Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stop Motion Animation of Falling

For this animation, I set up my computer's webcam directly in front of the wall. On the wall, I planned out the physics of a leaf/paper drop. This meant drawing the path of action and putting down marks for the spacing. I factored in the slow-out of free-fall, and the slow-in of the apexes. I  then utilized the adhesive qualities of a band-aid, sticking it to each of the marks and taking a picture. In the end, I made some frames on 2s and some on 1s, to make it more believable.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Laws of Physics in an Animation Universe

        In Pixar's 2007 film, Ratatouille, we follow a rat named Remy as he follows his dream of becoming a chef. The film is set in Paris and emphasizes being in our world. The great premise of a rat becoming a chef is driven by our view of rats as pests, so it was important to emphasize just how real and seemingly ordinary this world is. By portraying very accurate physics, we can connect to the world created and know what to expect. However, this is used as a way to contrast the whimsical and exaggerated physics we are introduced to through the brilliant powers of Remy the rat. Ratatouille seems to be very physically accurate until its comedic premise – a rat rising in the world of cooking – pushes the story forward and exaggerates the physics.
        The first point in which we see exaggerated physics is the strength that rats possess. Remy in particular is unbelievably strong and nimble. For example, Remy is often seen handling spatulas and spoons meant for humans. Not only do they exaggerate his strength in order for him to operate these things, but they make him nimble enough to use it just as quickly and effective as a human. For example, in one of Remy's first cooking scenes, he manages to utilize a large stirring spoon and stir it as though a human were putting their whole arm into it. Similarly, Remy dances around the kitchen like a hurried human chef might. Things like these keep up the comedic pace of the story and are believable enough to keep it going. Another example of exaggerated rat strength is in an early scene in which Remy and his brother Emile try to escape an old lady trying to kill them. Emile finds himself on a huge chandelier and needs to get to safety. He pushes the hanging chandelier like a swing and manages to swing the entire thing in just a few pushes. The gradual momentum needed to get the chandelier swinging seems very accurate and believable – just the fact that a rat managed to get it going in three swings is a bit unbelievable. This further displays the anthropomorphic powers of rats in this film. The most ridiculous example of personification of rats in this film is when they manage to chase down, tie up and kidnap the health inspector. Several dozen rats manage to stop a moving car, tie up and gag a full-grown man, and proceed to throw him into the fridge. Maintaining the level of believability the film had established, this ridiculous scene happens mostly off screen and is just a small gag.
        Another central theme that is exaggerated to give it special attention on screen is food. Many cooking montages and scenes exaggerate the physical properties of food to appear beautiful, delicious, and comedic. One example of this comes when Remy and Linguini are first learning to cook together. With Remy's help, Linguini is flipping a light, soft tortilla with a pan. When they slip, the tortilla flies high up in the air and crashes through the glass window. The light tortilla was given the weight of something with much more mass so that it could crash through the glass in comedic style. Another example comes in a later cooking montage. When the rats are working together to cook the final meal, a rat is seen surfing on a slab of butter and using a pan as a half-pipe. The rat is able to grip onto a piece of melting, almost-liquid butter and endlessly ride it back and forth, as if the rat has no weight and the butter is solid despite being liquid enough to be slippery. This is just another gag that does not add much to the story. One example that does effect the story involves a fat rat eating grapes. Full of grapes that he had secretly been eating in the kitchen's storage, a fat rat falls to the ground and is squashed by a falling melon. The melon squashes the rat's fat belly which manages to shoot the grapes out of his mouth, one at a time like a machine gun, at the human Linguini. Instead of killing the rat like it should have, the melon manages to squeeze the rat like a whoopee cushion. These examples of exaggerated physics in food show how the film meant to give special attention on screen to the central theme of food.
        Finally, one of the largest diversions from realistic physics in the film comes from the ridiculous premise of Remy controlling the human Linguini like a robot. The film uses this as a central gag to get Remy into the world of cooking. Remy manages to control Linguini's body by pulling his hair that seems to remotely control the Linguini's muscles. Ignoring how impossible this system is, the altered physics of Linguini are interesting to notice. When they first learn of this tool, Remy and Linguini are uncoordinated and the new Linguini has no sense of balance. In one scene, they try to stir a pot of soup but end up bending over forward and backwards with no sense of balance. When controlled by Remy, Linguini's weightlessness is exaggerated to the extreme, as he flails around without falling over. Another issue that comes from this is Linguini's chef hat. As Linguini flails about, his hat which is precariously placed on his head, manages to stick on despite gravity's best efforts to make it fall. Many scenes even features Linguini leaning his head over 90 degrees to let Remy sniff their soup from inside the hat. At such an angle, the hat and the rat should fall into the soup. Keeping the hat stuck to the head takes away from the realistic feeling from the film just a bit, but it comes at a time in the film when we are too distracted by the fun and even more-ridiculous antics of Remy-operated Linguini. One instance in which this is not the case comes when Linguini is driven away on Colette's motorcycle. Still wearing his chef hat, it flies off as soon as they take off. This scene shows that the hat was not stuck too his head, and should fall of just as easily. The change in the properties of the chef hat show that the animators are able to make objects and their physical properties work for the goal of the scene.

        Like most Pixar films, Ratatouille is firmly set in our world. In this film especially, they wanted to emphasize the reality of our world: chefs are humans, rats are pests, and the laws of physics are limited. Like any good story or work of art, Ratatouille eventually forced it to contrast: A rat can be a chef, and the laws of physics can be exaggerated. Though one of the more subtle examples of this, Ratatouille shows how animated films can bend the laws of physics to enhance humor and story.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Laws of Physics in "Ratatouille" - Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Ratatouille
    2. Hypothesis: Ratatouille seems to be very physically accurate, until it needs to be comical.
  2. Rats can be unbelievably strong and nimble.
    1. Remy handles spatulas and spoons, and does great stunts to get around the kitchen.
    2. Emile manages to swing a huge chandelier he's sitting on. 
    3. A gang of rats stop a moving car, and proceed to tie up and kidnap the health inspector.
  3. When controlled by Remy, Linguini moves with impossible balance and weight.
    1. When controlled by Remy, Linguini flails around like he does not have a human's weight.
    2. Linguini's chef hat and Remy stick to his head, even if Linguini is completely bent over.
      1. Contradiction: Linguini willingly takes his hat off many times with ease, and it even flies off – but only when he's riding a motorcycle at a high speed.
  4. Food changes properties as they need it to.
    1. Linguini flips a seemingly soft and light tortilla, and it ends up breaking through the glass window.
    2. A rat surfs on a slab of butter, and rides effortlessly back and forth on a pan that he is using as a half-pipe.
    3. A melon falls onto a fat rat who ate a bunch of grapes, which rapidly shoots the grapes out his mouth one at a time, like a machine gun.
  5. Conclusion
    1. Ratatouille breaks the laws of physics only subtly, and does not depend on it.
    2. Because the physics are done right, the story feels like it is in our world – we can better connect with it.