View Full Version : Develope story & cinematographic decisions

08 August 2010, 03:51 PM
How should I beginn? Fist I have to apologize if something sounds confuse, thats because of my poor english skills.
Im going to start a big project - a 3d animated shortfilm. I try to develop my story and I have two big problems about that.

1. Its very hard to getting started with the story.
I always do it this way: first I have more a vision ore a scenario than a real idea in my head and a rough direction about the theme of the film. I have a certain feeling about the environment, the characters and the mood and im very enthusiastic about it. Before doing anything on paper, I try to develop my story in "real time" that means with all the timing, music, dramatic pauses, anticipation.....only in my imagination.That takes a lot of time. Then I draw a rough storyboard. From that moment iti s like, as somebody said: "it tries to be boring" and it is very different from my imagination.

2. I think its nearly impossible to preserve the initial idea, if you going to work on a cg-film for month (alone) and dont only have to make creative decisions - most time you are working on technical stuff and trouble shooting, you are loosing the artistic overview. As I said the initial idea happens in real time, the realisation of the film doesnt at all. The best method I know, is to develop a very strong previsualisation (I work with maya scene files and make rough animated playblasts with cubes and spheres representing my objects and characters so I have my camera animation, settings and timing).
So you have youre shots as milestones, and then you can focus on detail.

The hardest thing for me is to find a story and make the decision to start working only on this story - that means throwing away all the other super creative crazy little ideas, because you cant put them all in one story. What are youre creative strategies? I cant believe its possible, to develop ideas (that will excite your audience) sitting at a desktop in front of a white piece of paper.

So I watched a lot of films focusing on storytelling and cinematography and read books about that and any advices for books & tutorials are welcome. But I'd rather would start a discussion about that.

08 August 2010, 05:30 PM
That is a nice topic.
I'm no pro, so just take my words as a personal experience and nothing more :)

I'm in the middle of a short film project myself, building the models and recently finished the animatic.
The most important advice I can give, is to work, work, work and then work some more on the storyboard and more importantly the animatic.
I had a few limitations I put upon myself when I wanted to do a shortfilm. A theme I wanted to work with, and max of two characters, running time of 2-3 minutes (ended at 5) and such.
I to contact to a good friend of mine, that I know is really good at story and we share the same likes and dislikes and he was really fast at tuning in on what I wanted to tell, even though the first storyboard draft (a silly 13 drawings) didn't show it at all.
So find someone you can show your story to. Someone who isn't afraid of asking all the unpleasant questions and critic you.

The first I did when I had the bare bone premise was to write it down.
Then I started to elaborate on that - still in writing. Basically I tried to write it like a short story, explaining the environment, characters, thoughts, feelings, actions - whatever you want to show.
I cant believe its possible, to develop ideas (that will excite your audience) sitting at a desktop in front of a white piece of paper Sure you can. Great stories are written every single day :)

One I had the main story in writing, I started storyboarding it. When I had something _I_ thought represented the story, I showed it to my friend mentioned earlier and a few other trusted people. Right of the bat it was obvious I WASN'T showing what I had written. Some things worked better in pictures than words but others was completely lost in the translation.
From then on, it was just a matter of attacking the issues one at a time.
I quickly worked out an animatic and worked with that instead of storyboard - I get so much more out of it, when timing is involved.
Whenever something was solved other issues popped up and so it continiued.
In the end I worked a complete year of sparetime on the animatic that started in about one minute of length, topped at 7 and ended at 5.

It is close to impossible to maintain EXACTLY the initial idea, I can agree with that. But I don't think that is bad. For me anyways, looking at the initial work and then at the final, embarking on producing the initial idea would have been a waste of time.

You can storyboard, sketch or write down all the small ideas you have - I did so too. While working on the broad story perspective, I had an idea of a certain gesture the character should do, or a nice angle, and I just put it in there. Work big and small at the same time - what ever it takes.

Sorry, this is getting incredibly long, but I think this is a very interesting topic, and something I've been involved with a lot lately.
I hope it was to some use :)

Cheers from Denmark ;)

08 August 2010, 07:04 PM
Right of the bat it was obvious I WASN'T showing what I had written.
Yes...that happened to me, too. Thats very desillusioning and it doesnt show what I have in my head and what I was expecting, others would understand this.

Of course its important to talk with friends about ideas. But for some of them you have to take courage to tell them, cause they will kill your story in principle : "Hey, why not something more funny and colorful with flowers and gummy bears" :argh: Im able to take hard critiques, but in the end, it has to be a part of me, something I can identify with, because I have to work six months on it and its MY diploma.

With "impossible" I mean, for example there are things you can sometimes watch in real life, that are so unbelievable, that I couldnt imagine to develop these ideas at home at my desktop. And there are things Im sure they are worth to make a great film, but you cant write them with words because they are too subtle, or too crazy, or too abstract and its even hard to storyboarding them. I hope you know what I try to express, I think these ideas will always be the best. But at the same time its hard to defend tose ideas against professors, customers,...even to get them out of the own diffuse imagination or tell it other people.

08 August 2010, 08:51 PM
You have no idea how familiar your dilemma and way of working sounds to me. "The subtelties" that cant be put into words...That, I believe aswell, is something to persue and express in animation. So that it transcends "film with weird creatures" and becomes true animation.

I too have tried to express something I still cannot fully define. I believe I am getting there, but I also make no illusions that it is going to take quite some time. After long hours of thinking, contemplating, argueing with myself, I have come up with only two thruths:
1.bad things can grow into good things
2."nothing" cant grow into anything
Bottom line, MAKE IMAGES, destill from those what you like and make new images, repeat. You will not succeed the first time, so you will go over many itterations. This is very time consuming, especially with animation where every nuance matters. My advice to you is to talk to your professors. If you are serious about exploring that "impossible" thing, perhaps there is a better solution than a finished start-middle-end animation. Because 6 months is quite short for this. Some sort of research project where you tackle one aspect of it might be more productive.

08 August 2010, 05:11 AM
If you have ideas that are very hard to express via the visual medium, you can try using a more abstract visual narrative style utilizing visual analogies, like how poets use symbolism, metaphors, allegory...etc to convey something. But be careful to not get too heavy-handed because it could come off as pretentious or confusing.

I think for any project like this, you must have a very strong story, and very strong stories often only happen after numerous rewrites. Scrutinize your theme/motif, the conflicts and resolutions, the story arc, the pacing, and so on. Trim all the fat and make sure every single moment plays a specific role in the overall effectiveness of the story. Be absolutely sure it is not only entertaining, but ideally will make the audience think and feel, thus achieving beyond disposable entertainment that they'll forget as soon as they watch it and would never want to rewatch it again.

The storyboard is incredibly important because it allows you to essentially direct the whole thing on paper, and you can test out different pacing, camera work, lighting, color palette...etc all on paper. The better artist you are the more you can get out of your storyboards. I think they are in general more useful than 3D animatics for those who are good artists that can draw and paint very well, because you can make your storyboards look as close to your ideal lighting/color palette/stylization as your skill and knowledge allows, whereas animatics are restricted to using very primitive looking assets and scene/lighting setup since anything more elaborate will take much longer. But animatics are much better at testing out camera works though, since you can see thing play out in real-tme.

I personally feel that until you have a fully finished screenplay and storyboard (and animatics if needed), you really won't know if the whole thing is really as effective as you hope it would be. Without having everything worked out and locked down and achieving your target, you really shouldn't jump into any "official" production, otherwise you're likely to waste time producing material that would later get scrapped because you didn't have the entire structure worked out and locked down.

08 August 2010, 06:36 PM
Hi, I thought about it for a while, and @BasHe: you are so right. There are times, to be honest with myself, Im not able to come up with good stories and good ideas. But as one of my professor said about copy writing for advertising: begin to write and delete the first sentences afterwards. Thats so true for film stories and so much more if you have only a white paper in front of you.
"Make Images" is a good hint. This is the only thing you can work with, you can't work with diffuse visions in your head, you had two weeks ago.
"bad things can grow into good things"
That gives me hope :)

@Lunatique: what you said about storyboards is true. But somewhere in my pipeline must be a leak. And I think its exactly between my well executed 2D Storyboard and the final 3D footage :)

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