Monday, February 27, 2012

Design Inspirations

For this module it's been recommended that we read one of the books on the reading list we received at the start of the year: The Computer Game Design Course by Jim Thompson and Barnaby Berbank-Green. It details all the processes and elements of game design, from the importance of cut-scenes to what software is used in most companies today.

At this current point in my environment creation I'm most interested in gathering a variety of material for reference and inspiration. Helpfully, there's a chapter entitled Design inspirations. An important point here I've noted is that to be a successful designer, it is not enough to simply play a large number of video games, as this way you'll only end up creating more of what is already existing. To create inspiration and exciting ideas, it is vital that you have a wide range of appreciation for culture, for example in literature, art, history, religion and philosophy. For instance, a designer with a past interest in tabletop games is likely to have an appreciation for minutely-detailed RPG's. Combined with a passion for literature, there is the possibility of a richly narrated role-playing experience. This was the case for Warren Spector, one of the designers of Deus Ex. In this game there was also elements taken directly from real-world locations and subcultures: Hong Kong, and a dark cyberpunk-influenced visual style.

So, this information can be gathered from anywhere, although nowadays with the huge range of resources available through the internet, the web is often seen as the best starting point. Websites such as Wikipedia offer a great opportunity for designers to explore themes related to a specific idea to broaden their scope on the topic and give insights on where to investigate further. There are also many sites dedicated to game design which gives valuable information on production, and an in-depth analysis of what elements work and don't work within games, often from the point of view of designers themselves.

In terms of visual inspiration, it is invaluable to always have a digital camera and sketchbook on hand to capture any images of material that strikes your interest in day-to-day life. A key part of the design process is to build a collection of references: photographs, sketches, snippets of interesting information; anything that is found creatively stimulating, as it's always useful to return to when lacking ideas.

I found this website which gives a detailed look into the visual development of the title sequence for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Although obviously it is different to developing a game, many of the methods of gathering resources and inspiration cross over between media. It's also interesting to learn of the relationship between director and designer. In this example, Fincher gave a very vague brief of wanting the scene to be like "a fever dream, with a lot of abstract imagery"... "CG, very adult, super dark, leather, skin, blood, snow,"

From this the designers created a series of moodboards, a vital part of the design process for grouping together ideas to get feedback from the director. A moodboard is a range of collected images (and possibly words) which represent the idea, style and mood hoping to be reflected in the project, and are used to quickly communicate aspirations and serve as a constant reminder of concepts.

examples of moodboards for the title sequence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

At this point, Fincher was drawn to the black liquid idea, and so the designers were able to develop this specific concept further. Following further communication between artist and director, a series of storyboards was then developed and finally production began. 

Reading this interview has given valuable insight into how to document a range of reference images in a series of moodboards, which I can then take elements from and begin to incorporate my own ideas.

I realised in my previous module on character design that I didn't spend enough time experimenting and building upon different concepts, and instead was quite fixed to a visual theme I found early in the process. I'm hoping not to repeat this and to consider many different possibilities. Seeing as I haven't decided yet on which theme to follow, I've decided to put together two different sets of mood boards, which I'll write about in another post. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cartoony vs. Realism?

I am hoping to approach this new module with an open mind, without falling into my "comfort zone". Before exploring concept ideas for the themes, I've been interested in having a look at how the game industry approaches the stylisation of their games. I found another very interesting article on Gamasutra which breaks down the definition of "cartoony" - a very vague and unhelpful definition - into more understandable and clear terms.

The article suggests that the gaming industry's current relentless drive to make contemporary games as realistic as possible stems from the fact that, when these developers were experiencing games in the past, they were heavily limited to a very simplistic, garishly coloured style, and so with the advancement of technology they see it as necessary to break away from this as far as possible. Generally speaking, a modern "gamer" will believe that the more realistic a game is, the higher it's quality, with the majority of styled "cartoony" games tending to be aimed at younger audiences. Quickly looking at IGN's top Xbox 360 games from the past 6 months, it is possible to see that cartoony games often are only available from the 360 Arcade (Joe Danger, Warp, Puddle), and/or tend to be 2D side-scrollers (Rayman Origins, Bloodrayne: Betrayal, Shank 2).This all suggests that the style isn't perhaps seen as suitable for an innovative, full-length, high-quality gaming experience; instead, games which strive for realism such as Crysis 2 or Skyrim are seen as graphical hallmarks that demonstrate the medium's true artistic capabilities.

which style would be seen as more likely to offer a quality gaming experience?

Of course, this is quite a major generalisation, and looking at the Top 10 Best Looking Games of E3 2011 it is clear that there is a variety of styles considered, from the photorealism of Battlefield 3 to the highly graphical styles of Rayman Origins (which is quite deftly described as an "interactive cartoon") and Journey. Cartoon games which are praised and valued for battling gaming conventions (Journey, Limbo) are often short in length, quite abstract and open to interpretation, more like an interactive work of art rather than an extensive experience of a story, but perhaps it does hint at a future for a deeper experience of games that are also in this style.

However, as the article I linked earlier suggests, these definitions of "cartoon" and "realistic" are highly problematic. Many games which are valued for quality of storytelling as well as art style can't exactly be said to be realistic: titles such as those from the Final Fantasy series, or Bayonetta, for instance. Having a look at a demo of the upcoming console the Wii-U, there's an example of some beautiful graphical capabilities existing in a "cartoony" world in this Zelda video. Although it has been said that the final game might not look like this, it's still a good example of how a stylised game can still be incredibly cinematic and exciting. 

This is where the style definitions given in the article are helpful. On top of realism, we have, to differing extents:
  • Enhanced Realism
    • Proportions and details kept realistic
    • Increased contrast between light and shadow
    • Increased color saturation

    e.g. Gears of War, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and games that are stylised whilst retaining a very human quality, like seen in the above demo of Zelda

    Bayonetta probably more accurately falls between enhanced and distorted realism. I would place it under enhanced because the world is styled and textured in a way that we recognise, and feels tangible. 

  • Simplified Realism
    • Increased contrast
    • Increased saturation
    • Fewer and distortedly large details
    • Color ranges, patterns and shapes simplified to clichés

    e.g. games often associated with being "cartoony" like Animal Crossing, games from franchises such as Mario or Pokemon.

  • Distorted Realism
    • Shapes and internal proportions are violently distorted
    • Increased contrast
    • Increased saturation

    e.g. Psychonauts, Ratchet and Clank, perhaps Alice: Madness Returns.

  • Different combinations of the above...
Following this research I can see that, personally, I'm probably most interested in pursuing a style somewhere between distorted and enhanced realism. I'm fascinated with the idea of creating a three-dimensional world that offers a meaningful experience, whilst being quite fantastical and distorted. I'm interested to see where a beautifully dark style like the one seen in Alice: Madness Returns could go in other games.

Of course, for this project I am trying not to get too carried away with my ideas as I'm aware of my limited experience of 3D modelling software. The three themes we could choose from include a fairytale setting and a crashed UFO site, and I was very much drawn to the fairytale setting as it seems to offer the most creative freedom, but I'm now aware that I could take the UFO site and take that in many directions as well. I'm going to have to brainstorm...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Western Sunrise by Art Decade

A quick look at how new technology such as that available on the iPad is having an impact on the world of animation and filmmaking. This foundations for this music video for the band Art Decade was made entirely on an iPad 2 using the app Procreate.

Director Whitney Alexander talks about the benefits of an iPad over many traditional means for storyboard artists: as it takes away the need for sketching, scanning, etc. all of the design work is immediately input into a digital medium which allows it to quickly be exported as different file types and shared with others over the internet. He also says that for indie companies where budgets may not allow for the continuous purchasing of supplies, technology such as the iPad instead offers a more versatile and portable way of working for all manner of artists, designers, animators and filmmakers.

For me, this begins to raise some questions about an issue in the art and design industry: what is the future of traditional mediums? It seems that many concept artists are favouring the use of an iPad over a sketchbook and pencil for sketching "on the go"; on many of the artist's blogs I follow, colour and landscape studies are done using this tablet because of it's convenience. Many unique textures and effects can be created with paint, pastel, etc. which, although can be mimicked digitally to look almost identical (like the impressionist effect created in this video), still won't hold that special, organic quality and I find it sad to see that this method of working seems to be fading. Of course, from a practical perspective, it's clear to see that creating a video such as this with paints would be much more time-consuming, expensive and difficult to manage, so it is expected that many companies working to deadlines may largely be favouring the all-digital approach. But, there does seem to be a considerable number staying loyal to traditional materials, at least for the initial design processes to help work through ideas, as they value the unique effect that it brings; will it ever truly be replaced by digital media?

The importance of the environment in Bioshock

Whilst browsing for some ideas on how the game industry currently process environment design, I came across this article on the nature of the storytelling in Ken Levine's Bioshock. Although largely detailing the exemplary character interaction apparent in the series, it also goes into some detail of the significance of the environment as a character in itself.

"The original BioShock stands as a sterling example of environment-as-character. The city of Rapture, with its mad scrawling on walls and atmosphere of deteriorated grandeur, told the story as much or more than the audio logs salted throughout the game, or the radio conversations with supporting characters. The strongest character in the traditional sense in BioShock, city founder Andrew Ryan, was mostly a disembodied voice."

Although unfortunately I haven't played this series yet, it seems like one of it's significant immersive qualities is the way in which it has captured a specific time-period with it's grandiose, Art Deco style, but it's deteriorated and dilapidated state moves the player to experience something new, haunting and unexpected.

Levine has stated 20th century utopian and dystopian fiction as a big influence for depicting this society which has "really interesting ideas screwed up by the fact that we're people", and this is clear through the way the narrative is reflected in the environment. Eerie, consumerism-feeding advertisements and posters cover the walls of the "working-class" areas of the city, showing how they were being cruelly influenced and dictated by the city's sinister leader. The player is able to experience the faded history of the city's past inhabitants through these details in the setting, which makes it all the more intriguing and fascinating.

I found a very interesting Youtube video which states this, and just about everything else that is important and unique about the environment design in this particular example.

The creator of the video explains how even though the design elements of Rapture serve no real purpose to story progression, the player's personal interpretation of the story of Rapture and it's decline is influenced by their interaction and experience of these elements. They also debate the reasons behind the choice of Art Deco, as it might seem quite historically inaccurate; Rapture was built in the 40s, by which point Art Deco was outdated and could seem an ill-fitting choice for a city which was focussed on a prosperous, innovative future. However the sentiments associated with Art Deco - of an expectation of the future and the enjoyment of new-found luxury - seem to fit seamlessly into the crumbling Bioshock world and offer a beautifully disturbing contrast.

I also found a video featuring the leading environment artist of Bioshock 2, who goes into detail of his choice of design and the story behind the elements used. A very important aspect of environment design is to consider why the world is like it is; the narrative will influence the position and state of every single environmental element within the game and also means that the player is experiencing this world as accurately as possible, which signifies better game design.


We have begun our new module on "Game Art Essentials"! In this module we'll be using the game engine software Unity to create a playable game environment based on one of three themes which we can choose. The final product will be able to be run as an executable file from any computer and also on a web-based player, which is quite exciting and shows how Unity can be used in many ways to showcase 3D work.

To introduce ourselves to Unity, we spent our first session building a shipyard environment, using cubes to make most of the assets. It was surprisingly easy to use and many of the hot-keys and tools were similar to Maya (which will be the main modelling tool for our game environments). A useful aspect of Unity is that it is very quick and easy to switch to the playable game view to get an impression of what your environment will be like, and make alterations accordingly without any lengthy render times being involved.

We experimented with our shipyard scene and added water, light and fog effects to create a specific atmosphere. I decided to go for a foggy, night-time effect and added a light onto my first-person camera to give the impression of a torch (though I think it's a little too bright). Here it is:

(well, the web-based player is being erratic and sometimes working then deciding not to work, but I'll leave it here anyway)

Unity Web Player | shipyard

Monday, February 20, 2012

High Culture / Low Culture and "Avant-Garde"

defining avant-garde

The concept of "avant-garde" is a prevalent one in the art world, but what exactly does it mean? A dictionary definition states it to be an adjective declaring something as "unorthodox, daring, radical"; "of or pertaining to the experimental treatment of artistic, musical or literary material"; and also as a noun to describe "the advance group in any field, especially in the visual, literary or musical arts, whose works are characterized chiefly by unorthodox and experimental methods".

So, more generally, it means:

1. Being "avant-garde" in the work that you do - challenging, progressive, innovative, etc.
2. Being a part of a group dedicated to innovation - being a member of the "avant-garde"

This is reminiscient of the definitions of modernism, where all art and design sought to be progressive, novel and innovative; some consider that the idea of avant-garde is a hallmark of modernism as these same values are applied. 

However, the term is now used in many spheres outside of art culture, and so it's true impact and meaning has been lost. Hundreds of businesses utilise the term "avant-garde" to draw in customers and give the impression of being contemporary, for example Avantgarde Cars, Avantgarde Jewellery, etc. when, truly, they aren't seeking to be challenging and innovative and so aren't valuing the term's true definition.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I recently joined Tumblr and I'm sure many can relate when I say I find it very addictive. I decided to make a blog for reblogging illustrations or anything inspirational:
and also one for my own art,

I've lost interest in websites such as DeviantArt as I find the interface quite awkward and unappealing, but Tumblr is simple, clean and customisable. I also have found that my work is spread quicker due to the chain-reaction nature of Tumblr's liking and reblogging system, which is more beneficial for earning recognition than DA. I've decided I'll be uploading all my art to here rather than DA from now on.

(My art blog is looking a little bare at the minute, but I'm in the process of organising, scanning, etc. things to showcase)

So yes, feel free to have a look/follow/stalk/ignore/etc. to your heart's content...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

some paintings...

Spent a few hours today making this creepy, wonky face on Photoshop. 
(full view is slightly more interesting)

And this pixie alien.

Well, the point of these was really just to try and get back into a flow of regularly making digital work, but to also practice and work on the interaction of colours. I still heavily depended on adjustment layers to get the colouring right as initially it was very bland and dark. I might really have to look into studying some colour theory in my spare time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Artists: Jasper Sandner

Jasper Sandner is a freelance illustrator who works in character design and fantasy art. I was drawn to the somewhat gritty realism of his style, and how that contrasts with the more colourful, fantasy elements. His work shows particular proficiency in shading and showing the light and shadow values in the form. 

A more personal look at work, speed paintings, art tests, etc. is found on his blog, for example here we can see how he experimented with silhouettes to see what would create the most interesting and dynamic form in his character. I'll be sure to have a closer look at his processes and tutorials! 

Artists: Johan Wahlbäck

Johan Wahlbäck, featured on, is a concept artist who works for Southend Interactive and has contributed to art on the game Bloodline Champions, amongst others. Something I really admire is his ability to effortlessly shift between styles - sometimes his work is graphical with strong lines, more suited to cartoons; other times it is highly detailed and realistic. 

At his portfolio site I browsed through his work, which ranges from silhouette sketches to weapon concepts, to completed illustrations. Something I'm particularly noting is how he expresses initial ideas for concepts in ways that are easy to understand. (A problem of mine is that all my sketches tend to be messy sometimes to the point of being incomprehensible...)

Finally, it's done...

My first 3D CG animation! (in terrible quality :( )

So there is one blatant error here that I didn't notice (somehow) until after rendering - when he draws his sword he's floating in the air. I don't think I realised on Maya as the action is so quick I wasn't paying very much attention to his lower half. Lesson learned...

There are still plenty of things I'd like to have improved. Firstly it's too short. If I'd managed my time more effectively I would really have liked to have learnt how to properly edit UV textures so that I could make the entire film have a more distinct style reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet. I'd also of course have liked to make him a little helmet or even suit of armour, and then in the last scene show that it's in fact just made out of foil/cardboard. I also generally think there needed to be a little more movement to demonstrate the principles of animation.

I'm not even entirely sure if the narrative itself is very clear, so I probably could have done that a little differently - I'll find out when I get feedback.

But, even with all these slight faults, I'm happy with it as when we started this project I didn't think I'd ever be able to achieve making a CG animated short clip. Although it's been stressful at times (mainly down to my bad organisation and time management, as usual) I have really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to making more and developing my skills.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


So when I altered my Sackboy model to add a belt and sword, I decided to have a go at another walk cycle. This time I used more exaggerated deformers on the arms and legs, and also included a whole body squash and stretch, to give his movements a more over-the-top animated appearance. 

I also used a squash deformer on the clouds in the background - obviously this isn't very realistic, but again, I wanted to emphasize the animation to make it more fitted to the character's cartoonish style.

I spent some time working on the camera movements and angles. As I'm trying to achieve a cinematic feel in the first part of the animation, I wanted to use sweeping camera movements that accentuate his actions, so, for example when he draws his sword, I switched the camera angle quite dramatically.

In this clip it's also noticeable that I added an idle breathing motion. This means that he's never stood completely still and therefore appears a bit more lifelike.

Dark lighting

Following the crit, my tutor suggested that for the desk scene where it is supposed to be dark, I use a dark blue tinted light. I've been experimenting with these results:

I do think it more effectively gives the impression of night-time, whilst still ensuring everything is visible, so I will be using this style of light in my animation. However I still can't seem to get the correct shadows, even though they are enabled they look barely visible on the background props. I increased the light radius and  number of shadow rays as I wanted them to look softer and more realistic, and I do like how this has been achieved for the lamp, but clearly I'm not doing something right. Perhaps I haven't set up enough lights. But, time is of the essence now so I am going to focus on the animation.

I've also added cardboard textures to the background props. I'd have liked to have painted some rough cloud/tree/castle designs onto the cardboard, so it looks as if he had created and painted them himself, but I found it quite difficult to distinguish what went where on the UV maps. I'll definitely have to practice this in my own time so I can use my own textures in future animations.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Modelling helmets is difficult.

Or, at least, it is for me.

I've spent a horrible amount of time today trying to get something that even just looks acceptable, but it seems I can't at my current skill level and with the amount of time I have...

I tried a method of modelling it around Sackboy's head, but, well, this happened.

So I modelled one separately (using a reference, but somehow it came out looking completely different), and, presumably, it didn't fit his head at all, and just looked wrong.

So, as I'm really worried about time now, I'm just leaving him with a simple sword and belt, and hoping even if he doesn't look like a knight he'll at least look like some sort of adventurer.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Looking at the professionals...

This is quite a long video but it gives a really in-depth look at the processes of a small indie animation company, from going out in the world to find references to textures, to collaborating with other artists to achieve the best results. Although it doesn't go into a lot of detail about animating itself, it's still great to see them working on the models and rigging, and I always find it strangely reassuring having glimpses into seeing how professional artists use the simplest of things - a photo of a tree, their own reflection in a mirror - as the basis of big inspiration, ideas and guidance.

And this little video from the production of Toy Story 3. There's no dialogue or explanations here, but again, an interesting glimpse into how professional animators work.

These videos highlight the fact that reference for computer animation needs to be taken from real life, whether it's a cuddly toy with the correct texture and weight, or a video capturing the movements of a person falling over. Although the aim might not to be to imitate life, the reference is still necessary for capturing that "spark" that gives the illusion of believable movement and emotion.

Updated storyboards, and finally... starting to animate!

So I coloured in my storyboards and re-drew some shots so that they were a little more dynamic.

I've spent most of today working on some basic drafts of the animation, I Playblasted some shots and  edited them together with some quick music and sound effects to get a general - really rough - idea of how the finished outcome might look. I haven't worked on any animation for the desk scene yet so I've just popped in my storyboard drawing.

I ended up tweaking the speeds of the shots as many of them were far too fast and I need to fill out the time. I'm still a bit concerned, so in the final shot I'm going to have Sackboy throw his sword down in a strop, or something similar. 

I'm aware this probably just looks a little silly in it's current state, but I'm hoping the final product will make more sense. 

I'll just note that in the shot where he raises his sword, his head is bobbing because I'd set that on a loop for the walk cycle, and couldn't figure out how to turn it off. (I have now figured it out...). 

There's still quite a few things that need developing:
  • The general animation, especially when he raises his sword. I need to be demonstrating more principles. I'm going to add in facial expressions, I think I'll add more deformers and alter his walk cycle. 
  • For the first scene I need Sackboy to maybe be wearing some sort of helmet or armour to make it clear he's a knight. I've already tried to model a helmet but I gave up, but I think it's necessary for the concept. 
  • I'd also like to, after the cloud shot, lower the camera to an establishing shot of the castle and scenery, with the camera moving.
  • I'm going to add in an idle animation for when he's standing. 
  • I obviously need to work on the lighting.
Work, work, work...


Fantasy landscape cont.

I developed the fantasy landscape so that the castle is more obvious. I've also altered the lighting so it's a little more varied, however I still can't seem to get the shadows quite right. I think my light isn't placed in the correct place, so the shadows fall slightly awkwardly onto the scene. I also think I need to make them blend in a bit more neatly so that they aren't as dark and defined, as they looks like the sort of shadows you might get from an indoor spotlight.

As I've mentioned, if I have some time left after completing the animation then I will look into adding UV textures onto the models so that they're more interesting and stylised.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Dragonboy" and "850 Meters"

I've been having a browse for any animated films that might be relevant to what I'm trying to achieve in my own. I came across DragonBoy on Vimeo.

Dragonboy from Dragon Boy on Vimeo.

There's a few things I really like here that might inspire some of the decisions in my film. First off is the music, which is typically cinematic and reflects the innocence of  the princess, sinisterness of the knight, and heroism of the dragon, etc.

I'd like to find something quite dramatic and heroic for my film, as I think it will contrast well with the character and the realisation that it is in fact just a toy.

The next thing I found myself drawn to was the "set" on the stage in the film, the cardboard cut-out castle, sky, trees. I haven't considered adding UV textures to my models as my primary concern is getting the animation complete, but if there is time I'd really like to add more detail onto them so that the theme and handmade "look" of the film is more obvious and effectively drawn together.

Going on the whole medieval theme I also found this.

850 METERS teaser from THURISTAR on Vimeo.

I instantly fell in love with this teaser because of it's fantastic art style, music and humour. The dramatic slow-motion completely contrasts the fact that the knight is useless at being... well, a knight. I had a closer look into the company, THURISTAR, and the other videos that they have available. As they produced the film, they also usefully shot a "making of" film which gives a really interesting look at the processes behind a project such as this. Here's one of the episodes which follows the creation of the storyboards, from drawings to animatics.

850 METERS, the making-of : #2 Storyboard and Animatic (VOST-FR) from THURISTAR on Vimeo.

I'd love to be able to go into this amount of detail in my film's design. Although this isn't possible right now, the cartoonish movements and over-the-top heroism of the character is inspiring and I will try to place elements of this into my film.

Knight Animation Test from Mummu on Vimeo.

Also, a short animation test of a knight character, which gives me ideas for the sorts of movements I will be including. I was wanting Sackboy to draw his sword and dramatically brandish it across the sky, so it would be useful to have some sort of reference for this.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The process of storyboarding

A storyboard is a sequence of images which represents the intended shots of a film. It depicts how the filmmaker intends to shoot and frame the film, and illustrates camera movements such as zooming and panning. A completed storyboard should accurately give a clear idea of how shots will work and link together, and should be understandable to anyone.

In the book Teaching Digital Video Production, there are a list of tips for students learning to storyboard.
  • Use small frames - this makes drawing the storyboard quicker and means that your drawing skills are not assessed, only the clarity of your ideas.
  • Photocopy a set of storybard sheets - then you do not have to worry about continually redrawing frame outlines.
  • Draw in pencil - this allows you to make changes easily; if you are going to photocopy the sheets remember to ink them first as pencil does not photocopy well.
  • Number the shots - this makes it easier when you are editing and helps you bin unwanted shots.
  • Make short notes - as mentioned above add some brief directions, eg ZOE enters from left, or camera to track BEN
  • Note down the camera position - this will make setting up the shot quicker and easier.
They are a crucial aspect of filmmaking to ensure that the shots effectively tell the narrative. I read a blog entry from director Zack Snyder, who details the importance of storyboards during the shooting of Watchmen.

"Storyboards play a vital part in my process long before I start sharing them with my team. I’ve always storyboarded my commercials and movies. It is a key part of my process for envisioning the entire film from beginning to end. In addition to using that drawing time to figure out blocking and action, it is also when I can begin to get a sense of whether the dialog and pacing are working. As you can see from these frames, my storyboards aren’t necessarily super-finished art pieces on their own. I often find that the frames that get the most detail are the ones where I’m stalling - thinking of the next shots. In contrast, if I already have a sequence sorted out in my head, the boards tend to be much sketchier."

"Once completed, the boards play a key role throughout pre-production, mapping out every frame that I intend to shoot. Visually presenting the what, where, why, who, when, etc. of every frame. This gives us a starting point for discussions. As we break down each frame, department by department, they help clarify everyone’s responsibilities, needs and expectations. The boards often spur discussions that raise important questions. Many times the answers to these questions are crucial to a successful shoot. Once we finish pre-production and start shooting, mini storyboard sides are distributed to the crew at the beginning of each day. Many of us refer back to them countless times on any given day."


It is clear that the frames are vital for every department involved in the filmmaking, as it describes to them everything they need to prepare and shoot the shot. Without effective storyboarding, a film runs the risk of appearing aimless, the shot styles may not work for the scene, and overall it will look much less polished.

So are drawing skills important in storyboarding? Not entirely; initially it allows the filmmaker to experiment and gives them the opportunity to work through various ideas before committing them to film. The only thing to avoid is drawing stick figures, as there needs to be some indication of how a person will fit a frame using perspective. Rough outlines, similar to Snyder's above, are ideal. These could go on to be refined by an artist, however this does include the risk of some crucial details being lost.

Other steps to this process include the creation of floorplans, which are useful for scenes which feature a lot of action or movement as it gives a practical indication of where the cameras will be placed and/or how they will move to follow the action, as seen below.

To develop a storyboard further, indicating the lighting, tones and values of a scene will really help reflect the mood that is trying to be conveyed. For a scene where lighting is a crucial element, it may be the main focus of the storyboard artist. Alfred Hitchcock is famous for his use of lighting and silhouettes, and so it's unsurprising that his storyboards carefully detail it in a highly skilled way. Here are the ones for, of course, the shower murder scene from Psycho, and also the tower scene from Vertigo.

In terms of our project, the storyboards I created (here's a quick link to the posts) were the result of a discussion about the sorts of elements we'd like in the film, and weren't intended to be a finished product, therefore they aren't very refined as I was focussing more on experimenting with ideas. For the first film, I did pay some attention to the sorts of lighting that might be included; I knew the film was to be quite moody and dark because of the less than happy story.

Another aspect I've looked at with this role is creating moodboards. These could be collages of existing images, a series of colour swatches or something similar to give an idea of the atmosphere that will be expressed in the film. I always like to see the ones that big animation companies create in planning the colour scheme for their films, like this one below for The Incredibles. Animated features tend to alter their colour palettes much more obviously than live action to fit the changes in mood within the narrative, so if it's a miserable atmosphere it tends to be grey and dull, happy is vivid and bright, etc.

There isn't too much actual detail within these pieces, just an overview of the colour schemes for each part of the film.

The final important part of storyboarding is creating an animatic. This is essentially compositing all the sketches together into an animation or film editing program, and creating a very rough version of the film. The length of time that the sketches stay on screen will reflect how long and short the shots need to be, as seen in the below example.

Instructional Video

Due to the unforeseen amount of work involved in the other two videos and in the animation module, I unfortunately abandoned the pixilation idea for my instructional video, however I was still determined to create something that was interesting as well as instructional to watch.

In my film I'll be teaching how to make cake in a mug. Most of the videos on the internet that already do this simply film a person guiding you through the process, and speaking as they do so, like the one below.


Although this can be more helpful and detailed, our videos have to be one minute in length, and so I'm really going to reinforce the speediness of this recipe by going through it with only on-screen text for guidance. 

I created some storyboards to reflect what I wanted in my film, generally I'd like to keep it simple and somewhat minimalistic. I'm going to avoid using too many unnecessary camera movements and techniques, although I may include some jump cuts to save time between mundane tasks such as stirring and pouring ingredients. I may also make use of speeding up some shots to switch up the pace of the video slightly and make it more engaging.