I gotta tell you...

Comics cutting and pacing - KISS ;o)
thip at 12:13PM, March 30, 2007
posts: 11
joined: 11-24-2006
Some kind-hearted reader recently commented on my humble comic that it had “cool angles, makes it seem very hectic”. Much as I love the praise, I think he's wrong ;o) It ain't the angles - it's the cutting.

Reading good comics, I have often been fascinated by the ABSENCE of fancy panel cuts'n sizes, and how well they still managed to tell the story. It wasn't until recently that I realized they told the story so well BECAUSE of the systematic restraint and control in employing different panel types. Thought I'd share my observations, since DD is a comic CREATOR place as well as a comic READER one.

Certainly not THE way to do comics, just the way I do'em. If anyone can glean a good idea or two from it, more power to both of us ;o)

Movies use fast and slow cuts to control pace. You can so something similar in comics - strike that, you ARE inevitably doing so; doing it consciously may make your storytelling more fun to do and more exciting to read.

Comics are, in a sense, “the poor man's movie” (at least for time- and cash-strapped creators *LOL*). Instead of a projector running the movie across the silver screen, the comic is brought to life by the reader's eyes scanning the pages, taking in the panels. Purgatory is in english, so anyone reading it are presumably automatically reading it left-to-right, top-to-bottom - so that's how it's laid out.

Since the dominant reading direction (in english) is left to right, that's where the speed can be controlled, by making panel widths be long or short visual “sentences”. The basic building block of comics is the nice, innocuous, straightforward square panel. That is where comics resemble the picture-after-picture movie reel the most - even if movies are moving off the reels for good ;o) They work equally well for rattling off peaceful and violent story.

The square panel is most often meant to work with several others, telling the story in a nice, even rhythm. Using the same angle/zoom etc., one can almost make the characters “move”.

BUT… they all have the same rattling-off rhythm.

And sometimes you want to break this da-dum, da-dum, da-dum. You want to slow down or speed up. To suggest split-second action or quite a bit of time passing. One way to do it is to lenghten or shorten the panel accordingly. The double-width shot gives a sense of more time passing with whatever is going on. It works well for talking, walking, travelling and the like.

For a really leisurely panel, triple length will take enough time (relatively speaking) to be almost an entire scene in its own right.

At the other end of the spectrum, half-width and even narrower panels are whipped through at high-speed, suggesting that things are happening very fast.

What things? That's the other thing you can toy with. Panel HEIGHT allows you to put more or less into the reader's time. Lots of stuff in a short time? Worth trying a narrow, high panel or a sequence of'em.

Lots of stuff in a considerable time, perhaps to establish a new scene/chapter? Make the panel bigger in BOTH directions.

Of course, the rules (just rules-of-thumb, really) can be broken, to good effect. Want to create a “frozen moment”? Use a big, slow panel for something that is actually happening very fast …

…or when nothing much is actually happening.

Or use a standard panel with an almost conspicuous absence of anything happening at all…

…well, you get the idea. Once you start thinking this way, lots of fun storytelling ideas can come from very simple basic structure. Simple is, paradoxically, incredibly flexible. So here's to KISS ;o)

Have fun.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:27AM
kenm at 8:48PM, March 30, 2007
posts: 3
joined: 12-9-2006
I love your examples. They show far more purpose (creativity) than I usually see in other webcomics.


last edited on July 18, 2011 10:27AM

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