Thursday, 22 January 2015

Brad Bird and the Magic Circle

The Iron Giant
Many years ago I worked on The Iron Giant, a wonderful film and a priceless opportunity to work with one of the very best animation directors - the legendary Brad Bird.

I learned a great deal from him both as a director and an animator.  Brad's style of directing was always clear; he always knew what he wanted, and how to communicate it to the animators.

One of the cleanest 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 in a tight spot. Here is how it works.

The Magic Circle
Brad argued that the audience only tends to look at the very centre of the screen we are watching, and we tend to see the edges 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 a few years ago which explains the Magic Circle in more detail. It's less than two minutes long.


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