The human eye is drawn to the area of greatest contrast just as it is naturally drawn to the optical center of the frame. The most dramatic contrast is between black and white as shown in Figure 10-13, but this principle applies even if your tonal values are relatively close, as Figure 10-14 demonstrates. No matter how close the values, the characters will stand out from the backgrounds.
[Fig. 10-13, Fig. 10-14] A screaming gal in a monster movie and a screaming gull in a beach picture. The eye immediately goes to the areas of greatest tonal contrast even when the values are close, as shown in Figure 10-14.
I recommend that you use pencil, graphite, or charcoal to apply tones. It’s relatively easy to take an eraser to a board that is done in graphite or charcoal and “carve out” lighter values and highlights. The strongest tones should be applied to the most important part of the composition. Do not emphasize backgrounds at the expense of the characters. Let’s look at a few examples of ‘what not to do’ in storyboard.
MISTAKEN IDENTITIES: Your storyboards should be staged as clearly and simply as possible. Overly complex staging can obscure the meaning of the sequence and make the boards harder to read. The basic rules of good composition apply to storyboards just as they do in any visual medium: don’t jam things into the corners of the frame, don’t misdirect the viewer’s eye, and make sure that your meaning is clearly conveyed through silhouette value, composition, tone, value and (if necessary) color.
Here are some common mistakes from beginners’ storyboards. Panel 1 of Figure 10-15 is poorly staged and has no clearly defined center of interest—are we supposed to look at the characters, or at the view outside the window? The silhouette value on the houses is very good; this draws our eye to the background. Unless your scene is about the houses, this is misdirection. There are strong vertical and horizontal lines leading us AWAY from the intended center of interest (the bowl) which is poorly situated at the very bottom of the frame. The characters are stuck in the corners while the houses are framed by the window. If they are not important, you should not direct the eye toward them. One of the characters appears to be part of the window and curtain. Anything at the bottom, or edge, of the frame will be lost to screen cut-ins. Never put anything important there. Panel 2 is an extreme close-up of… whose eye? It is not possible to tell here. Extreme close-ups are like chili pepper… they should be used as a garnish, and not too much. Cutting from long shots to extreme close-ups is bad fi lm grammar and should be avoided. Panels 3 and 4 stage the same action clearly. The emphasis is on the character acting; there is just enough background to tell us where we are, and the close-up works logically out of the previous scene.
[Fig. 10-15] The panels on the right are better than the ones on the left. Do not emphasize the wrong areas of the frame with inappropriate detail or tone; the most important areas should have the greatest contrast. Good composition is also important.
Panels 5 and 6 of Figure 10-15 both show poor silhouette value. Silhouette value does not mean that the character MUST be a black or white shape surrounded by light or dark backgrounds! Put the strongest contrasts on the most important aspect of the frame. Panel 7 is ‘just right’.
It’s very hard to change a tonal value on a board that’s been done in marker. This is not an issue if you are comfortable with this medium and don’t mind doing your boards over again when changes are made. A marker board appears in Figure 10-16.
[Fig. 10-16] An example of a storyboard with tonal values done in marker. This effect is easy to achieve in a computer graphics program.
Storyboards are now frequently drawn on computer, which has benefits (it’s very easy to apply and change tonal values or resize elements in the frame). The new technology also has its problems. The computer screen’s small size makes it difficult to view more than two or three panels at a time In contrast, a full-sized, wall-mounted storyboard can display a hundred panels simultaneously. This makes it easier to view the sequence as a whole and allows the storyboard artist and the audience to rearrange the panels in real time during the turnover session that follows the pitch. Digital Leica reels, created at the same time as digital boards in some programs, will only show one storyboard panel at a time during the pitch. This means that the audience must remember what storyboard came ‘where’ during the post-pitch discussion. They will tend to write notes suggesting changes rather than actually sketch new panels and place them over old ones, as is done with wall-mounted boards. Drawn panels pinned to the wall are the easiest way for a group of people to view all of the artwork in a sequence at once during a pitch or turnover session and quickly draw or suggest changes. Paper storyboards can be easily and inexpensively changed by adding, rearranging, or deleting panels during the turnover. The story crew is not dependent on the availability or functionality of software, hardware, codecs, or operating systems. Computer graphics programs can easily resize, flop, change tones, and re-composite existing artwork when you create the story reel or animatic. They are invaluable aids to animation pre-production as well as production. But it’s still important to know how to draw and pitch your boards the ‘old-fashioned’ way. It’s not a matter of tradition—it is a matter of what works. Wall-mounted storyboards are still the most efficient way to learn to develop and pitch and change the story. Digital storyboarding is discussed in more detail in Chapter 13.
[Fig. 10-17] Computer graphics make it easy to vary tonal values on the same background or change a portion of the panel without redrawing the whole.
Excerpt from Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts, 2e by Nancy Beiman © 2012 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.