Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Left, Right, Left

Ages ago I read in a storyboarding book that the protagonist of a film generally travels from the left of the screen to the right. This spans from the fact that in the West we read from left to right, so, logically, it would make sense for our eyes to follow the same direction. I put this theory to the test and, sure enough, in most films it was true. This also means that the antagonist is more likely to travel from the opposite direction – inevitably confronting each other.

I wanted to point this out because it’s such a good way to use camera movement and action to build up to a clash. I’ve used this amazing scene from ‘Vampire Hunter D’ as an example. This is the scene where we are first introduced to ‘D’, through the eyes of the bounty hunter gang. They are both after the same bounty, so they don’t really want to be friends. As this is a Japanese film the direction of the protagonist is opposite from Western film (because they read funny.)

The guy with the beard has a sharp shot with his metallic bow and arrow, so sharp he doesn’t even have to look at his prey- he can just listen to their movements. As he hears a horse galloping behind the hill he shuts his eyes and follows the sound with his bow. A brilliant entrance for our hero- as we don’t even see him coming!

Just before he moves towards that ‘sweet spot’ we cut to a close up of his bow, a direct opponent of the gallop. Then, just at the exact moment, SWOOSH! He releases the arrow which hurtles towards our hero. It cuts to an intense movement as the camera follows it through the graveyard- only to be caught by D’s hand. D’s horse buckles. His cape flaps up. We cut to a wide as he makes a silhouette in the moon. They all stare at him in disbelief. He snaps the metal arrow.


If you haven’t seen this film I recommend doing so. The story and dialogue are a bit cliché, but there are a few scenes like this that are jaw dropping. The design concepts are pretty stunning as well.

Let me know what you think? Any thoughts, examples, arguments? I like arguing.

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1 comment:

  1. I love this movie. I haven't seen it in years but these boards bring that scene right back into my memory, particularly that beautifully intense shot of the howling arrow moving through the air. I haven't noticed the change in movement in Japanese films, but being a board artist myself, i definitely ought to! thank you for pointing this out.