STORY – storyboard DEVELOPMENT

22 October, 2008


STORY DEVELOPMENT

 

Building the storyboard is an
integral part of putting together an animated feature. The process provides not
only a visual interpretation of the script; it also allows designers in each
department to get a feel for what is being presented on screen.

 

Creating the visual story
composed of consecutive story sketch panels that depict the action and staging
of the film’s script is the first step in the animation production process.
Twenty or more departments, converting them into a final full color film, will
build upon the concepts and timing initiated here. The storyboard is the basic
game plan, the vision of continuity that will drive the entire production.

 

Storyboarding involves working
from a film script to set a story down in picture or illustration form; rather
like a comic book. The storyboard functions as the blueprint of an animated
picture. The following is a breakdown of the story-sketch artist’s set up, and
the thought and drawing processes involved.

 

Equipment:

 

01.      
Pencils: Whatever the individual feels comfortable with.
Anything from an HB to a 6B depending on the quality of the line and darkness of
shadow required.

 

02.     
Paper: 8.5 x 11, standard white.

 

03.     
Field Guide:    Story sketches are drawn to a standard
8-field size (5.5 x 10.25). This is traced down on the paper and represents the
screen edge all around. Significant details will occasionally be drawn outside
this cutoff since all production artwork is finished out to the edge of the
paper. Wide screen projects will have altered field sizes and measurements.

 

04.    
Xerox™ Machine with Variable Size Capability:    It is
frequently necessary to enlarge or reduce artwork to specific sizes, both to
save time and for cutting purposes. Final approved boards are then enlarged or
reduced to proper production size.

 

05.     
Desk:  Any comfortable desk will suffice. An animation disk
is not necessary, though backlight is sometimes useful.

 

06.     
Pin-Up Boards: For displaying sketches in continuity.

 

07.     
Push Pins: To pin up sketches

 

08.     
X-Acto™ Blade: For cutting Xerox copies before revising.

 

09.     
Erasers: Plastic or kneaded soft eraser: the plastic for
getting rid of drawings completely, the soft for lightening lines.

 

10.      
Model Sheets and Reference as needed.

11.       
Chair.

12.      
Overhead Light.

13.      
Pencil Sharpener.

 

It is also
important to keep your work area neat and easily accessible. Keep the desk
functional and as uncluttered as possible. Reference material should be pinned
up or displayed for use as you draw.

 

 


The Story Board:

 

A smooth visual flow is the
major objective in any film, especially if it is an animated one. Good
continuity depends on coordinating the action of the character, choreography,
scene changes and camera movement. All these different aspects cannot be
considered in isolation. They must work together to put across a story point.
Furthermore the right emphasis on such planning, including the behavior of the
character, must also be realized. The storyboard should serve as
a blueprint for any film project and as the first visual impression of the film.
It is at this stage that the major decisions are taken as far as the film’s
content is concerned. It is generally accepted that no production should proceed
until a satisfactory storyboard is achieved and most of the creative and
technical problems that may arise during the film’s production have been
considered

 

There is no strict rule, how
many sketches are required for a film. It depends on the type, character and
content of the project. A rough guideline is approximately 100 storyboard
sketches for each minute of film. If, however a film is technically complex the
number of sketches could double. For a TV commercial, more sketches are produced
as a rule because there are usually more scene changes and more action than in
longer films.

 

When developing the
storyboards, careful attention was paid to budgetary and creative constraints
designated by the client. Any solutions that allowed for greater efficiency and
better use of the budget without hurting the quality of product were worked into
the storyboard, while constantly aiming for increased action and overall
coolness. The storyboard process was critical, as it would fine tune the story
and serve as a point of reference throughout production. Major corrections and
story changes took place during this phase of the project to avoid making them
during vital parts of production down the road. Once the storyboards had been
approved, they were scanned and taken into Final Cut Pro to be edited into a 2D
animatic. The editing of the 2D animatic is where we first took a swing at the
trailer’s timing… roughly depicting the camera motion, as well as the actions of
the characters.

 

Storyboard Process Chart:

 

 

 

 

 

Whether from an original concept
or by buying rights to a book, a story must be developed to fit the proposed
duration of the movie. This in turn will be refined into a storyboard. A
storyboard shows sketches of the envisaged movie, each of which represents
perhaps 4-5 seconds of action, with the dialogue shown against each picture. A
shooting script and a timing chart are also normally produced. Model sheets are
also prepared. These show the major characters in different poses, from various
angles and with a variety of expressions. They will also show the coloring to be
used. In effect, the model sheet is the nearest an animator usually has to a
sculpture of the character. The model sheet is used to fix in the animator’s
mind how the character moves and what it looks like. This completes the design
phase.

 

Leica test or Animatic:

 

Leica test a somewhat dated term
is used for the first attempt to put together a film of the required length. As
there is no animation available yet, it is filmed from stills corresponding to
the storyboard, but each still is held for as long as the corresponding sequence
will take. A soundtrack will be added because the animators will work from the
timing of the sound, especially for dialogue but also for overall pace. The
result gives an impression of the movie. Weaknesses can be spotted and a
re-design can take place to rectify them.

 

Scene Staging:

 

Scene staging is the mapping out
of each scene, in particular the relationship between the characters and the
background elements. The backgrounds may well be prepared in full once this has
stabilized. Backgrounds are those elements, typically scenic, which are
unvarying across many frames and so can be painted in much more detail than can
a character. A good background can give a lot of visual richness to a scene or
can set a mood, as well as providing the correct context and contrast for the
main action. Backgrounds are often much larger than the frame size, to allow for
pan or zoom effects.

 

The term `staging’ is usually
reserved for the development of the viewpoint the animator is encouraging the
viewer to take. Staging is really the clear presentation of an idea which
includes avoiding anything which might distract the viewer’s attention or
placing characters, viewpoints, expressions etc, even the timing of a scene, so
that the viewer’s attention is engaged most directly. This use of the term
`staging’ really covers the design issues in setting a scene while scene staging
is about how to implement the design and may involve questions of how to break
down the scene into layers.

 

Drawing:

 

The next stage is thus to
produce the drawings for each cell in each frame. These are line drawings, not
colored, and were originally prepared on something which resembles tracing paper
with accurately-located holes for mechanical alignment. In the computer
environment a similar but more accurate process happens. This is done in three
phases. Firstly the extreme drawings are produced (key frames). These show the
major features of the action and are drawn by the main animator. Next the
computer creates the in-between frames, these then need careful checking and the
motion between the key frames is adjusted to generate the desired movement. Key
frames and tween frames can be quite rough, with lots of experimental
over-drawing, and will usually have to go through a clean-up stage.

 

Line test:

 

A line test is shot (nowadays
often onto video or reproduced on DVD) without the backgrounds, and still using
the line artwork. The purpose is to verify that the movements are correct and
that characters interact accurately. In some cases, this may reveal problems and
those sections will have to be reworked. If the line test is accepted, and on
film rather than video, it can then be spliced into the Leica test (animatic),
replacing the corresponding section of stills. The animatic thus evolves towards
the complete movie. Indeed those of us who are used to computers have to remind
ourselves that the product at any stage is simply the current piece of film: the
task of recreating this from the drawings is much greater than that of splicing
together computer files. At the end of the process, the film is the totality of
what is required: all of the drawings can be disposed of.

 

Ink and Paint:

 

The outlines are then colored.
In the computer environment color consistency is no longer a practical
difficulty: all characters will have their colors precisely defined so that they
can be mixed in a digital palette. Special paints are no longer needed either as
translucent and other special effects can now be controlled more accurately
within the digital environment.

 

Rendering:

 

The artwork for each frame is
now illuminated and shot within the computer environment. Some special effects
can be added at this stage but compositing and other effects are completed post
rendering. Unlike the original rostrum cameras which are physically massive and
only offer limited facilities for moving backgrounds, the digital camera offers
much greater flexibility and control; it also allows us to try ideas without
committing to the final shot, thus saving time and a lot of money.

 

Soundtrack:

 

The final soundtrack is then
synchronized with and added to the movie. At the outset, the sound was used to
drive the animation timing: in the end, the fine adjustments needed are made the
other way round.

 

 

A
Story Trick:

 

In storytelling, the timing of
ideas and actions is important to the audience’s understanding of the story at
any point in time. It is important that the animation be timed to stay either
slightly ahead of the audience’s understanding of what’s going on with the
story, or slightly behind. It makes the story much more interesting than staying
even with the audience. If the animation is too far ahead, the audience will be
confused; if the animation is too far behind, the audience will get bored; in
either case, their attention will wander.

 

Action timed to be slightly
ahead of the audience adds an element of suspense and surprise; it keeps them
guessing about what will happen next. An example of this is at the beginning of
Luxo Jr. Dad is on-screen, alone and still; the audience believes they are
looking at a plain inanimate lamp. Unexpectedly, a ball comes rolling in from
off-screen. At this point, both Dad and the audience are confused. The
audience’s interest is in what is to come next.

 

When the action is timed to be
slightly behind the audience, a story point is revealed to the audience before
the character knows it. The entertainment comes in seeing the character discover
what the audience already knows. Another application of this is with a
dim-witted character that is always behind; the audience figures it out before
he does.

 

Many of these tricks can be
used in concert in any given scene in order to achieve the strongest impact on
an audience. At the end of the dream sequence in Red’s Dream, Red juggles three
balls and catches them with a big finish; the crowd explodes into wild applause,
and Red takes his bows. Slowly the circus ring dissolves to the interior of the
bike shop, the sound of the applause fades into the sound of rain, and Red,
unaware, continues to take his bows. At this point, the audiences have not
caught on to what is happening because the timing of the action is slightly
ahead of the audience. As the room appears the large 50% OFF tag hanging from
Red’s seat. The animation of the tag is timed to be light in weight; it flops
around more actively than anything else in the scene. This contrast of action
directs the audience’s attention to the tag that is a subtle reminder that Red
is still in the bike shop. The audience is now ahead of the character and
watches Red discover where he really is. Red’s actions were timed to be slow,
accentuating his sad emotion. Timing made the story points clear, the emotion
stronger, and the character’s actions were a result of his thought process;
thus, the scene has a strong impact on the audience.


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