Friday, 29 February 2008

Thumbnails & story reels

Chatting to Alison (a good friend of mine and fellow AM graduate) last weekend, I was reminded of a really cool monthly animation competition called The 11 Second Club. For those who don't know, every month an audio clip of dialogue; 11 seconds in length (see what they did there!) is made available on the site - the idea being for it to be used by animators in acting tests.

Despite having a manic week at work, I got home at an almost normal hour last night, so decided to use the evening to download the current clip and set about planning my interpretation of the scene. It's great having the audio disembodied from the source (in this case, the film "Sneakers"). Otherwise there's a risk of replicating the original performance and where's the fun in that!

So anyway, I began the process like any scene I animate - with planning. I always start with "thumbnail" sketches:
They're called thumbnails because they're supposed to be small, visual "notes" that are really quick to draw and most importantly - a convenient way to work out key aspects of the performance of characters in your shot or scene. Thumbnails are typically only of use to the animator who draws them as a means to planning their blocking. I find it's not important to draw clean but rather critical to draw clear.

On the subject of clarity, I often take my thumbnails a step further by creating a really rough story reel:
(click video for a bigger size)

A story reel like this is a good way for me to check through the readability of the poses and whether I really need as many as I initially drew. Seeing them in sequence and timed very roughly to the audio is enough to determine how well the emotional "beats" of the scene are working and gives some indication as to whether the characters play off of each other in an entertaining way.

Although, in all my excitement of planning the scene to such a top-notch dialogue clip, I failed to notice that the deadline for submitting the completed animated shot is Friday. This Friday, i.e. today! Gutted. Nevermind, I'll be sure to get into March's competition a lot earlier in the timeline. But hey, at least this month's clip made for an interesting blog post. Right?

Have a great weekend!

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