Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Storyboard Pro 2 Tutorial #4—Staging & Composition

Next in the series of tutorials is staging and composition. This involves planning the drawings to leave space for the characters and their actions. It also involves designing the props and background elements to aid in telling the story.

This shot may not make it into the final, but I composed it to show what Honey's doing in the bathroom while Luthor's waiting for her in bed.

One thing I know for sure: animation is PLANNING! This is the biggest difference between animation and live-action filmmaking. With live-action, there are surprises that one can potentially use in the final cut. With animation, there are NO surprises. Every single thing that one sees on the screen was planned in advance. Unless you draw something unexpected are do a strange tweak in Maya, your animation will come out exactly as you planned it. Due to the effort required to make animation, there's no time for guesswork.

That's why I'm spending soooo much time on the animatic. EVERYTHING is to be worked out in this stage so once I get to the animation, I can focus on the characters's performances and not whether or not their actions will fit the frame. That I would've already determined.

Without further ado, Sherm Cohen's tutorial about staging & composition is here.

Here's how I staged and composed a scene in my animatic:


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Animatic—Luthor Does LL Cool J Lip Lick

After studying some video screenshots of LL doing his signature lip lick and observing my mouth in a mirror, I was able to get this to work! I consider it an accomplishment because when I did this 8 months ago, it was seriously lacking. This lip lick version is only for the animatic; I can't wait to see it when it's fully animated!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

MAD Magazine Copying

I have ALWAYS LOVED the MAD Magazine style. I read MAD regularly in the 1980's, fascinated by the semi-realistic and amazingly accurate renderings of actors.

Around that time, I somehow came into the possession of a 1950's MAD paperback.


I loved how everything was drawn. The folds in the clothes, the expressions, the hands. Incredible. A lot of it was Mort Drucker, by the way.

Once I saw Will Eisner's work, I made a somewhat presumptuous decision—I wanted to draw like that!

Considering how NO ONE (I've seen, at least) draws like those guys anymore, I thought, why not me?

My first step in realizing this goal was to purchase lots of Will Eisner's work, including his how-to books.

The second step was to get the old MAD work. Luckily, I found a fantastic collection of MAD work—October 1952-December 2005—all on one DVD.

The third step…start drawing!

I've printed out a few pages of the first issue and I copy it while riding to and from work on the bus. I'm slowly learning some cartoon tricks that these dudes back then used, stuff you just don't see anymore.

I hope to make what's old new again, making my small contribution to the improvement of the animation industry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Index Card Storyboard/Doodles

Monday I posted some of my index card storyboard doodles. They started as an exercise and turned into a productive tool. 

I'm embracing the idea that storytelling does not involve vomiting out whatever first comes up and showing that to the world. I'm understanding and appreciating that creativity is a SEARCH for the BEST SOLUTION. I should already know that since I work as a graphic designer; in that discipline, there's always an immediate, first idea. But that's often not the best one. What's best is the idea communicates most effectively. And that's exactly what I'm doing with this film, searching for the best way to communicate my story.

I had decided that I wanted my animatic to be as well-drawn as I could make it so I could show it to the world proudly. But that decision is also holding up my process. 

So last weekend I pulled out a stack of 3"x 5" index cards that I had bought to help with my screenwriting. I read that putting scenes on cards was a helpful way to organize the chronology of one's story; cards can be easily moved around and reshuffled.

I thought I'd try something similar with my storyboard/animatic. I turned the cards to the blank side and quickly doodled every scene idea I had for the opening of the film. I ended up with about 100 cards similar to the ones above. I spread them on my dining table and shuffled them around, searching for the sequence of events that was most concise and most communicative.

It worked! What had originally been a long, involved opening sequence was now short, funny and to the point. By not focusing on doing great drawings but instead on what I wanted to communicate, I came up with a variety of ideas from which I was able to choose the best. I can always improve the drawings; what's important NOW is getting the story action solidified.

These scenes could still change, but I'm confident that I've explored all of the options and have chosen the best.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

John K Curriculum, Redux

Now that I've (temporarily) abandoned the Kimon Nicolaides "Drawing the Natural Way" curriculum, I've returned to another curriculum that I feel will have more immediate benefits—the John K cartoon course.

I did the entire course—explained here—during this past summer. But I was, as usual, in a hurry. I think I gave myself from several days to maybe one week for each lesson. I wanted to get to work on my film, dammit!

Since then I have genuinely seen an improvement in my drawing. So I decided that John K really does know what he's talking about and that maybe I should put more effort into his instructions. At this time, I'm still on Lesson One: Construction—The Head. It's getting me to automatically think 3D while drawing which makes the drawings look more solid and real.

I've also noticed that it's becoming easier for me to see if I've drawn something wrong. That's definitely a sign of improvement! 

Here's a recent effort:

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Been a Long Time, I Shouldn't Have Left You!

Sorry, folks, I didn't realize it'd been so long since my last post!

What have I been doing? See below:

I know, you're probably thinking that I've been away for two weeks drawing crummy little doodles, right?


I've been struggling with the best way to introduce the two main (human) characters in my film. I've tried all kinds of permutations. There have been times when I thought I had it! Then…it just doesn't work.

So I tried a simple method that focused on spitting out ideas quickly without the hindrance of self-criticism.

And it WORKED!!!

More about my method tomorrow.