The moment the body is fully still, our character will be dead…no matter how many eyedarts/brow/eyelid movement we have.
  • The mouth subtely opening and closing does a lot in her perfomance as well.
  • If you look her perfomance and focus only in looking at her eyes, you’ll notice that the brows are still active. It’s extremely subtle…but it’s there (moment while her mouth is still open).

The interpretation of these things going on in her face can vary. What I love about it is that while I have a general idea about what she’s going through, there is still a degree of ambiguity going on in this performance. I love it when the performance is not “in your face” and some of it is up to me (audience) to figure out…or come up with my own conclusions. I don’t like it when a performance screams “I’m upset”….or “I’m happy”. Instead, there are levels and layers in a particular feeling and/or emotion.

The next is an great example of acting from Frances McDormand in the movie “Fargo”. When the movie came out, I kept referring to these moments to study on my own back in college. Again, this next is a performance where I felt is slightly underplayed…some of it is up to me to see what she’s thinking. Three things to pay attention, the head movements, the brows and the eyelids (towars the end). The three play a big role in this one:

When I watch this performance, I keep getting this feeling of extreme sadness almost borderline giving up in society. You figure out what her performance says to you…and I love that this performance does that to us. It’s amazing how these tools we have as animators can do so much in communicating feelings and emotions.

One last thing to bring up in this post. Don’t underestimate the eyelids. Their position and the amount of white surrounding the pupils can do a lot more to our characters than just blinks or surprise/sleepy expressions. Look at these examples:

A simple eyelid move or pose can do so much in a expression. I’d like to strongly recommend the book “Facial Expressions” from Gary Faigin to get more in depth about the importance of eyelids. Go back to the Fargo example and see how the eyelids play a big role towards the end of her line and how that combined with her blinks adds another layer in her perfomance.

I hope this helps.

C.