Thursday, March 19, 2009

Storyboard or no Storyboard.... or your way of working

So, during my interview on the Machiniplex premiere of Saving Grace, the question came up if I do storyboards - and people seemed a bit astonished that I don't.

In fact, I never even write down how I want to film certain scenes - in my scripts, you won't find inserts like "slow camera pan from left to right" or "camera focuses on younamehim's face". I don't make notes concerning the camera, not even for myself.

I thought maybe that would have to change now I'm filming someone elses script - but found that I work this like I do one of my own.

I just read the script, and while I'm reading, the movie plays in my minds eye; at first some scenes are blurred, but the more often I read it, and the more I get into it, the more the vision clarifies.
When I start filming, each scene is complete in my head, and the "only" thing left to do is get it done.... of course, during the process, I sometimes change things - add a close-up here or a pan there - but not much. In the end, the scenes always come out pretty much as I "saw" them.

I realise that this would be a nightmare if I were doing machinima in the classical sense - with other people operating the characters for me while I'm filming - but I'm not sure I could change my ways - for one thing, I don't even know all those fancy correct terms for the camera movements! :p I also think this might be the reason why I can work only one project at a time - there's simply not enough room in my brain for more than one movie-vision (I admire people who can work on several films at the same time, and I'm somehow sure that's only possible because they're taking notes... or is it?).

I would love to hear how you work. Do you have a storyboard, or write down notes on how a scene should look? How's your workflow? When do you get your ideas? While writing the script, or afterwards? How much do you change while filming if you do have a storyboard?

11 Kommentare:

Matt Kelland said...

When I write the script, I find myself adopting William Goldman's approach: what I write isn't so much the dialogue, like a stage play, it's a complete description of what you see on the screen, complete with how the audience feels, edits, music, and camera moves. That way I have the entire sequence in my head before I start. I don't storyboard, as such, but I do often create a shooting script, where I write down what camera angles I need to capture, and try to make the shooting process efficient.

Norrie said...

Hmm, storyboarding?
Once again, I bring my outsider's perspective to the table.

My understanding for storyboards is that it's the directors thing. Because he's the boss of Set Designers, Production Designers, Producers, Directors of Photography, and all the other paraphernalia that comes with an RL endeavour. Particularly if a Director doesn't operate his own cameras.

So, the question becomes, in doing what you do (you in the plural sense, not only Sisch), why bother?
You're shooting it, you're choosing, or building, the sets, you're dressing them, you're operating the camera, you're choosing the lighting, you're... well I could go on!

Even in the "classical machinima" sense, why would you need to? Surely you're directing others in an environment that you picked, lit, and dressed. All else is directing, isn't it?

I honestly don't see the need for Storyboarding in the stuff you guys do, but I'd love to hear from someone who does.

Dulci said...

I don't have the patience to do a storyboard. My movies are typically in a work-in-progress, and since there's no production cost (aside from time and effort) for re-dos, I prefer to visualize as I go along.

BiggsTrek said...

I don't storyboard either. Not because I don't want to (I think it'd be neat) but mainly because I don't have the drawing skills (well, I probably do, to be honest, but not the patience required to get them 'pretty').

As Norrie says, it's not really necessary in what we do. And as you said, if you can see it in your head, and no-one else needs to see it, why bother?

Having said all that, I DO occasionally sketch out certain shots while I'm at work. I think I do this as I can't just fire up TM or iClone and see it first hand (I don't have them installed at work... I'd get nothing done if I did!)

Basically, storyboards, to me, are something pros might need to give their minions an idea of what they need to work on. If you work on your own (as we mostly do), it's an unnecessary step (and if you're like me, you don't need anyhing further to slow you down!)


Killian said...

As I already posted elsewhere, I'm too bone idle to storyboard (other than in my brain), write shot directions or indeed much of anything other than dialogue; as I'm the one shooting most of the stuff I write, the visuals come thick and fast during the writing process, so I have no problems constructing the shots when I come to shoot the script.

I tend to give a few more directions if I'm writing for someone else, mainly to try and give them a handle on what image I'm trying to portray, but even then only as a general guide to what I'm going on about.

So, it seems on the whole that your approach isn't that different from ours, my dear. Matt, you seem to have a slightly different approach, but does that come more from the different background you have "developed" from, I wonder? Most of us who've posted (upto now) all came from a Movies background as our first exposure to machinima, and have moved on (or not) to other software since, taking our own "foibles" and ways of working with us.

I'd be interested to see the approach that non-Movies users have and see if it's similar, or whether there's a complete departure which could be down, not to individual "mores" so to speak, but more to do with how our machinima experiences have shaped how we write, direct, etc.

HatHead said...

I think machinima is the new storyboard.

Take a look at the work of The Third Floor guys who are a storyboarding company - looks like machinima to me!

sisch said...

Interesting answers, thanks guys (and girl :))!

First off, Norrie, I do think for ingame shot machinima, a storyboard would be useful. Yeah, it's more of a directing thing, but still, I imagine you would need to have at least a lot of notes on how your shots are planned to distribute to the actors - and in an effort to save them time, I guess it should be rather detailed. Mind you, I have no idea if it is really needed, it's just a guess.

So, it seems the majority of us, who all started out using (or still do use) TM work in a very similar way. Like Killian, I think it would be great to hear from machinimators who started off using one or more different programs, or work with ingame footage!

Matt's approach seems completely different from mine - am I right in thinking that this is how it's best done also if you work with a team? And at what stage do you develop the full dialogue? Doesn't some of the camera work depend very heavily on the dialogue? I often decide on the camera angle by the "emotional flow" of the script - the undercurrents... mmm.. okay, this is very interesting... I just had some ideas that I'll have to try out.... :)

Thanks for the link, HatHead - you're right, that looks like machinima - and damned good machinima! I've heard that some special effects are pitched this way to producers, but I've never seen it before!

Matt Kelland said...

I guess my approach is well suited for a team, but I find it works well as a solo artist. I'm trying to capture everything in my head as I see the film played out, and then it's all down there for later. I'm developing music, camera, set design, choreography and dialogue simultaneously: it's not about writing the words, then making the actors perform, then filming it, then adding sound. It's about describing what you're going to build. So I'll write things like:

"We open in a long shot across a suburban street through a lighted window. In silhouette, a man is sitting at a dining table with his back to us. We hear jazz music playing on a tinny radio, big band stuff, maybe Duke Ellington. He appears to be listening to someone off-screen, and nodding intently. We push in slowly, right up to the window, as if we're peering in. Now we can see that the room is dingy and grimy, as if it hasn't been cleaned in months. There are old pizza boxes on the floor, and the curtains are threadbare. The man is dressed in a shabby old suit, ill-fitting. The off-screen voice is faint, mumbling. Suddenly, it stops.

MAN: Wait!

He turns towards the window, and finally we see his face. Now we cut for the first time; a jump cut into ECU on his face. We're inside the room, and the music suddenly becomes louder."

And so on. That way I can come back to it, and remember exactly what I had in mind. Then I can deviate from my original as much as I like!

Jeff said...

Hi, Sisch!

Would you consider posting a script for a completed work sometime? I'd like to see how one meshes with the finished product. :-)

sisch said...

Thanks for elaborating, Matt! :)
It's a very efficient way of making a movie, and enables you to keep track of all the ideas concerning the filming process.

I always start out writing the dialogue, which is most important to me (as english is not my first language, I'm always afraid of characters talking stilted or something - I always have a friend proof-read it and make suggestions), and as the dialogue grows, the backstory grows. Does anyone write down detailed backstories on their characters? I often do. While doing that, I "hear" the voices of my actors, and only then the visuals begin appearing in my minds eye.

I'm doing in chunks what you do in one go! :)

Jeff, I could do that - but my scripts are just the scenes, with a header of where the scene is taking place (even that only sometimes, not always), and then the dialogue. Nothing more! The only thing it would tell you is where the actors adlibbed... :D

HatHead said...

Hi sisch,

Your question about backstories for characters. I have just finished a first draft of an epic script and it was somewhat unsatisfying for me until the backstories were in place.

The backstories were initially on the back burner but after finishing research for the production and making a few resulting dialogue changes, suddenly the characters come to life for me.

Odd and amazing that transformation.


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