Both my research on Jiri Trnka and my stop motion storybords for my project
Research on Jiri Trnka:
When it comes to forms of art, every artist has their own preferred style. This fact remains the case even when you look into animation and film. However, looking into the different types and styles you may wonder what are the benefits to stop motion compared to other types of film. After watching and researching into the works of Jiri Trnka, the benefits of using stop motion come into view when compared to what you can do with other types of film. There are actually quite a few techniques that Jiri Trnka used that create effects and scenes that would simply be impossible to do in other mediums.
In terms of animation, Jiri Trnka did a few things that would have been very hard to do using simply animation itself. The most noticeable one being the use of both extremely detailed setting and characters. In animation, especially full animation, characters tend to have some kind of simplified design and most likely did not have any texture. This is due to the fact that the characters needed to be redrawn many times, so simple was better and more efficient. However, by using carved puppets that can be reused in every frame, there is more room for attention to detail than in traditional animation. Instead of recreating that detail every frame, Trnka created it once, or maybe a few times, within his carved, wooden puppets and reused it over and over. The same thing applies to the backgrounds in the sense of detail and movement within it. Detailed paintings were used as backgrounds in traditional animation, but for the most part many of these backgrounds are not fully three dimensional and in a way are not as interactive. While you can traditionally animate a character moving throughout a backrounds, it is hard to get them to actually interact with the background. If an interaction is needed you animate it separately and it is not really part of the background painting. However, by creating a “set” for the puppets to exist in, Trnka could not only use multiple angles of the set for different shots, he could also easily have his puppets move and rearrange the set freely. Throughout his film “Archangel Gabriel and Mother Goose” this interaction is seen, specifically at 0:22 where a puppet places and uses a ladder in the set. He also had the benefit of the puppets automatically having a 3D form, which is another effect that would be hard to create traditionally for an extended period of time.
Looking at and comparing to live action, there are definitely some benefits and effects that Jiri Trnka used that would be unavailable to regular film. One major benefit was the ability to create and work with more abstract, fantasy and distorted ideas and concepts. By using puppets and sets, Trnka could create any kind of distorted figure, puppet or setting without having to worry about the normal limitations of humans and physics. This is one of the benefits of animation, being able to create any reality you want. In Trnka’s short film “Ruka” he has a giant hand interact with one of his “human” puppets. At 4:03, this is seen as the puppet attacks the human hand in actuality. In live action, something like this would be impossible, even today as it would still have to be animated, whether it be the giant hand or small person. By using puppets, he was able to create a video with concepts like this that would otherwise have been impossible to make.
Finally, by using puppets, Trnka created effects and ways to mix and interact animation and live action at a whole new level. It is not like the mediums had never been mixed before, but when 2d animation is put with live action, it is quite obvious that they do not exist on the same plane of space. However since both the puppets and live moments are in the same space, they complement each other both in form and in the sets where they are located. Once again, going back to the short film “Ruka”, the hand and the puppet moved and interacted as if they were actually together, and not separate. This is due to the fact that they could actually interact and it was not just an illusion. If the hand wanted to pick up the puppet, then it would pick up the puppet. It would not have to pretend to grab it, then need someone to animate the figure in. Another thing that Trnka did, which was completely different to how live action and traditional animation works, was he gave his puppets a lack of facial emotions. Where in traditional animation, the changes in facial features are a major indication to the character’s feeling and in live action the actor’s faces change naturally, Trnka did not embrace this idea. Changing the expression on a carved puppet was most likely a very hard and time consuming task and while it could be done, Trnka found a way around it. Instead of relying on a change in expression he gave his puppets a neutral expression. From there Trnka manipulated the lighting and framing of scenes to display the emotion of the shot along with character animation to convey the current feeling of the character. Scenes where this technique were used are seen at 12:09 in “Ruka” where the puppet is captured. While he is not moving, his emotions and feelings of sadness are clearly conveyed through the lighting and framing in the scene. This technique is something that would be very difficult to use in live action, as peoples’ faces change naturally with their emotions, and since facial expression plays such a huge role in traditionally animated films, this technique is probably not something many people would jump on. However the way Trnka uses it with his puppets adds a lot more dimension and character to the puppets that may have not been captured, had he tried to simple change the expression.
Overall, Jiri Trnka used quite a few techniques to do things in his films that would have not happened in other mediums. Trnka took advantage of all of the benefits of stop motion and then some. This and his passion for stop motion as an artist are displayed within his work, and shows the potential of working in this medium.