Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Depths Of Penny Arcade

When did Penny Arcade start using depth of field? Today's strip really seemed to point that out for some reason:

Paint The Line, Part Four

Other examples:

Cloaked in Twilight.
Uncompromising Vision.

Are there other comics out there using dof effects? Interesting to see dof in a static image artform to focus attention when the artist has so many other techniques to do the same thing. Compare that to cinema, where dof is, if not a necessity, at least a fantastic technique to focus the viewer's attention in a moving image.

In a three panel comic that is well known for wit, humor, and vulgarity, do these dof effects help whatsoever? Would this work better in a narrative comic?


Overman said...

Looks to me from these examples that it's a purely stylistic choice rather than a tool like it's used in film. I think it's effective as such in Paint the Line, but I think it's poorly executed in Cloaked and just distracting in Uncompromising.

If done right (and with logical consistency), I think it might look interesting in a longer form narrative comic, but I keep coming back to how unnecessary it seems from the practical perspective. In a film, the viewer has a limited amount of time to absorb a particular shot; part of that seizing of focal control is to make sure the important part of the shot is not missed.

But in a comic, even something long form like Warren Ellis' Freak Angels (, the viewer has all day to look at the frame, scrutinize its every detail. In that context, it seems like it could potentially annoy the viewer that a significant portion of that frame is obscured or indistinct. I think they want the opportunity to look at everything before them, in random-access order.

And you're so right, there are so many other techniques available for still art which I think are much more effective and don't feel like wasted frame.

Nice find, and good topic. Thanks.

johnnie said...

I've noticed the DoF effect creeping into PA too. I quite like it, although whether it's "necessary" or not is a matter for debate.

If you're interested in graphic art and comic creation, the recordings of the comics being created are absolutely fascinating.

bllius said...

So far we have two "no" votes, and one "maybe" vote.

Does 'borrowing' this technique from cinema give the comic a more realistic feel? If the images were realistically drawn would that help? Say a Conan the Barbarian? What about if it was B&W?

Also wanted to touch on PA TV at some point.

Have more to say on comics later.

johnnie said...

A more "realistic" feel? Definately not. Whereas a limited focal range/distance in real film (and also, sometimes, in machninima) can fake the natural focusing effects of the human eye, for a non-phot-realistic still image such as this it's an artifact, pure and simple.

It can have the same effect as in real-film; that of suggesting prominence, but (as Overman rightly says) there's no time limit under which the viewer most absorb the frame's contents, so it's a stylistic choice only.

If the images were photorealistic, then perhaps the effect would be different. I suspect, though, that the comic would then start to feel like "stills from a movie" rather than "pictures from life".

bllius said...

Need to find more examples.

johnnie said...

And now, for that extra bit of filmic realism ... lens flare and motion blur!

bllius said... this all because of their recent game?

Or are they thinking of producing full-on animation?