- By Joy Davenport
- Published 03/17/2010
It has been said that the legendary director John Ford approached a film visually the way an artist would lay out a canvas. That is to say, if one were to freeze nearly any frame of a Ford film such as “The Quiet Man”, that frame would make a good painting. The balance and blocking are indeed remarkably like a painting from one of the great masters. How did Ford accomplish this, aside from his obvious genius? No doubt a storyboard existed in his mind as well as on the set. In order to achieve this result, Ford needed to accurately convey action in each of his scenes when storyboarding his shots. This process, known as pre-visualization, is key to determining the timing necessary for each shot, in addition to conveying positioning. Of course, there were no animation tools in Ford’s day capable of demonstrating the action elements to others. PowerProduction Software gives the modern film maker the necessary tools to overcome this limitation. A film maker can produce not just the still frames, but can construct the action sequences ahead of time and share that vision with others on the project. 1. When creating an animation for pre-vis, it is important to start with proper aspect ratio. This element is the basis for perspectives. Ford, of course, had a more or less set aspect ratio to work with in his day, but modern film makers must contend with the additional variables of aspect ratios in television and the web. Make sure the correct one is chosen. 2. A work saving tip for the animator is to use fewer than 24 frames per second. Traditional cartoon animators “shoot on twos”, or at 12 frames per second. However, to get a more fluid motion, one might try 15 frames per second, which will better convey action without choppiness and still save work. But be careful not to fool the human eye when saving work — it will naturally apply a certain amount of blur to moving objects, the result of a kind of natural latency. However, animated figures will still appear to be too “crisp” if motion blur is not properly applied in the animation. The storyboarder should work with this aspect in order to convey the proper sense of speed and urgency, a key emotional element in an action shot. 3. Also be efficient with colors. Save a few colors from the 256 color standard palette and set them aside for special purposes in the animation. This will save the animator much work when rendering similar elements which nonetheless have slight color differences.
Storyboarding is of course an essential tool of film makers. It serves not just to give the photographers and actors an idea of the storyline, it actually gives them, when properly done, a sense of the vision of the director. Angles, blocking, expressions, all of these may be transmitted in a fundamental way to the key players in a film project that goes beyond what words are capable of communicating. Film is after all a visual medium. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is particularly apt when talking about the importance of storyboarding.