Titles and images on a silent image

August 1, 2009 § 1 Comment

Continuing this ongoing series dealing with the separation of written words and images (click on the intertitle tag below in the “What’s On” section). Was alerted today (by the resourceful Koszarski, An Evening’s Entertainment) to this passage in Lescarboura’s manuel on motion picture techniques first published in 1919:

A considerable amount of thought must be devoted to the audence’s understanding of the picture. The center of interest in a cartoon must always be played up prominently by subduing other features. For instance, if one of the characters throws a missile, it is necessary that there be no further movement of his arm after the missile begins to travel across the picture. The character–and every other character in the drawing, for that matter–must remain absolutely rigid so that the attention of the audience will not be distracted from the missile which at that moement is the center of interest. Then again, when a character is made to speak by the introduction of what is known as a “balloon” within which is hand lettering, there must be no motion in the cartoon until the audience has had time to read the legend which then disappears. (306)

Lescarboura is here talking about animation technique, an example of which could be this 1920 Mutt and Jeff cartoon (Mutt and Jeff Go on Strike) recently restored by a cooperation between the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and the National Film Preservation Foundation, and which you can see online for free (also available on the same site, an alluring trailer for the 1922 Sin Woman in which she almost disrobes…need I say more?). Mutt and Jeff are talkingBut I’m tempted to apply his reasoning to the apparent ban (not always respected, as I’ve shown in the above-mentionned series, but quite wide-spread anyway) on mixing titles with moving images in live features: words flashed would be too distracting (though distraction is not the taboo that some would have us believe in a Hollywood film…but I’m getting ahead of myself).

For curiosity’s sake, I’d like to read what Lescarboura thought of that 1920 experiment….

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