Friday, 27 April 2012

Robin's Reckoning

Batman: The Animated Series...
                                                                        I decided not so long ago to invest in the first two series on dvd and rediscover my childhood years. I've been meaning to make a post about the series for quite some time now and after watching the award winning episode 'Robin's Reckoning', I felt that now was the time. But before I get into the episode I want to talk a little about the technique and texture used in this series

When the series was in production the creators came up with an innovative method of painting the backgrounds. The overall vision and style became known as 'Dark Deco' and aiding in acquiring this effect was the painting of backgrounds on black paper, so instead of adding darker values to white paper, they were instead 'pulling' out the 'lights' from the black which, of course, is more realistic and also fitted with the genre of animation perfectly.


Watching this series really cemented the idea of using texture for me, I'm sorry that I haven't got any great examples here to show you but they were hard to find on the internet and I couldn't screenshot any for copyright reasons. But hopefully if you ever get the chance to watch these episode's you will be able to see the excellent use of fine 'splattered' paint in providing texture to the 'dark deco' world of Gotham City and the dramatic lighting accentuated with bold brush strokes. It is such a wonderful idea and a helpful 'tool' at your disposal in taking the 'ordinary' to something a little bit more 'extraordinary'. Little things like that just add depth and richness as well the difference between a professional piece of work and for want of a better phrase 'a silly youtube animation'.

What an episode....

Robin's reckoning was an emotional masterpiece and one that I have learned a great deal from. Such wonderful storytelling and great use of 'symbols'. The writers and storyboard artists did an awesome job here and they had so many ideas that many had to be left out! The scene where Robin's parents are murdered is such a strong and resonating moment. It's hard for me to describe without the appropriate screen shots so that you are able to see for yourself, but this scene is a good example of the use of silhouette and the importance of music to create impact. And even though this is primarily a children's programme, it is still greatly appreciated by an older audience and still brings a tear to my eye. In this scene you get a clear understanding of how to tell a story, something that is a simple concept but rarely understood properly or executed well, that is. Show what you are about to do, do it, and show them that you've done it.
The rope about to snap and the agonising close up of robin's face, set's you up for whats going to happen as the moment approaches where his mother will leap out and grab his father's hands, un-aware of the sabotage at hand, all in silhouette against the spotlight with such a dramatic musical ensemble, showing you the pivotal moment, as she is caught, both acrobats hanging high above the ground with no safety net, they swing out of shot and as the music and the crowd quietens, against a held background, the snapped, frayed rope swings back into shot with an intense operatic 'punch', showing you exactly, what has been done...

You also see a lot symbols used in this series, in one example, there is a wide shot where Bruce Wayne consoles the young Dick Grayson, as they are 'framed' within the foreground composition composed of toys (this is bruce wayne's old bedroom in the manor) and there is such a striking theatre mask with a sad face that is held amongst these toys, I say it is striking but really, it's because I am aware of these contrivances as an animator, but really it is subliminal and adds to the mood of the scene. Along with the 'cool' blue shadow and subtle moonlight they are captured in, give's you a powerful feeling of loss, but also the comfort and safety, in expressing these feelings with someone who has felt the same pain.

All of these things that I have 'researched' and 'acquired' are tools, and the more of these 'tools' you have, the more you can set about using them to create more interesting piece's of storytelling, because after all that's what it's all about! We are telling stories with visuals as animators, as comic artists, in fact in a vast majority of the 'arts'. Without story, you would have nothing to draw...

Anyway I hope you found this somewhat informative, I have learnt a lot from these episodes and can't wait to put them to good use in my future projects!

Stay Tuned


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