Posts tagged ‘telling a story’

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 5, 2013

Subjective Viewpoint

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The recent exercises have been about a subjective viewpoint (first person view). I remember the first time I’d seen that sort of filming was for the prodigy music video (smack my b**** up) (please note that link is not safe for work, it’s the uncensored version of a video that was banned from MTV for its nudity, violence and drug use)

It plays on gender stereotypes and uses the usual form of subjective view character reveal – the mirror, to add a twist at the end.

Today I watched the first episode of peepshow (from the Filmography of this course). This uses mirrors & reflective surfaces such as windows so you see who the character is but also multiple character first person views. As the next person is talking you see that person from the other characters pov, sometimes even with an accompanied inner monologue. It was interesting and very clever but I didn’t find it realistic viewing, it sort of comes across as gimmicky after a while. It reminded me of beer-vision (pretty much what the prodigy video plays upon) where you focus down onto only one thing with narrowed focus because you’re drunk.

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 2, 2013

Exercise: Building a Story

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p19 is about exploring the function of a frame. One large, complex scene can be captured in one frame but also, you can break out some details from that which could be frames in their own right. You could even use these new frames to tell a new a different story without the original context.

Here is a famous painting by Dutch painter Joachim Wtewael:

Kitchen Scene by Joachim Wtewael

It depicts a kitchen scene where the main action is the man cutting up the fish and the woman putting creatures onto a large stick.

These three smaller scenes have been taken out as frames from this painting but they could spawn off other stories.
In this scene a young boy is trying to feed his dog from the bucket but the dog is disobedient and wants to eat the mangy left over fish lying on the floor of where he lives.


In this scene the new story could be that they are two lovers having an illicit affair, cozying up by the fire but the woman is hearing her husband coming home.


In this frame the woman could be mixing up paints for the mad one-legged artist behind her.