"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Event Coverage - Acting For Animation by Paresh Parekh

Yesterday, Saturday 18th October'08, I attended my 2nd CG Event : Acting For Animation by Paresh Parekh. My first was Case Study by Aardman Animation Studios.

This one was organized by The Animation Society Of India(TASI). Considering the turnout at my first event i was a bit surprised to find virtually no one at the venue. The event was scheduled to start at 5:00 PM, i was there at 4:15 PM and not a single soul to be seen. I thought may be inside some sort of happening activity is on. The venue was a college and so i asked the security guard where the "screening room" was, the place where the event was suppose to take place as per the above official poster for the event and he said there was no such room here and just before going into a shock, one of the members (sitting nearby) from the organizing committee of TASI told me that the event will start only at 5:30 PM and the registration will begin anytime now. Thank god at least i came at the right place.

Finally after 45 mins of walking up and down and surveying the surroundings both inside and outside the college numerous times, i could see something happening nearby, as the volunteers were begun to be seen,people standing in queue for the registration which finally started at 5:00 PM. Still the crowd i was expecting was way less considering that the official time was 5 and by now the place should have been chock-a-block with enthusiastic animators. I found out that the venue actually an "Audio-Visual Room" and not the "Screening Room" was not very big. So the silver lining to all this was the limited turn out. If there were as many people as i experienced in the event prior to this, there was bound to be chaos and a lot of standing audience. Anyways i found a comfortable seat in the air-conditioned room and that was all i cared about.

The session went on for about 4 hours, so i will try to cover as much as i can remember.

The session started by Mr. Ranjit Singh, Hon. Secretary for TASI. He introduced the main speaker for the event Mr. Paresh Parekh. Now a little about Mr. Paresh Parekh -

A Graduate from the National School of Drama (NSD), he began his career as an actor in Hindi & Gujarati Plays under the direction of theatre luminaries such as Barry John, Satyadev Dubey, Ram Gopal Bajaj and Naseeruddin Shah, among others. He has also had acting stints in numerous television serials. Paresh then went on to work as Chief Assistant Director to Ketan Mehta and has been the casting director for some major Bollywood films like Mangal Pandey - The Rising, Rang De Basanti, Naina and the upcoming project Rang Rasiya - Colour of Passion based on the life of Raja Ravi Verma, the painter. He has trained numerous Film & TV actors like Neil Nitin Mukesh, Minisha Lamba, Imraan Khan, Vidya Malawde, Shahnaaz Treasurywala etc. For the last 6 years, Paresh has been training Animation students. Now, at Frameboxx, he is responsible for incorporating acting skills in animation training and the process of film-making.

Now considering the amount of mailers i received for this event, the subject of the session and the topics which were suppose to be covered in this session, my expectations were very very high. And guess what....i was NOT disappointed.

I think for any event, from the first 10-15 mins you can make out how the event will flow thru out. It was no less different for this one. Paresh is a fun and a very animated speaker. I was sure there would not be a single dull amount thru out the session. Though overall there were certain sections where i felt some very important information was not being shared or the content shared was not very convincing, personally speaking, but more on that in the following sections. Now having said that bottom line is i had an awesome fun and i will be definitely looking forward to more such workshops by Paresh or any other person with the same credentials/skills/talent.

Now onto the more juicier stuff !

Paresh started off with asking questions/explaining about actor/character/role. Then he went on to emotions and the different kind of emotions which we human beings can experience like - HAPPY, SAD, LOVE, BRAVERY, SURPRISED/SHOCK, ANGER, FEAR and so on. He told a very interesting thing as to how we get confused between emotion and state of mind. Both may look the same but they are actually two different things. It was just 30 mins in the session and i was already intrigued/excited by what was to come.

Then he went on to different emotions one by one and acted out the variations possible in each. For example when in HAPPY, what changes happen in the face, which part is the most affected like the eyes, eye-brows, mouth, whether the two sides of the mouth has to go upwards or downwards or can be either to show HAPPY.

Then came how does one's body language changes in a particular emotion. For example when you are in FEAR, your body tends to move away from the subject which is causing the fear. Like when lighting a fire cracker, you don't lean towards the cracker while lighting it but away in order to safeguard yourself.

Similarly when in ANGER you tend to move towards the person who is the source of your anger. In ANGER our eyes are generally focussed, our entire body is full of energy and is stiff and due to the high energy, we tend to get very verbal or physical in order to release the energy.

Paresh also spoke about different types of emotions within emotions - ACTIVE and PASSIVE. For example ANGER is more ACTIVE, if some event/person angers you, you don't get angry after some days, but it is instant. Of course if small events over a period of time accumulates and make you angrier by each passing day, thats a different thing but most of the times its in an ACTIVE state.

The above is just a part of what i am able to discuss, as this particular topic went on for about 2 hours or so, describing everything will not be possible here. Overall it was the most interesting part of the overall session. It is these kind of detail, the little nuances which can add tons of life to our performance and take it on the next level. Animation is nothing but observation and this was re-affirmed again by Paresh.

Next topic covered was the importance of staging in any performance. He used the words like POSTURE, GESTURE and EXPRESSION as the main 3 things necessary to communicate an idea or an event. I couldn't agree to disagree. It definitely made sense.

Then he showed(by acting out himself) how a same performance will have different shades when used in different mediums such as - Theatre/Live Action Movie/Animation. Again very interesting stuff.

Then there was 10 min tea-break(extremely welcomed) to help us and more importantly Paresh to re-energize himself before continuing with the session again.

Next was a bit more about acting and actors, line of action and what to keep in mind while posing. Now to me these were the weakest points of the otherwise fantastic session. I am not very sure why it appeared weak to me, may be because Paresh was speaking more in context with Theatre/Live Action whereas i was trying to relate it with Animation point of view. Allow me to get into the details.

The first thing he told was "Actors are liars". The moment this line was said, i was confused and not very convinced. He said if an actor can lie perfectly, his performance is more alive. Now after thinking a lot on this, i am convinced that may be, what he meant was different and that his choice of word "Liar" didn't seem very appropriate to me. This is why - every actor worth his salt always strives to be as true to the character and is always in search of ways as to how he can be the character instead of just acting it out, so that it looks more true to the audience and connects in a more emotional and appealing way to the audience. So i am not very sure where does the "lie" part come in all this. Or may be i mis-understood what he was trying to say.

Then he went on to Line of Action and Posing. Again i was not very convinced or rather it didn't seem very informative to me. Line of action and posing is by far one of the most important things in animation and what i have learnt so far from various sources didn't seem to concur with what Paresh explained. Again i am not sure why, either it was his because he was explaining more in theatre/live action context or may be the words used confused me. He said while posing any character we need to keep in mind the gravity aspect of it. Now in 3D obviously there is no gravity and hence the word itself seemed a bit ambiguous to me. I think a better way in animation context would have been "weight and balance". Now if a character has the required weight and balance depending on the space he is in, automatically the gravity part would be taken care of. Line of action, to be very frank, i don't quite remember what he said as i had a different take on the subject and which seems to be making sense for me so far.

Then there was a QnA session, audience were allowed to ask different question. There were 2 questions in particular which seemed very very important to me, specially for taking into consideration that 90-95% of the audience were students and in their very basic learning stages of their animation career. The two questions were -

1. How to Study video reference/the importance of it ?

2. How to improve my work, how to develop my judgmental/creative eye for my work, what should i do when i am feeling lost or my animation is not going anywhere, where do i go, how to get feedback ?

Now before i get onto the above question #1 in detail, i have to make it clear that what i am saying should actually be said before the "Acting for Animation" session and anyone entering into the Acting part should/must/have to be aware of what i am going to try to explain right now. Now since Paresh's forte is the "Acting" part, i understand why he did not emphasize on the body part and movement much. As far as question #2 is concerned again its a fantastic question for those who are new into the field and also for those who may be slightly ignorant of this one.

1. How to Study video reference/the importance of it ?
Every animator has its own work flow and many of the top animators in the business are no different. There are many animators who shoot a video reference as much as they can and there are also many animators who don't necessary follow the video reference but their work is as much beautiful and fun to see as the animators who follow a video reference. But for students/upcoming animators, i strongly suggest shooting their own video reference and study the heck out of it. Now in the sessions Paresh spoke about studying the acting part, facials, expressions and so on which i agree is the way to go. But what is even more important is to first study the body movements/mechanics or the body physicality like how the body is moving, where the weight shift is happening, how it balances itself out in certain situation and so on. Until you have the body physicality nailed down, until the physicality looks believable with respect to the real world we know of(it also includes cartoony and exaggerated styles of animation), no amount of detailing in acting, expressions/facial can make your animation look nice. The body movements is the first step to any animation. Its the foundation on which you build the acting part on it. You can also take reference from so many online video sites like YouTube and so on, but doing it on your own is a much better way to understand how your body behaves and moves. Study the reference, observe where the main changes in pose is happening, put those main key poses and then push it up depending on the scene's requirement. Everyday i come across many students showing their demo reel or work, where they have added tons of details on the acting and facial part but overall its a complete mess because they have not taken the pain to emphasize/work on the body movement first. So for the first time getting to the acting part directly or emphasizing on the acting part more than the body mechanics(in the initial scene stages) can be extremely dangerous and detrimental to your own work. You can read more on the same subject in the following link -

How do you do video planning ?

2. How to improve my work, how to develop my judgmental/creative eye for my work, what should i do when i am feeling lost or my animation is not going anywhere, where do i go, how to get feedback ?
I am sure each one of us have gone thru this phase(at least i have and still face) many number of times where after a certain point of time, we are clueless as to where our performance is going and no matter how many times we see it, we are just not able to take it forward. In short words, we feel lost. Now for students who are yet to work as professional animators the easiest, fastest and most efficient way to find direction again is to go online. There are many useful sites/forums online such as CgTantra, CGTalk, 11 Second Club and so on, where you can show your work for free to virtually anyone in the entire planet. The diversity of feedback will totally exceed your expectations and will blow you away. You will have students from thru out the world leaving feedback, professional animators from around the world (and many may also be working/or have worked on your favorite movie you thought was awesome and so love watching it anytime), giving critiques on your work and giving their own insights on how you can make it look better.

For animators just started working in a studio, show your work as many times and at different stages to your co-workers, friends and so on. Every one will have their own interesting way of looking it and if 4 out of 5 people are saying that a particular thing is not working, they are probably right and you should think about it seriously.

Now when getting feedback be very open to it. Shed the excess baggage of ego and attitude and develop a thick skin. If you cant, just change your field, you just cannot succeed as an animator anywhere. Period. Dont take any feedback personally ever. Please understand that the person commenting on your work is not an enemy and is not giving you a critique just to level scores or anything like that. He/she is just sharing what he feels about your work and how you can improvise it. Animation is an art and art is subjective. Every one sees art in a different way and interpret in their own way. So listen to everyone's feedback and use your own discretion/knowledge to take or leave the feedback. If you do not agree to something dont go around blasting that person that what he/she said was wrong and you are right. Its like digging your own grave. To put it rather bluntly, just remember a lot has been accomplished before you started animating.

Now in these kind of events the last session consists of an open forum, where anyone can share anything they want to show such as short film or any thing related to art. I think its a wonderful thing to have, as this gives you a ready audience to see your work and get feedback on it instantly and discuss it further on how to improvise it.

In this session, one guy named Prashanth showed his short film. Prashant is a professional VFX artist and the fact that he took the effort to make an animated short film is truly commendable. Whether that short film was good or bad is totally irrelevant and i wont even like to talk about it here. Its the effort, the enthusiasm to experiment is what i am fond of. Even though many people gave their feedback on his work(including myself), some good and some on how to make it better, Prashanth was extremely open listening to the critique instead of debating or arguing his view point. This is what i was talking about when taking feedback. I wish Prashant good luck in all his future endeavors.

Overall it was a Saturday evening spent very nicely and judiciously. Though i am extremely disappointed by the lack of attendance from professional animators/friends who are working in some of the major studios in Mumbai. These sessions don't happen often and that makes it all the more reason to attend them. Anyway its entirely their loss and their ignorance(sorry mates, its the fact. I understand many people may have prior commitment and so on but virtually no one attending is nothing but ignorance. I feel the event was well marketed and the word was spread thru many many mailers and thru appropriate channels.). But in future i really hope to see a lot of turn out and not just from students but also from professionals in these events.

For the organizers i just want to suggest to be as punctual as possible and to make sure that the volunteers or the organizers themselves are the first to reach the venue and that too well before time and to make sure the event takes off smoothly. Or if the event is suppose to start at 5:30, but you want the audience to be there by 5 to reserve their seats, please mention it explicitly on the poster or thru whatever means you are spreading the word. Its definitely not a good things to keep people waiting. Just my thoughts though.

Now this event coverage is not as a substitute for not attending the event. Its just my experience of it and just to give you an idea what these events are about. I had no intention to be biased in the form of praise or criticism. Its my take on the event, you may like it or may not like it or feel i was a bit biased, well fair enough, its your views in the same fashion as my views on the event. So if you had attended the event and feel that i have missed out many parts, do let me know and i will try to fill in as much as possible. After all its only so much one can remember, specially when the event was so much engrossing.

Hope you had fun reading the above and it was informative to you, however minuscule it might be.




Anonymous said...

thanks a lotttt...

Bops said...

I conduct acting workshops at Bangalore for animation students. Your article was descreptive and useful. It has helped me search for more information regarding certain terms that you have used. Glad I found this...!