For our remediating theory project, we wanted to take a closer look at the theories behind comics as discussed by Scott McCloud in his book, Understanding Comics. However, we were having trouble coming up with any good ideas that would help us successfully convey our understanding of McCloud’s work. One topic from McCloud’s book that the three of us, as a group, kept coming back to was the idea of abstraction within the world of comics. We felt that this could easily lend itself to some interesting options for the project itself. In the beginning, it was just a passing thought, but we ultimately decided it would be interesting and entertaining to create a movie based on our discussions of what our project should entail. Quite un-coincidentally, parts of our brainstorming sessions became the framework and storyline for our actual project.
So, the main idea behind our video was supposed to be three group members trying to decide what to do for their final project on remediating theory. During the conversation, they get sucked into strange “cartoon” worlds and start noticing how the fine details of their real life world start to either diminish or become hyper-focused. That was supposed to be some of the debate in the video. Whether or not that came across clearly to viewers remains to be seen.
One of the main points that McCloud discussed was the idea of “amplification through simplification.” We felt that with a movie, we could amplify our interpretation of McCloud’s theories by simplifying our personal images and surroundings. It would have been easy to create a comic book about our struggles, but that would have been a very simple remediation, if not a complete rip-off of McCloud’s work. It was for this reason that we decided that a movie would work better for our purposes. A film would also afford us more freedom to explore the opportunities for creativity that cartoons and icons have to offer. We were able to utilize live action video along with different levels of cartoon abstraction in an attempt to demonstrate McCloud’s idea of amplification through simplification. The musical selections served to tie everything together.
The Bitstrips app on Facebook was a decent introduction into the world of cartoons because it was not a complete abstraction of our actual images. We each created our own avatars within the app and, while they were not necessarily accurate replicas of us, they were relatively recognizable caricatures. The app offered a lot of options and adjustments when creating an avatar. With enough attention to detail, it was possible to create a character that was similar enough to real life. However, in creating the cartoon panels, we were confined to the pre-determined situations that the developers of the app offered. We couldn’t create our own comic strip environment. For instance, the first scene in the Bitstrips world was one where we were in a coffee shop. We searched for the keyword “coffee” within the app and only 4 scenes were available to choose from when creating a “friend comic.” This limited us to the random scenes that were present in our video. Within each scene, though, the app did provide us with a substantial amount of creative freedom. We were able to adjust everything within the scene from the facial expressions and direction in which the characters’ eyes were looking, to the text that ended up as a caption below or in various speech or thought bubbles. There was some unfortunate misunderstanding/miscommunication within our group as to the direction and storyline of this portion of our movie, but I think in the end it turned out OK.
The third part of our movie involved an even greater abstraction from the realism with which we began. I used the Bitstrips caricatures to design even simpler depictions of each of our characters. Mostly, I tried to focus on a couple main features of each individual. For instance, for myself, it was easy to focus on my facial hair and Mohawk when drawing my caricature. Jun’s Bitstrips character had glasses and a hat. Andrew’s was a little more difficult to distinguish because his Bitstrips character didn’t have any outstanding, distinct features other than his hair. This portion of the movie, I also (regrettably) used a very time-consuming style of “stop-animation.” Essentially, I re-adjusted each frame in Photoshop and saved it as a new file. I then compiled it all in Windows Movie Maker before sending the entire movie file to Andrew to insert into the final project. Ugh.
For this part of the movie, I wanted to focus on the minimalistic representation of everything in the frame. McCloud talked about how we perceive different levels of abstraction based on context. In cartoons, we are comfortable assigning identities and personalities to varying objects or concepts of objects. I tried to convey that idea by having our characters transition from stick figures to random creatures or objects. And even then, it was just my personal interpretation of those things. But…by adding certain features to the objects in the cartoons, the viewer was able to identify that the personality of each character changed. My beard and Mohawk stayed with each iteration as did Jun’s glasses and hat. Andrew’s “hair” stayed with him through most of his transformations. Even if those details were left out, we kept the illusion of our three separate character identities going with the dialogue tags. We used our names when “addressing” each other in the animation. We didn’t have to put arrows or nametags on any of the characters and the viewer (hopefully) was able to tell who was supposed to be who.
I really wanted to get more in depth into the “picture plane” concept that McCloud discussed in several parts of his book, but logistics and time constraints came to be issues. Part of me wishes that I could have worked on this project from the beginning of the semester. I feel that given enough time and resources we could have made this an even more dynamic project. As it stands, I am not completely ashamed of it. In fact, this project has legitimately inspired me to pursue a further understanding of animation and cartoons. In the end, even though this project didn’t turn out as “professional” as I had envisioned, I still believe we achieved our goals.