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Old 09-21-2009, 08:56 AM   #2
the moose in the closet
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Arlington, VA
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A Moment in Time

So, the panel. In our class we started with a quick run-down of all the terms and techniques that you can use when setting up a shot. We then asked the class, “What is a panel?” After several responses someone gave the exact answer I was looking for and said, “A moment in time.” That launched a discussion about the two times in comics – the time that passes in-between sequential panels (gutter-time, as I like to call it) and the inferred time that passes within the panel, usually through dialog (panel-time, as I like to call it). We talked about how writers sometimes choke-up and put a disconnect between those times that could be off-putting to the reader. If a person is standing in a room and goes off on a little soliloquy the mind makes the logical connection that not much is happening visually while the words are being said. If the person is mid-punch and goes off on a little soliloquy the mind notices a disconnect between panel-time and gutter-time. We discussed how if panel time moves faster than gutter time you could find yourself with repetitious visual information for a scene (comics’ infamous “talking heads” being a good example) and if gutter time moves faster than panel time you could find yourself slowing down the action and taking the reader out of the book (although Stan Lee did build an empire while slowing down panel time considerably). We left it at that for now since we’ll be going back to dialog in class four.

EDIT: Revisiting the above, because that could get a bit confusing. I don't think "moves faster" is the correct term. In fact, it's probably "moves slower" for the first example. Panel time takes 10 seconds of real time whereas gutter time is a fraction of a second - that's how you get into talking heads. The latter example has gutter time moving slower than panel time. So there's only one second in the panel but ten seconds in the gutter, this can cause the action to be choppy. There's a balance that needs to be reached and that balance is really dependent on the scene. But we'll talk about that when we talk about gutters. I just wanted to clarify what I was trying to say above.

We then did exercises that aimed to get the student to think visually and break scenes down to their key features. We first asked them to describe the room they were in using less than a hundred words (you can feel free to do this yourself in this thread, although it'll be hard to discuss your results since I don't see your room). Some of the descriptions were very practical. They started off by saying that we were in a classroom and then listed the key features (chalkboard, piano, etc). Some of the descriptions were more robust; they set up some physical traits of the room and then set a mood, giving the artist room to maneuver. There’s really no right or wrong answer but I know that I prefer to use the latter method. It makes for a better read and it shapes the tone of the scene nicely.

For the second exercise, the students described what I looked like in less than a hundred words. We once again saw the functional descriptions and the more prose-y descriptions. In this case, I think the latter will always work better, because individuals have a personality you can never capture simply by describing their clothes, sex, height, and weight. And I also learned that I apparently look like I'm in my mid-30s, which means I'm not aging all that well.

For the third exercise we flashed pictures on the screen and asked folks to describe what they see as if it’s a comic panel. The idea was to pick out the key features of visually robust pictures in order to set the scene without weighing down the panel descriptions with unneeded details. The pictures we used for this exercise are below:

Feel free to try your hand at some of these, see what you come up with. Again, you can post it in this thread.

For the fourth exercise I flashed animated GIFs on the projection screen and asked the students how they’d represent this moving series of images in one panel. Some of the GIFs showed multiple actions but they could all be compressed into a single image with a little ingenuity. The GIFs we used are below:

If you're going to try your hand at one of those, try #7 since it's the only one that not only has motion, but explicit scene cuts - try to distill that into one panel. Again, feel free to post it in the thread.

For the fifth and final exercise we flashed completed pages on the screen and discussed how we’d lay it out in a comic script. Not the actual panel layout, just how we’d set the scene in the first panel’s description, describe characters as they’re introduced, and continue to pare down the amount of detail required for future panels.

And that was the end of Class 2. The third class talked about gutter-time, and we'll get to that once we've gotten through panel stuff.
Jason Rodriguez
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