For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

No. 104, Crazy for Storyboarding

For about three weeks I have been neglecting this blog, but not because of disinterest or laziness; it is for the best of reasons: because I have been energetically forging ahead in drawing the storyboards for another long sequence in my work-in-progress short film, Carry On.

Unlike the previous one, this sequence will not be published as an animatic on You Tube for all to see. It contains too many plot spoilers, and you'll forgive me if I want to keep everyone in suspense.

However, I will now show you a few of the images, with comments.

Making It Happen Offscreen

Animators love to animate, but because it is such a lot of work, we look for ways oftentimes not to animate--that is, not to show the obvious.  Here we want to show that our main character, the Old Man, is slowly moving forward in a line of airline passengers at a security checkpoint. Having shown other passengers in a long pan that moves gradually toward the head of the line, we finally come to a framing where we can see the Old Man's steamer trunk in front of an ill-tempered man. The trunk then slides out of the frame, and we cut to a wider shot of the angry man moving forward to close up the space. Only then do we pan to the right again and show the Old Man himself now at the head of the line.
The Old Man moves forward--but it happens off screen.
The angry man and some of the other passengers we have seen will now be used for reaction shots to what follows, and we have avoided some tedious animation of the old man towing his trunk. That action has been shown in the previous sequences and will be easy for the viewer to imagine.


The old man is seen in two shots putting on a tight-fitting pair of leather gloves. The first shot will mainly show the wiggling fingers of the right hand as he forces the glove on. The second shot does the same for the left hand, with a variation on the pose. A passenger reaction shot (the Angry Man) will separate the two glove shots, emphasizing the impatience of the other passengers to the slow and deliberate ways of the Old Man.

The Angry Man shows impatience with the Old Man's deliberate ways.

The Big Rope

The Old Man has already been seen towing his heavy trunk through the airport bare-handed. Now he has chosen to put on the gloves in order to handle another rope. It is a rope as thin as the one he has already used, and I want to make a joke about that, so first we see him with the gloves on, ready to go to work, and we pan to the right, revealing what looks like a thick and heavy rope hanging down. When the Old Man reaches for it, however, we see that in fact the rope is close to the camera and only appears to be big.

The big rope that turns out to be small.

An Homage to Bogie

Here I wanted to show the Old Man making some gesture of self assurance as he waits for something to happen, and I got the idea of having him hitch up his trousers as Humphrey Bogart's characters used to do in his old movies.

The Old Man does Bogie.

This one drawing assures me that the gesture will be effective.

In conclusion...

These are the sorts of useful things that occur to the thoughtful storyboard artist as she or he draws the panels, redraws the panels, or stands back looking at the panels in sequence on a board. Often a simple rearrangement of drawings provides an improved sequence, or the insertion of a reaction shot in a different place. Creating a storyboard should be thought of as a constantly evolving process, until the most effective possible combination of shots, angles and movement within shots has been achieved.

Of course, after the storyboard has been organized into an animatic, with timing and sound, still more needed changes will likely become obvious. But that is another story...

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