Comics and Movies: We're going about it all wrong.
Submitted by cw on September 4, 2006 - 03:46
One day I wound up shooting a wedding. Not in that "oh my, too many violent video games these days" manner, but in the video manner. Of course, me being "into computers" as everyone else likes to say, I decided to do a little editing on the computer. That stupid poorly shot badly edited craptastic DVD did one thing for me: it got me into editing.
Ever since, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had a little crush on the art of editing. It's a sorely under appreciated job - the editor nearly has as much control over the quality of the final product as the director. I never really thought about it in relation to comics though - there's no real direct comparison to be made. Artists don't send five versions of a panel to be sifted through and cropped and chosen to be placed in an ever so particular spot on the page.
When I was doing Hello, My Name is _____. (If you're wondering what that is, it's one of my side projects. Go read it if you want - it's only 24 pages long and they have about six words a piece.) I was thinking that comics were sort of a direct equivalent to an animation storyboard. Story boarding is a fairly different place to be in - it's all about showing everything, and how it happens. So I used close up shots and large segmented panels to show the reader, "this is what is happening" without them having to do a whole lot of inferring as to what's going on. (Sort of. I left a lot of characterization up to inference.)
I was doing my new side project in a very similar manner - showing how everything happened, meticulously planning every move of every character. It forced me to ridiculously slow pacing because of the way the whole thing worked (it's set to music - shh! Don't tell anyone - it's a secret.) until I watched a movie on editing.
It was about 30 minutes into the movie that I suddenly realized, "hey, comics aren't story boards - it's a whole lot like editing." and there was this silly "eureka!" moment. Comics are sequential - so are shots in a movie.
Take a foreign film, mute the sound, and pause it on each shot for as long as you like, and basically you are watching a comic. A shot of a man, then a shot of an apple, and the man is hungry. The same man, then a shot of a woman, and the man is lustful. The same man again, a shot of money, and the man is greedy. (Actually that's a historical editing experiment paraphrased - copy and paste a blank expression in sequence, people gave the actor rave reviews for being so expressive in the parts he played.) The same thing works in panels.
This whole theoretical construct (and it is barely that, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just winging it.) brings so many interesting concepts to the table. Take Jaws for example - how does one recreate the scene where the lead character is realizing there is a shark in the water - not by him standing up and "SHARK!" but the editing leading up to that moment - the quick cuts zooming in whenever a person passes by? That little sequence is marvelous at generating intensity in a quiet manner - it's the perfect build up.
Even more intriguing - how does one imbue the same sense of action the shark's shots have while keeping them feeling quick? Action panels seem to usually be full-page epic monstrosities that force you to stare at them.
I don't know if this has a point - but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been thinking about it a lot recently. The problem is IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve a pretty slim exposure to comics as a whole. I would love to hear any thoughts or ideas.