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Friday, December 01, 2006

Users Manual for Bar Sheet DIY

First - DIY is Do It Yourself - this for those who aren't used to coloquializms. The excercize is really relatively simple. Before we begin, I suggest that it may be good to re-read Albert Hay Malotte's lecture notes at this point. It also may make more sense to hardened readers of this blog than it did on May 25th when I posted it.

Ok, here we go. On your favorite DVD player in view and earshot from your PC (with should have a working, non-muted PC speaker, I haste to add again), insert the short film you'd like to analyze. This can be a Disney short, but really most of the films of the 30s and 40s seem to have been timed to a beat throughout - Looney Tunes, Harman-Ising etc.

To get the feel of things, start like this: When the film plays, use my Beatronome program to tap out the beats of the music of a certain sequence. You should tap the number of times indicated in the little box right of the tap button, plus one. The beat will then show up below the button. You'll find it will normally be 'whole' beats: 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24. Tap several times to give you an average, and type the closest whole beat in the metronome bit. This may be more accurate in the long run than just transferring the tapped beat to the metronome. Rewind the sequence on the DVD, and press Play on the metronome when you hear the rhythm. Write down which tempo this sequence was in.

It gets more tricky when there are bits without music, of course. As you see in Mickey's Elephant, the music often just continues. Try to let the metronome run - and see if the action hits the beats. See if you can spot where the tempo changes, and continue doing this over again for the next part of the film. In the end you have a listing of which sequences are in which beat (I for one would like to see this!) If you are really persistent, you can now count how many beats there are in each tempo, and you can write this out on a simple bar sheet as the one I supplied yesterday. Now - what are you waiting for?

Oh - 'why would we even try', you may ask. Well, through this excercize, you can reveal the sense of stucture and backbone that were underlying the films of the time. And as such, learn more about what made these films great entertainment. So much has been published about the drawings, but this beat thing, this is all about direction. As Norm Ferguson said: 'timing is the essence of the thing'. It need not be a forgotten art anymore...

(Note for MAC users: you CAN use an ordinary metronome, most certainly. To convert between frames per beat and beats per minute, you can use the converter here on the right, if your math fails you.)

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Kevin Langley says...

I can't thank you enough for posting all this great stuff, Hans. That Beatronome will come in very handy.

Friday, December 1, 2006 at 10:31:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Hans Perk says...

Thanks, Kevin! I would love to hear from anyone who uses it, if it is at all useful, and, more importantly, what their findings are. Let's see if there are any 'surprises' in the timing of those classics...

Saturday, December 2, 2006 at 3:38:00 AM PST  
Anonymous :: smo :: says...

so, i've been going through a lot of these older posts and i've got a couple questions about timing with modern technologies. if you have the time i'd be interested to hear your input!

since the sync of the original films could be determined by physically matching frames of the film with those of the audio, how would one handle synchronizing the audio today; with a nonlinear editing program, like say final cut?

it it simply a matter of dragging things around until they fit? looking for peaks in a waveform. is there a more precise way of matching the timed animation to the timed audio in the final editing stages?

also, is it customary to animate directly on the beats or 2 frames ahead [like one might do for lip sync]? or possibly animating directly on the beats and shifting the picture 2 frames ahead in editing? [i believe richard williams book mentions something of the sort].

sorry if my question is a bit confused! any insight would be appreciated!

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 12:36:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Phantom_Cameron says...

@;;smo;; I recall richard williams saying that sometimes they would have to move the footage 1 frame or 2 frames ahead to make it line up properly and that they didn't know why it worked but it did so they did it. anyone know why it does? and if in the digital age this still occurs?

Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 1:58:00 AM PDT  

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