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Shapes are building blocks in storytelling. Basic shapes like triangles, circles, and squares imply emotions. Characters start as simple shapes and become detailed silhouettes. Shapes help create compositions and guide the viewer's eyes.

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Video transcript

(lamp pings) - Along with lines, shapes are a major building block of composition and are critical to each storyboard and film frame. We begin with primitive or basic shapes, which even on their own can imply emotions. For example, triangles can convey action, speed, or tension. Circles appear friendly, and squares seem reliable and stable. Many of our characters and worlds begin as two or three shapes stuck together. A friendly circle on top of a strong, stable square body creates Mr. Incredible. We can take a circle, which is friendly, add a triangle, which is active, and we have Dash from the Incredibles, who is both of those things. Although we may start with primitive shapes, they evolve in a fluid way to look more organic as we add more details. And with more detail, we can convey more information, meaning, or emotion. This leads to what we call a silhouette, which is a filled in outline of an object. Each of our characters would, hopefully, be immediately identifiable from their silhouette. Check it out. Now let's return to the storyboards and concept art from Up and ask our artists what they see. - With Up, we thought, well, Carl and Ellie should play off of each other. They should almost be opposites in a way. Even though they complement, they are opposites. And we thought, well, Carl would be this square shape here who's basically got these drab, earth tone colors as a square. Ellie was represented by this circular, lighter shape as well, and she'd be colored magenta. Again, she kind of looks at life through rose colored glasses was the thought. We really just wanted to start with these basic shapes for Carl and Ellie. So when you try to think of those elements, these end up becoming the characters. Carl is still yet represented by a square and Ellie a circle. - You know, shape does a lot for us in this composition from Up. There are some really simple ones to spot right off the bat. You have a circle or an oval. Very primitive. You have a version of a triangle. Again, it's got a gesture to it. It's leaning. It's dynamic, it's moving towards Ellie. Another triangle here with Ellie, kind of accepting those pieces. It's almost like they're two pieces of the same sort of thought. That curved circle is repeated here, which kind of helps emphasize a stacked element in the same direction aiming towards Carl's face. Behind Carl we have a huge, huge rectangle, or series of rectangles that are, again, helping to draw your eyes straight to Carl. - I really like this example from Ratatouille of a character whose shape is really intimidating. Anton Ego is the food critic who comes and is known to take whole restaurants down. So the way that he's designed, it's interesting, he's a skinny little guy, so thin and so tall you can just see him dominating over anyone. His head is leaning forward like he's coming over you like a vulture. There's something very funerary about him. If you look at even the way that his office is designed, from above it looks like a coffin. I just really love that parallel between the character and the sign that he occupies. - So for this scene, it's the beach race scene. So the way that I use shape here was to have a really large form that blocks out exactly where you're supposed to look. So it feels like you're an outsider, but you also get a feel of how fast the car is because we're so far back and you'll see him go across screen so quickly. So you have this dark shape here that really just pushes you towards McQueen. Even the blades of grass are all pointing towards where you're supposed to look, as well as the flow of the fencing. We as the audience are the outsider here because he's not quite understanding emotionally where he should be yet in the film. So the camera is also pulled away and the shapes are boxing him in a little bit. So he feels boxed in in his mind as well. - In this panel from Cars 3, shape does a lot for us to strengthen what's happening in Lightning's life. That's one thing that works well in the Cars world is this idea that the characters themselves are shapes. Traditionally, Lightning has rounder images, rounder aspects to him. He's friendlier. He's more approachable. He's our hero. When you get to Jackson Storm, our new character, he's a lot more angular. But there's a lot more of a sharp dynamic quality to Jackson, and I think these lines also help him feel faster. The dynamic shapes of where he's going. Using these primitive triangle ideas, it really gives you a sense of moving forward. Traditionally, other cars in the cars world are boxes or variations on boxes. They're not going anywhere. They're slow. But they also help frame the more dynamic characters that we're looking at. The curves of Lightning and the strong angles of Storm. - As you can tell, shapes can be used in many ways to help tell a story, and it's universal. The use of shape to convey meaning can apply to everything. A car, a monster, a human, or even an emotion. In this next exercise, you'll have an opportunity to think more about shape.