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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Gesture competition - the winners

In January, John Herd (aka primaveranz), decided to set up a contest aimed at one specific area of Moviestorm: the use of gestures. Gestures are the single most powerful - and under-used - dramatic tool in Moviestorm. Used well, they transform simple animated models into interesting characters who can express emotions through their body language as well as their voice. They can be used to convey both plot and subtext that replaces, amplifies or contradicts the dialog.

Here’s some examples of what you can do with gestures, to give you an idea of what the judges were looking for.

  • Characters can communicate without words. This can be as simple as a nod or shake of the head, instead of saying yes or no. It can also be used to indicate taciturnity, menace or strength - rather than saying “this way,” a bodyguard or bouncer can just indicate with his thumb that the hero should go through a door. In some circumstances, characters may be unable to speak for fear of being overheard, and so they can use simple sign language instead. This adds to the visual part of the film instead of relying on spoken words to convey everything.
  • Gestures intensify emotion. Actors don’t just stand passively and speak their lines. They use their bodies to add feeling to what they’re saying. This can be huge, melodramatic arm movements or postures, but more often, they’re small motions that are barely noticeable unless you’re looking for them. Drooping the head slightly indicates sadness. Tipping the head to one side as they listen can indicate surprise, questioning, or skepticism. Small hand movements can indicate nervousness, excitedness. Changes in the way they stand can indicate nervousness, apprehension or fear. Hand movements can be used to emphasise key parts of what they’re saying.  Individually, the gestures are tiny, but when you put them together, you create a much more believable person, and that immediately engages your audience.
  • Gestures add depth to the meaning of the movie. One of the most important skills for an actor (and a director) is to be able to convey two or more completely different things at once. A character can say one thing, but we, the audience, know or suspect that he means something else. It could be an outright lie, or it could be an emotion they’re trying to hide. “I haven’t seen Cora in weeks,” says the suspect convincingly, but his shifty head movement leads us to suspect otherwise. “No, I’m fine,” says Amy, but her clenched fists reveal that she’s hurting inside.
  • You can imply things you can’t actually do in Moviestorm. The best Moviestorm directors keep finding ways to use gestures in wonderfully creative ways. Here, for example, writerly shows how to get a woman to put her head on her husband’s shoulder for a sweet, romantic moment.  (Go to the original forum post.)

There’s a great presentation of all the available Moviestorm gestures by Keith Lawrence. It actually takes nearly 20 minutes for a Moviestorm character to run through his repertoire, which gives you an idea of just how much they’re capable of. And this is only the start: when you start to combine and customize the gestures, you’ll find new and surprising ways to bring your animated actors to life. It can be a slow, painstaking process at times, but the results, as you’ll see below, are well worth it.

Anyway, without any further ado, these are the winners of the gestures competition.

Our congratulations to every one of them, and our huge thanks to John for arranging this superb and inspiring contest.

Winner “Audition for a Killer” by Lorisrizzo

Second place: “Repel men” by Nahton

Third place: “The Valentine Surprise” by Kibishipaul

Honorable mentions:

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