Abstract and Non-narrative Animation and Analogy
Before reading this article view this example of how a poetic structuring device might carry narrative in an abstract way. Living Inside a Jackson Pollock, is an example of an abstract analogy in motion.
In the book Animation Unleashed, Besen describes what it is like to strip analogy to its most essential elements. She says that there is an important role for analogy in abstract and non-narrative animation. The reason for the role is that there must be some form of internal logic to animation even if the expression is made up of only lines, dots and shapes. She shows why abstract animation needs abstracted analogy. This can be achieved by stripping analogy to its most essential elements.
Even Besen’s explanations of such concepts as non conformity in narrative animation make the reader laugh. She conjures a mental image of a butterfly that loves winter and refuses to migrate with other butterflies as they escape to the warm. After conjuring this image, she explains that to simplify this analogy of non conformity into abstraction the artist must have a uniform “bunch” of shapes, dots or lines, which are contrasted to just the one completely different element of design.
Animators can layer the analogy in a variety of ways. Perhaps a scene could begin with a variety of dots with just one line walking through them, hopping over them and then slowing down as they speed up. During this, the line could transform in colour so that an image of increasing non conformity could be built.
Movement Assists Expression of Abstract Animation’s Theme
The point is that the capacity to create movement, which is one of animation’s strengths, can help to express the theme. For example, music can also have layers of various complexities. Imagine the dots moving quickly to a melody line, whilst a slowly walking line keeps time to the beat of a base rhythm. In this way iconic elements can carry meaning through line, pattern, speed and emphasis, without the need for character and /or plot. Besen encourages animators to experiment with this style of expression to see just how complex and powerful expressive statements can become.
Contrast is required to increase the power and impact of the abstractions. Round balls that flow smoothly could be contrasted against angular shapes that jar and clash.
A Special Approach to Frame to Frame Continuity
There is a need for special consideration about how to move from shot to shot when considering scripting experimental, abstract animation. There has to be an internal logic to the way frames move from one to the other so that the final cut is seen as a coherent whole. If this was a narrative, the movement from one screen to another could be indicated by posing a character looking out of the frame. The animator could then pan to what she is looking at. Contrastingly, without the narrative to hold the story of movement together, the frames must naturally be linked by a progression of ideas.
Animation with Poetic Structuring Devices
A different kind of motivating strategy could come from poetic structuring devices. This might be a recurring visual element such as roundness or by a gradually changing an element such as lighting. On page 213 of Animation Unleashed, Bryce Hallett has illustrated the concept by creating 9 frames with a line of continuous action passing through them.
To glean an idea of what a poetic structuring device might be like view Living Inside a Jackson Pollock,to see an abstract analogy in motion.
It is worth showing beginners that the basics of abstract animation can be fun and that it is extremely easy for a novice with the simplest equipment