Posts tagged ‘sketch’

August 30, 2014

Storyboarding Tips

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I found this interesting blog post from cartoonist Ben Caldwell – tips on storyboarding from Dreamwworks!

The tips are basically these but visit his post to see the awesome illustrations that go with these tips:

  • Avoid flat staging unless when necessary
  • Lay down grids to help “ground” your characters & compositions
  • Use foreground, mid-ground, background, & far background to sell depth
  • Be mindful of screen space & camera positioning in your edits
  • When dealing with multiple characters try to logically group them to help making cutting back & forth easier
  • Be wary of composition in which everything is parallel to the frame
  • Careful of how you frame characters and don’t SQUEEZE them just to fit a shot, open up the fielding.
  • beware of vague “tightrope” floors, use perspective instead
  • Motivate your cuts

Tips on intimacy between characters:

  • over the shoulder shots & reaction shots help deliver dialog
  • characters squared off & looking at our left or right ear (depending on eye direction)
  • exploit different character heights if you need to establish or reestablish your shot


He also recommends a few other links including the amazing Toby Shelton, who shows us how its down with his Turbo storyboard at this link here.


Another very detailed post on storyboard sketching, specifically about directing the eye is here from the excellent seven camels blog.

This video clip shows how they did it for toy story.

February 20, 2014

Exercise: An objective POV

by Suzy Walker-Toye

For the exercise on page 29, we look back at the previous exercise which was all imagined as subjective point of view (POV), i.e. the viewer is the protagonist. For this we look at the same exercise from an objective pov. This time I imagined my husband as the alcoholic in question (because he will be my model in the shots and not because I’ve finally driven him to drink).

Here are the same storyboards sketched from this new POV. And what they represent (because my drawing needs captions)!

Storyboard sketch

First he’s looking around his empty room. He sees the bottle and he gets up and heads towards the camera. Close up of him opening the bottle. To stress his total focus is on that. He glances around at sometime and pauses for a beat or two but nothing happens, this would be a wider shot. He gets back on with the business of drinking.

(Still todo – record the sequence and post it into this blogpost)

February 20, 2014

Exercise: Shooting a short sequence

by Suzy Walker-Toye

For the exercise on page 25, we have the following scene presented in words:

Read the following scenario carefully. Try to imagine yourself in the action and visualise what you would see. Where are the borders of perception drawn in each shot? Try to visualise where your focus would be in the moment defined by the shot and then choose a frame size that best contains that part of the image.

You are an alcoholic alone in your home
• You look around your empty room
• Nothing interests you
• You notice a bottle
• You hold the bottle and unscrew the lid
• Something attracts your attention, you look round
• Nothing happens
• You look back at the bottle and pour yourself a drink.

We have to sketch out the story board as we imagine in as evoked by these words as images in our heads. So again, please excuse the bad drawings!

Frame 1

Looking around my empty front room, you see a lone chair and a fireplace with nothing on the mantle piece, looking the other way is a desk with a bottle of booze & one glass on it. When filming I’d probably specifically look one way and then the other (i.e. start at the fireplace, look left to the empty chair then right to the desk. In my mind that seemed to emphasis the loneliness which I can imaging you might feel if you are an alcoholic).

Frame 2

Frame 3, the booze is the centre of attention, focuses in on and square on, dominating the frame. I take the bottle in my right hand and unscrew the cap. Totally focused on what I’m doing. Something catches my attention so I glance at the door (is it a sound)? The door is closed? Nothing happens so I pour myself a drink, in the picture my sketch went a bit wrong, I’d actually have this more in the centre, again focusing in on what I’m doing and drink it down. Bottoms up!

Frames 3- 7

I only visualised 7 shots, where the exercises says more like 8 to 10. Does this mean I’ve simplified that down too much?

I didn’t get a chance to record the sequence as time for this section has somewhat run away with me (hampered by Christmas then a month out of the country in Jan/Feb, hope to get back to do this at some point).

November 4, 2013

Exercise: Visualisation

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p21 is about subjective visualisation (first person views that is).
We were to imagine the situations described below, Place ourselves in the scene and then (badly) sketch out what we’d imagined. Then answer a few questions on the scene. I espceially liked this bit:
Don’t worry if you are not an illustrator. These are to aid you own memory not win art prizes.

You are talking to someone in a shop
The person is facing you talking in an animated way, using their hands.


Photo I imagined is in a coffee shop where the baristas are often quite demonstrative when asking if you want whipped cream on your coffee & which sized cup etc. The counter where you pay is always squashed in between sections for cakes & sandwiches etc.

• What was left out at the edges?
The rest of the counter was left out and the credit card machine is cut off as a small square in the bottom left.

• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The stuff behind the barista, you are aware of stuff but not what. The exact details of the menu & adverts are also muddy

• Why did you leave them out?
I wasn’t focusing on them, I was looking at the guy

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
I left an impression of them so yes.

Knocking on a door
You knock on the door. You wait.
The door is opened.


You may have conjured up some images of things you looked at while you were waiting. Nope, our door has frosted glass and I always try to discern what all the blurry shapes are as someone comes up the hall to answer the door.

• What was left out at the edges?
Most of the door
• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The pattern of the glass

• Why did you leave them out?
Couldn’t remember the exact pattern

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Yes because my drawings are so great people will immediately know what all the swirly grey smush is 😉

In the next scenario you may imagine several images to cover the action described.
You are having an illicit affair
You are alone having a passionate conversation with your loved one. A sudden sound in the background causes you to glance round.



This one was the hardest because I couldn’t really imagine having an affair. If I was having a passionate conversation with my loved one then I’d be totally focused on them (although they’d obviously be much more handsome in person). If a noise made me glance around I think I’d guiltily look at the door.

• What was left out at the edges?
Only the thing of focus was in the two drawings, the person and then the door area

• Note the things that you were aware of, but did not choose to ‘see’.
The room behind the person

• Why did you leave them out?
Not relevant to the scene

• Will the viewer be aware that they are there?
Yes because there is ways some background

Some questions posed on the next page are:
• Which sequences are the most effective and why?
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Subjective scenes are best for when the viewers are supposed to take on the persona of the character so you see what they see. So in this case the mid range view of the shop keeper or where his face & hands are really close in.

• What makes a convincing subjective sequence?
Sequences where you focus on what the person would see without turning their heads or pan & scanning are effectively because that is what you’d see in real life.

• What gives the sequence a sense of atmosphere or tension?
Probably for a subjective scene probably leaning forward close into the action would give tension.

• What information is conveyed in each frame?
This first one (A mid shot taking in the shopkeeper and his immediate surroundings. The hands are centre frame) conveys the shopkeeper in his surroundings. It provides context to the scene.
The second one (A medium close-up of the person you are talking to. The face and hands.) conveys just the action of the shop keeper talking
The last one, the objective view (shows both characters, ‘you’ and the person you are talking to.) conveys both characters so you are in the scene as a fly on the wall, there but not involved.

November 1, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story – Part 3

by Suzy Walker-Toye

So in part one of this exercise I told a familiar story in 5 frames only (Jack the beanstalk), In part two I commented on other students familiar stories and here in part 3 we get to make up out own story, only five frames again though. Please excuse the horrible drawings, trust me that the story looks much better in my minds eye, the course notes do point out that these sketches are only supposed to be a personal aide memoire storyboard 😉



This is based on a true story, which has happened to me and many other photographers, however here wildly exaggerated for comedic effect & with an alternative ending. Its essentially the vilification of DSLR users by the police and other security officials.

  • Frame 1: Nice scenic view of Big Ben & Westminster from across the thames – the sort which might make a nice photograph.
  • Frame 2: The view point draws back and you see the gaggle of tourists all snapping away at the view with compact cameras and phones, eyeballed by many CCTV cameras of London. A bored policeman stands by taking no interest in them.
  • Frame 3: The tourists have moved on and a photographer appears. You can tell he’s a photographer by the big camera, tripod in hand and backpack full of gear
  • Frame 4: The policeman is on high alert, its clearly very suspicious behaviour to be taking photos with a big camera, the policeman accosts the photographer to find out what he’s really up to.
  • Frame 5: Not satisfied with the answer (or more likely the backchat) the policeman chases the photographer away with threat of violence (thats supposed to be a truncheon and not a sword in the sketch, not too many policemen have swords as standard issue these days).

Before I get hate comments from the po po – I’d just like to point out that I think this would in no way happen in real life! Apart from a documented propensity to judge people by the size of their camera gear I know the police would never do this. When I was asked (in this very scenic spot) what I was doing they seemed satisfied I wasn’t a terrorist and left me in peace to take my photos.

Other comments/reflection:

As I mentioned in part 2, I really liked the depth to the scenes I noticed in the other students storyboards so I tried to include that here. You know you’re in the same place because of the background. In frame one I included the boat on the thames so I could show it in frame two to be a middle ground because you don’t see big ben in the second frame. The backgrounds and CCTV poles serve to provide continuity between frames as the story unfolds.

October 19, 2013

Exercise: Telling a Story

by Suzy Walker-Toye

A film can be split into acts, then scenes, then shots, and finally frames. We can actually tell a story with only frames (a bit like a photo essay). In the course materials they told the story of little red riding hood in 5 frames:

  • Ms Hood in the woods
  • Ms Hood meets the wolf
  • The wolf attacks Grandma at her house
  • Ms Hood tending to grandma (who is clearly the wolf dressed up)
  • The wolf chowing down on Ms Hood.

The challenge for this exercise is to tell another story in 5 frames & sketch it out. I have chosen to continue with the fairytale theme, and will be telling you the story of Jack & the Beanstalk. Here are my five frames (no sniggering at my sketching abilities please)!

Jack & the Beanstalk

I found it useful to write out the story and underline my 5 salient points plot so I could pre-visualise them before putting pencil to paper.

Jack & The Beanstalk:

Jack is broke. He gets sent off to market to sell his cow but swaps her for magic beans with a stranger he meets along the way. His mother is furious and throws out the beans. Overnight the beanstalk grows and Jack climbs up it to a giants house. Jack befriends the giants wife and managed to steal a goose that lays golden eggs. Shamelessly, he goes back again. He steals a magic harp and this time the giant almost catches him. The giant chases Jack down the stalk but Jack cuts it down and kills the giant. Jack and his mum live happily ever after with their ill-gotten gains.


Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Would you have chosen different scenes for your 5 frames? I think it would been nice to show a frame of the giants house, or maybe the goose. Or perhaps a closeup of jack with the axe cutting down the stalk? However, then I would have gone over the allowed limit of 5 frames. My husband said my cow looked like she was rolling her eyes, “Oh no, not these bloody beans again”.