The EYE’s Have it


I thought I would share some of the information I was reading in a book I picked up years ago. It is called Michael Caine – Acting in Film. The book is a kind of how to for actors. Some of it is useful for animators. I became really interested in the eyes when I was working on Monsters Inc with Mike Wazowski. He basically is a big eye, so I really had to notice the subtle details of how an eye works and moves within its socket. This is the more technical side of things. Learning how to do blinks, changing the angle for the lid to match the direction of a look….. All this is more on the design side of things, which we can get into at a later date. What I thought was interesting about the book was how Mr Caine approaches his close scenes. Read:

“When you are the on-camera actor in a close-up, never shift your focus from one eye to the other. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But when you look at something, one of your eyes leads. So during a close-up, be especially careful not to change whichever eye you are leading with. It’s an infinitesimal thing, but noticeable on the screen. The camera misses nothing! “

I guess he is mostly talking about eye darts. Its funny, because this is something that I try to put into my character. For animation, it seems to bring the character alive a little bit more. You have to work harder to keep your characters looking as if they are living breathing things. Eye darts are a big thing for keeping your characters looking alive. So how many frames, you ask is an eye dart? Well, you will have to wait for another post with detailed drawings an so forth… (mostly I use 2 frame eye darts favoring one pose or the other)

Another thing he talked about also contradicts what we do in Animation:

” And I don’t blink. Blinking makes your character seem weak. Try it yourself: say the same line twice, first blinking and then not blinking. I practiced not blinking to excess when I first made the discovery, went around not blinking all the time and probably disconcerted a lot of people. Remember: on film that eye can be eight feet across.”

Well, I’m not so sure this applies in animation. I do agree that a character that blinks a lot can seem insecure or nervous. Its all how you use the blink. Is how slow or fast the blink is. How close the blinks are together. Blinks really do keep the character alive in animation. Some recent mo-capped films featured characters that didn’t blink much or even move their eye brows. Sorry, but they looked like soulless zombies….

More to come with Eyes in the future….

thanks for reading.

Dr Gordon.