Feb 1

Torturing over the backgrounds

I spent a long time torturing over backgrounds for something we were making recently. Are they too basic? Too plain? Now too shaded? Overworked? Too fancy?

Backgrounds are really important. They are pieces of art in themselves. They can look wonderful in stills or posters and be all pretty and attractive and that can get people buying your work.

But here’s the hard truth: if a kid is looking at your backgrounds rather than what the characters are doing, you have a MAJOR problem.

Kids shouldn’t be looking at your backgrounds unless a character is pointing to something in one or something in that background is a plot point or an important setup piece. I know that sounds harsh to background artists but it’s actually the same for most areas of the process. If a child is lost in a writer’s wonderful prose rather than the action of the scene, the story will be lost. If they are whistling to the underscore rather than listening to what the characters are saying, the story will be lost. And so on.

Everything must serve the story. For backgrounds, that means giving context to the action, establishing the location. Framing it in pleasing ways, drawing the eyes to the characters and the important moments in the shots. Helping to tell the story. Like every other element.

We can all torture ourselves over individual elements, like I was doing about these backgrounds. But what is so important to remember is that it will never just be these backgrounds. It will be characters, dialogue, action, music, sound effects and more. And when it all comes together, what counts is this: does it tell the story in the best way possible?

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