Friday, September 28, 2007


Friday is here and with it came the guest lecture with Mark Andrews! Overall, it was astounding! He showed us storyboards, animatics, and other various panels to demonstrate what he was saying! Extremely inspiring and my head is overwhelmed with knowledge and until I took some Tylenol I had a lovely headache. ;) Anyways, here's the extremely detailed going to go over a few heads version(I took 15 PAGES of notes on a little notepad that is about as long as the distance from you finger tips to JUST beyond your wrist, about as wide as your palm.), I kept it pretty close to how I actually took notes so I'm sure I'm repeating myself and it is choppy, but hopefully the messages still come across. Also be forewarned it's long, but there's a fun reward at the end:

At first he gave a little background on himself, he was a student at Cal Arts from 1989-1993. During this time at school he was a die-hard animator, all he wanted to do was animation. Upon graduation he interned at Disney, but when they didn't hire him---he started in on the TV industry doing animation and then discovered the joys of story. It was around this time that he switched his interests from animation to story. At this point he pointed out that being involved in the storyboarding process means you work with animation, layout, editing, and ultimately in a small sense, the director. You must consider all of these elements when boarding, otherwise it goes no where. He also realized that the other departments only deal with key bits when it comes to developing a film. From here on out he went onto the elements of story:
Visually construct your story. The more specific you are equals a better storyboard. Details bring you into a story. He basically said in a far more entertaining way than I could EVER recreate, "Give the audience a reason to stay, NOT leave for the bathroom!" Overall, lock the audience in with golden shots. Try to tell the story with one image was a key point he brought up, he showed us several panels he randomly drew(not related to any movies I saw, though some did resemble Star Wars---kind of) and let us dissect the drawing and gather the information of the character, scene, mood, etc. just from one drawing. All of the information was in the one picture, no dialogue, explanations, etc. He also pointed out that ambush scenes are the best intense moments(95% of the examples shown involved ambush scenarios.)
Other key topics were, to keep it simple even when giving the audience new information, always relate it to the character. Story is about feeling for the characters. Milk a moment(like ambush), see the emotions, convey any struggle. Dynamic elements show difficulty. A point he brought across many times involved putting the audience in a character's place, no matter if that character is a villain or hero.
At this point he brought up how as humans we don't experience everything, that's why we go to movies, read books, etc. we want to live through other things. In this sense a storyboard(and movie) cannot be all about the beats(key points: First he did this, then he climbed this, and then he battled an orc!) it also has to be about the emotional attachment and bring the audience into the movie visually(Ratatouille is one GREAT example, of Point of View shots, various perspective, etc. that make you FEEL as if you are Remy running through the kitchen just about to be stepped on). Going about a movie intellectually only involves the beats of the movie, you've got to bring the visual key elements in(like HOW the castled looked as the hero enters or how many orcs he fought and how Pegasus managed to suddenly appear at the end to save the day). Through storytelling we can make the audience worry about the character, these concerns and emotional investments in characters are what make stories work.
He then emphasized character and broke this element down: Character comes down to choice. When you give a character a choice and ultimately what they actually decide on tells volumes about the character. Sayings like "I had no choice." are a script writers cop-out--DON'T do this. EVERYONE must make a choice at some point. How do you arrive at a choice????
CONFLICT: Conflict creates a way for the audience to relate and care about the character on an emotional level. It's always good to involve the character in several conflicts to create a defining choice.
After conflict he discussed how storytelling must be economic and only include essential elements. Camera is where it needs to be to convey the actions. Another point he talked about included the benefits of bouncing back and forth from being solely within the character(like point of view shots, etc.) to wide shots and pans, thus seeing things the character sees, emphasizing scenes where you are in that character's shoes, and also creating the mood of safe vs. unsafe(where you can see everything that's taking place, however the hero might not know that werewolf is just over that hill). Dramatic angles, low-shots, high-shots, the lighting, colors, etc. influence the audience and how they might feel while watching. Overall, build a scene through progression. However, it's very important that when first starting out in film and storyboarding to try these elements one at a time---this way you have experience with them and can establish the best point to use these techniques.
The best way to start storyboarding is to first start with the facts then move into making these facts more dynamic and full of variety. Mark Andrews was always saying how much he LOVED the challenge of storyboarding and how there are so many ways to portray the same story. How you can take an audience on a journey the otherwise couldn't go on----Story is the greatest teacher.

Here he went into a Q and A section and so I'll kind of pick my favorites though I did take down the entire thing:
I missed what the actual question was, however, I liked his answer so here's the answer:
Your job is to mess up-put it down on paper-mess up then analyze "what could make it better?" Whether shots or otherwise. Rough it out, put it up, tear it down. No One can hit it out of the ballpark on the first try.

A point he brought up during the Q&A was how when you go into a movie you don't know squat. Through exposition you receive information. You begin to think about what's going to happen next. Keep building to develop the character, throughout the movie process you discover what they're capable of.

Question: "If you could give advice to yourself while you were still a student at CalArts, what would it be?"
Answer: "This is your time. 99% of the time it's all you. Right now do the stories you want to do. Try stuff out, experiment, fall on your face and learn from your downfalls. You get to figure out how to tell a story within 2 minutes and somehow entice the audience with your short story. Do what you want to do. Outside of CalArts, it's all about timing and luck not always about the talent. When opportunity comes-grab it."

Question: "What's the best way to market a portfolio specifically geared at grabbing a job in a storyboard department?"
Answer: " Include storyboards---NO LIFE DRAWINGS or anything outside of storyboards(including character designs, animation reels, etc.) Give only 1 page for each idea. Include vignettes---anything to tell a story. He'll know on that very first page if there's a possibility with you, otherwise--onto the next portfolio. If it takes a lot to prove a story you've got nothing. Show variety, tackle cinematography, show how you approach lighting. Variety gets you further-don't include full film boards, just a specific sequence. Also these boards don't have to be the greatest drawings. It can be rough(not chicken scratch, enough to know what's going on) to polished as long as it reads. If a portfolio includes cross-hatching it's out the door, not a single Pixar story boarder cross-hatches on their storyboards. You've got to be fast and efficient."

Next one goes out to a certain animation class in Oregon:
Question: "Do you use reference?"
Answer: "All the time! Google images is my life-saver! Reference is my chief weapon! Hundreds of thousands of resources all at my finger-tips! USE IT!!!"

Question:"What do you do when you get stuck?"
Answer:"Move on, bounce around to other ideas. Work backwards, etc. This helps bring inspiration to the parts that are stuck. Don't stay idle! Doodling something completely different helps as well. Variety keeps you going."

I can't remember the question that brought up this point, but here's a section I thought is really beneficial to me:
Work on any production, good or REALLY bad, 300% .Even if the movie is terrible you will still improve and overall become a better artist. Don't lie around only doing the minimum to collect a paycheck. Learn from these productions and put your best foot forward and you'll be noticed.

Now I'll just kind of include some parts that I found interesting, but came shortly after the Q&A:
He described how whatever you show has an effect on a viewer. And proceeded to draw a "graph". Along the Y axis(north to south) he wrote "High Intensity<--------Low Intensity" then along the Z axis(West to East) "Story-Time------->" and then draw a curve to demonstrate the shape of a story and how a well balanced story escalates upwards from low intensity to high intensity at the climax and then resolves at the end at a low intensity again. Basically, as he put it, "Don't stick the audience right at the top of high intensity! It's like throwing the audience through the manipulator's gauntlet!" He also drew an identical character for points of emphasis concerning visuals and how if you start out again at high expectations, fall at the climax suddenly to low expectations and then end somewhere in the middle, you're veering towards a more experimental view and not a general film approach. It doesn't leave a good effect on the viewer basically.
He also listed several of his favorite films that demonstrate the following breakdown of telling a story:
1)Within a shot: one image with the elements playing against each other.
2) Shot to Shot: Board selected pieces to build intensity.
3) Sequence to Sequence: Follows the same above standards, I don't think he expanded on this part too much.

Anyways the movies:
Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Horseman of the Roof, The Professional, The Man who Would be King, Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Braveheart, The FIRST Matrix, Star Wars: A new Hope and also Empire Strikes Back, Usual Suspects, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Amadeus, and Tootsie. To name just a few.
He also highlighted a key sequence from Princess Mononoke:
When the main character is forced to leave the village at the beginning of the movie after being attacked by the demon boar---watch the background characters. As the character walks away the background people are prime examples of establishing a feeling and emphasizing visual details without ANY words.
He also talked about the different levels of story, regarding an audiences age level. These different levels offer different amounts of intensity. For example he used an experience with his 4 year old daughter, basically "If Gumby loses a shoe, she loses it. It still follows the graph, but to her and kids her age, this action is at the highest point of intensity!"
He also describe the change in the industry how live-action is becoming more animated while animation is slowly becoming more life-action in the sense of developing complex stories. Style ultimately dictates HOW the film will be made, whether animation or live-action it all depends on which will benefit the characters and story. A quote, "Why am I crying! It's a drawing! However, just like live-action is still an image and audience react to images.

He did talk about Ratatouille a bit(I bet you were reading JUST for this.;) All the insider's scoop eh?), however he mostly talked about the barriers they ran across and how during the last 18 months of production--all conventional barriers of film development were broken down. No second pass at the story, Layout tied down all scenes(before story would clean them up and finalize a lot of it, not layout) They had to work fast anything else was a disservice to the film, if they stuck to the old ways---they would have never met the deadline.
Another tidbit about the film: During development they rendered every last set in Maya to give the storyboard artists an opportunity to plan their shots at ease, to explore every last crevice and ultimately deliver the best scenes. That was fun to learn. :)
Someone asked about the video game industry and his response: The industry is beginning to bring more visual storytelling into the genre. Hopes to someday have games where your choices influence the game. He wants a player to be so immersed in the game that if he's playing a game where he's in dark room and something happens that causes him to make a choice to switch from a simple pistol to the ultimate mega-shooter. He's going to use that ONE bullet in that gun if that means he feels "safe" in an unsafe environment, even if it's on the first level. ;) Visual impact the viewer, the music, and other elements used to heighten ones' senses are there to support the visual side of the game.

Alright, long enough. :) I didn't include everything and I know there are probably a billion grammatical errors I missed(Sorry Mom!), but you get a sense of how informative and extremely inspiring the lecture was. He did this GREAT voices and performances when presenting some storyboards of his and told some great stories about his kids and wife(a quote: "No drawing during wife time. After wife time, it's back to the Cintiq!")

Pssst....check this out! Mandrews was kind enough to sign the very last page of my sketchbook(get to start a new one tomorrow!) after I introduced myself and thanked him for coming(along with several other freshmen, upperclassmen, and even some graduates from CalArts came and said Hello---a couple of them had internships at Pixar in the past.)

It reads " Memorize this will save your life" It's referencing the high to low intensity chart I described earlier. haha, brilliant. =)

Well goodnight everyone! Lots of homework to do and also DODGE BALL TOMORROW NIGHT! So going and bringing my camera. =) Also, Spline Doctors updated with another awesome podcast! Go give it a listen! It's after 1 a.m. now, I not going to reread this and edit it now. So until around 1pm tomorrow, I apologize for the muddy parts that I'm sure are sprinkled throughout here.

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