Working on Iron Giant was part of my animation education - and it was a wonderful opportunity to work for one of the very best animation directors - the legendary Brad Bird.
I learned a lot from him both as a director and an animator. Brad's style of directing was always clear and precise. He always knew what he wanted, and he knew how to communicate it to the animators.
One of the clearest and most useful concepts I learned from him was the importance of "The Magic Circle" - a simple rule of composition, and the animator's best friend. Here is how it works.
|The "Magic Circle"|
Brad noticed that a number of the animators on our young and green crew tended to have a relatively poor sense of composition, and that the action in a scene wasn't always staged particularly well.
Brad argued that the audience tends to look at the very centre of the big screen, and we tend not to focus much on the edges of the screen, which we see only through our peripheral vision.
This means that successful composition should focus on what is happening in the centre, rarely at the edges. If, that is, we want our storytelling to be clear.
Lots of inexperienced animators break this rule. And, like most rules of composition, it can be broken successfully - but only if you know what you are doing. Learn the rules first, understand them, then break them. But do so reluctantly.
Below is a short video I recorded which explains the Magic Circle in more detail. It's less than two minutes long.