WitchBalls - Animation and Sound-Production
Aktualisiert: 22. Juli 2021
Exlopre the history about the procedural maze game WitchBalls. In this animation project I would like to visualize the background story in a short term. As part of my master's degree in media informatics, I produced this video in the context of a dramaturgical analytical essay. This project is aimed at all those who are interested in the historical aspects of WichtBalls or a case study of a dramaturgical elaboration.
Table of Content
1. Production Structure
2. The Plot
2.1 Problem and Message
3. The Characters
4. Environment and Effect
5. Sound Design
1. Production Setup
As a practical production, a short fictional animated film is created for the video game "WitchBalls " (cf. Schmitz 2020: WitchBalls the Game). In this computer game, the little witch Kyra (protagonist and game character) has the task of collecting all the witch balls in an enchanted castle in order to free all the trapped souls. These are scattered throughout the castle. The aim of the animation film is to introduce the player to the circumstances and meaningfulness of the task in the game. The animations are realized with 2D graphics and praticle effects. For this purpose, the elements are created via image editing program and then animated in a compositing program.
The structured clues of Aristotle's Poestics offer a comprehensive concept for theater and film. This concept offers a support for the development of the dramaturgical research. Research. In the scope of the Pratice-Based Research, the plot sequence is examined under from the point of view of the poetological characteristics, which are characterized by plot, character, diction, music, and spectacle (cf. Halliwell 1998). At the beginning of this paper, I outline the plot of the story. Subsequently, I discuss the problem of this story and concretize which message should be conveyed to the viewer. In chapter three, the characters are assigned to their character traits and their development is constructed. The role distribution within the story is assigned on the basis of Vladimir Propp narrative theory. The fourth chapter describes the pictorial orientation and influences of the and influences of the environment - the spectacle itself. In this a chain of argumentation is for the mode of action of the setting is fathomed. In the penultimate chapter I deal with the sound design. The animation contains no dialogues. The communication between the soul and the witch is done through posture and movement.
In order to be able to work out the visual level in the extent of the animation project optimally, I limit myself to the forest scene in which the escaped soul meets the little witch. This is the key scene in which the witch is called to action and begins her journey as a heroine. as a heroine. The remaining scenes are summarized in short sentences and inserted in the animated film.
2. The Plot
The village at the nearby castle is infested by a soul-eater and has robbed all the inhabitants of their souls. Without souls, the inhabitants turn into monsters and continue to attack villages. The soul-eater has retreated into the castle and locked away all the souls in magic balls - the WitchBalls. These are guarded by dark demons. All the corridors and rooms in the castle have been enchanted into an impenetrable labyrinth, and each floor seems to grow larger and larger.
But there is hope! One soul manages to escape from the castle. Desperate, she seeks refuge in the forest. Cut off from the village, she discovers a small witch's hut. A small witch appears in the window. The soul fights its way into the house through the chimney. The witch is frightened and flees from the house.
The soul follows her out through the door and floats excitedly on the spot. The witch is confused, but shows curiosity. Slowly, the witch trusts the soul and follows her. After a short time, the two reach the gloomy castle. The soul enters the unguarded main entrance of the castle. The witch seems unsettled at first, but follows her after a short pause. It gets dark... The soul lights up the room. The soul unites with the amulet that the witch has with her and gives her light. They discover a magic ball. The witch raises her hand and manages to open the magic ball. Another soul emerges from the ball and flees from the castle. The witch realizes that she must collect all the orbs and free them. The jorney begins...
The labyrinth of the castle poses new challenges for Kyra and she develops new unexpected abilities from time to time. The witch manages to explore all the enchanted corridors and collect all the orbs. She faces the Soul Eater, but has to admit that she cannot defeat the Soul Eater on her own. But the bad prospects turn to good. All the liberated souls meet and join together to form a cone of light. The soul-eater is weakened by the light and goes out. From the castle all souls return to their village and revive the lifeless bodies with life. The soul that found its place in the amulet of the little witch also leaves the amulet and disappears.
In the village a big celebration is organized. When the witch returns home alone to her house, she falls into mental regression and still feels excluded from society. But she is caught up by a boy - a human. She immediately feels that she has not met him for the first time, knows that this boy has accompanied her all the time in the amulet in the form of a spiritual soul. The boy takes her to the village, for which she is highly celebrated for her heroic deeds. She has always lived happily in the heart of the city and has a close relationship with boys.
2.1 Problem and Message
The problems that arise from the protagonist's point of view are coherent with the narratology of a heroic story. The theme of the protagonist is the path of adolescence and self-development. The trigger of these circumstances is the imbalance caused by the plight of the village. Under these circumstances, Kyra is sent on a journey to restore the balance. This form of narration is based on Todorov's structural analysis, which forms the derivation of the protagonist's conflict resolution (cf. Todorov 1960: 70-76).
The story is comparable to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Published in the 19th century, these fairy tales are still very common in modern times. Countless variations and film adaptations exist. Characteristic of many of these oral traditions are fantasy phenomena such as witches, dwarfs and mythical creatures. The main point is usually a moral appeal that follows a typical sequence of narrative motifs. As in the story of short animation, an unjustly perceived situation causes an imbalance of ethical and moral expectation. The satisfying experience that the reader or viewer is supposed to experience comes from the resolution of the conflict that has arisen. The basic idea is characterized by the happiness of the disadvantaged person, which is many times higher than before the story (cf. Jolles 2010: 238-248).
In the short animation, Kyra also experiences an injustice due to society's unacceptance of her. In the resolution of this story, this injustice is cancelled out. Kyra not only receives the sympathy of the community, but also makes friends with the boy. Through her courageous actions Kyra experiences a more positive initial situation than before. These circumstances of the characters will be explained in more detail in Chapter 3.
3. The Characters
In the following, the characters will be characterized in terms of motivation, personality, and background based on Vladimir Propp Narrative Theory (cf. Propp 1984: 79-80) This characterization will be reflected in the animation through the posture, movement, and action of each character. The following is a list of roles and their functions from Vladimier Propp:
The villain - an evil character who creates fights for the hero.
The Dispatcher - any character who illustrates the need for the hero's quest and sends the hero off.
The Helper - a typically magical creature that helps the hero in his quest.
The Princess or Prize - the hero earns her in the course of the story.
The father of the princess - the guardian of the princess.
The Giver - a character who prepares the hero or gives the hero a magic item.
The Hero - the character who responds to the Dispatcher and Donor characters, thwarts the villain, resolves any flaws or injustices, and marries the Princess.
The false hero - a Miles Gloriosus character (braggart) who takes credit for the hero's actions or tries to marry the princess.
In order to present the core message of the short story, not all of the roles from Narrative Theory find significance (s. Chapter: 2.2 Problem and Massage). For example, the false hero and the princess's father do not assume any function in the story. The main focus is on the journey of the heroine and protagonist Kyra. The little witch is 17 years old at the beginning of the story and thus in the budding adulthood. The small forest hut in which she lives is also her birthplace. Isolated from the outside world, she has no contact with other individuals. When Kyra was 12 years old, the village was already visited by the Soul Eater. Her parents died in the successful attempt to drive the Soul-Eater away from the village. The only thing that remained from her parents is a blue amulet with unknown magical abilities. She wears it around her neck all these years to protect her from dark forces. Her magical abilities help her with everyday things like getting food and expanding the forest hut.
In the animation Kyra should be clearly identifiable as a witch. Therefore, it is important to find the main eye features of a typical witch in her appearance (s. figure: Character Kyra). The appearance of a witch can be traced back to the origins of the witch craze. In Europe, this was very widespread between the 11th and 17th centuries. Political and religious crises caused grievances in the society. In the broad strata of the population, these caused illness and poverty. From this grew an increased popular belief in faith healers and fortune tellers in connection with the devil (cf. Behringer 2008: 7-11) These facts can be transferred to the relationship between Kyra and the people. The little witch is seen as an outsider and an outcast.
From the witchcraft tales, it appears that witches were predominantly female, as well as having light blue eyes and red hair. Other characteristics are the lace hats, which were appointed from several theories from the Middle Ages about witchcraft. One theory is that it is an exaggeration of the dunce hat. These are characterized by high, conical tips and were widely used in the royal courts in the 15th century. At the same time, they were associated with the devil's horns and were therefore frowned upon in the church (cf. Cavendish 1999:156-170). Kyra's appearance as a whole is characterized by her difference of nature and typical features of a young witch. The viewer is presented with a mythical protagonist who must put her abilities to the test. The brown needy shoes are a sign of the average population limit. The color purple for the hat and the coat represent the women's movement from the 19th century. They convey a confident and feminist appearance of the protagonist (cf. Weickart 1998: 5).
Alvar the escaped soul is a boy aged 18 in the human world. Together with his two siblings, he runs a blacksmith's farm, which was continued by his father until his death. Alvar is characterized by his craftsmanship and courage for change. In the animation as a soul, he is depicted as a blue light, a supernatural apparition (s. figure: Character Alvar). Alvar takes on several roles in the story. On the one hand, one can assign Him as a dispatcher, since he asks Kyra for help. On the other hand, he is considered a donor in the context of the amulet, since he provides Kyra with light. At the end of the story, he forms the prize that the heroine can win Kyra as a friend.
The Soul Eater is the villain. Together with his dark demons, they try to establish the imbalance in the world and exercise their power for evil. The emergence of mythical phenomena with negatively charged motives are emblematic of immorality. The lineage of demonic superstitions is predominantly found in Christian beliefs. From the perspective of the church, all unethical actions are assigned as being of a devilish nature. For example, from a historical world view, homosexuality or illegitimate children were condemned by the Inquisition and assigned in connection with demonic activity. Demology also includes widespread practices such as deliverance service or demon exorcism (cf. Dillinger 2018: 18-19). The soul-eater can thus be identified in its form as an evil spirit being that is able to take over and manipulate the body of a human being. The situation in the story is modeled on this. People turn into monsters without their souls and harm others with it.
From these findings, it can be summarized which roles are elementary to the functionality of the story and which are considered secondary. Furthermore, there is a historical notion between appearance and the actual person. Thus, in Kyra's case, from a historical perspective, all external characteristics are attributed to a witch. The soul-eater has its origin from the demonological world view of Christianity and fulfills the task of causing harm. Alvar forms several functions and is therefore elementary for the connection of the story.
4. Environment and Effect
The surroundings of a scene form an important representational device for transposing and interpreting an action. They are a large part of film aesthetics and are structured by light, color and camera style. The setting puts the viewer in an emotional state, which forms a crucial part of the narrative expression. Thus, a scene can appear poetic, playful, symbolic, distant, or documentary. As in the early days of dramaturgical productions in the form of a dynamic stage set, the camera on cinema screens takes on a guided and filtered narrative perspective. The digital reproducibility of the moving image enables an expansion of visual communication. The suggestive power of image representation can be used to illustrate social events and processes. The iconic turn allows an altered exchange of information on a pictorial level. Perceptual processes are captured by media tools and convey specific insights of a presented message (cf. Müller 2013: 45-28).
As described in the chapter Production Structure, the forest scene represents the key instance of the story in which the witch is asked to embark on her journey as a heroine. Based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, the forest plays a central role as the setting of the action. From a historical perspective, the forest was considered a dangerous place full of myths. Thus, legends arose about mythical creatures and mysterious apparitions that inhabited the forest. Snow White, for example, met the seven dwarfs in the forest. Or Hansel and Gretel met a witch in the forest who owned a whole house made of gingerbread. The Grimm brothers' first performances and stories were previously reserved for children, as they often contained cruelty. For example, in the fairy tales children were abandoned in the forest or Rumpelstiltskin split himself in two. In the years of transmission, the fairy tales were repeatedly written in new media forms with modernized treatises. Appearances of Sleeping Beauty or Rumpelstiltskin were newly illustrated or given different masquerades in film adaptations (cf. Gutjahr 2013: 4-5).
The backdrop of the forest scene is therefore intended to convey a dark, mythical and dangerous image to the viewer (s. figure: Design Forest). Unlike Hansel and Gretel, the witch's house is not made of gingerbread, but it also appears ramshackle and overgrown. Part of the forest's vegetation is based on the Panopyra plant from the film Avatar - Departure to Pandora. This jellyfish-like plant conveys a magical and religious background. It also feeds on small animals and attracts its food with the help of its tentacle-like shoots. The plant does not perform photosynthesis and for these reasons can grow even in the darkest places. It is also characterized by its luminescent property and its healing and nutritive effect for humans (cf. Wilhelm 2009: 136) This effect of luminescence has been transferred to other plant species in the forest scene. This increasingly reinforces the sense of magical and unusual vegetation (s. figure: Magic Plants).
The landscape itself reflects a moorland. In literature and film, bog scenes are often depicted as threatening and eerie. Significant to this depiction are foggy landscapes, barren monotonous landscapes, and dead wood.5 An example is offered by the view of Michael Ende's novel The Neverending Story. Thus, in the chapter The Ancient Morality, Artax the horse sinks into the bogs of sadness. A special feature in the swamp is also the swarm of fog.6 In the animation, this swarm of fog is animated with fractal image noise in addition to the background already sketched.
5. Sound Design
The sound levels of a medium can be categorized as speech, sounds and music. Film theory distinguishes between diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. Thus, sound events within the visual form are referred to as diegetic. These include, for example, dialogues, voices, soundscapes or instruments/music sources that can be perceived visually by the recipient. Sound events of non-diegetic origin are outside the visual form. Subdivided are these except spatial sounds on the meta or extra level. That is, the existing perception of a character (monologues, subjectivizations, etc.) or accompanying sounds (film music, abstract sound effects, etc.), (cf. Gröne 2017: 20).
As explained at the beginning of the production description, the communication of the characters takes place on a non-verbal level. Therefore, the focus of the sound design is rather on the noises and the music. Sounds circumscribe places and actions. They can form a soundscape in combination of several sound events or draw attention to special features individually. Sound objects expand the context of a scene. Film music offers a wide range of approaches to control story and dramaturgy (cf. Stanke 2009: 10-16).
According to Bullenjahn, film music consists of different compositional models, which can be applied in a kind of mixed form in the auditory elaboration. In the following, these models are briefly presented. The descriptive technique, also known as underscoring, embodies the synchronous setting to movements and sounds. This technique is often used in animated films and is also referred to as Mickey-Mousing. The mood technique is another way of setting images to music. In this technique, the feelings and moods of a character are expressed musically. With the leitmotif, melodies or sounds are attributed to specific objects or people. The leitmotif sounds under the circumstances when the person or object appears in a scene or a particular event occurs in its context. The modular technique is the least used. In this one, there is no connection between the mood of the characters or movement in the picture. It is built up by a succession of beats (cf. Bullerjahn 2001:75-93).
In this written argument, the elements of Aristotle's Poetics were brought into context of the practical project. Thus, the plot was based on Todorov's narrative structure. Compared to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, an inequality plays the core of the stories. In the short animation, this is brought about by the Soul Eater. The message to be conveyed by this story is to face one's fears and fight for happiness. Thematically, this is taken up with the coming of age or unfolding of the self of the protagonist.
The narrative theories of Vladimier Propp in the distribution of roles in a heroic story provided a structured orientation for the characters in this story. To this end, the third chapter outlined the backgrounds and functions of the characters. In this context, the little witch is considered an outsider with her appearance and thus experiences social injustice. The soul-eater provides the breeding ground for the story, in which this problem is to be resolved. Alvar adds many important functions to the dramaturgical structure as a dispatcher, helper, donor. In his appearance as a ghost, Alvar does not possess the ability to speak. Therefore, the communication between Alvar and the witch happens on a non-verbal level.
Through literary stories of the Brothers Grimm and Michael Ende, references for the design of the scenery could be derived. In these, the forest is described as a foggy barren moorland with dead wood, which is expressed as a dangerous and mythical place. The vegetation of the forest is tied to James Cameron's film Avatar. These are characterized by luminescent plants, which create a visually magical impression. The sound design of the short animation complements the scene with mystical soundscapes and magical sounding sound design.
This work covers only a small part of the possibilities and facets of dramaturgy. It is limited to the thought processes of Aristotle's Poetics for the design of a plot. As Aristotle describes in his Treatise on Poetics, plot aims to give life and soul to a drama (Vgl. Halliwell 1998).
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