Category Blog

Last week I talked about the importance of storyboards in animated projects, and how I built a blueprint for my Criminal (Panopticon) video by putting all my storyboards together into a timed out animatic. Before I can actually start drawing the final pictures however, I still have a few other things to do.

Breaking Down The Shot
The very first step is to break down the shot – is the camera moving? Is there any character or object animation in the shot? Do I need footage of my live performance?

I can use this information to plan accordingly. For example, if I want an arm to move, then I need to decide how complex that movement needs to be. It can be as simple as an elbow joint, or as complex as every knuckle on a hand. For the type of animation I chose to do on this video, each moving part needs a separate layer in my drawing so that I can manipulate it in my animation software. I’ll talk more about some of these animation concepts in my next video.

Shooting the Performance
To add to the sci-fi element of this video, I wanted the tv screen heads to have live performances. So I did up my hair and makeup in my garage studio and played around with a few light setups. I ended up going with a single LED spotlight as a key from the front, which gave me a purpley-blue tint that felt fitting.

I also wanted to get an erratic but real focus pull feeling on my performance, so I decided to go with my rebel as a camera. I actually set it on autofocus, which is something I generally avoid, but there’s a time and a place for everything and this was one of those times. It helped that I didn’t want or need a high quality image – I wanted a grungy frazzled look, so I could get away with using a lower quality camera for this.

I filmed myself and then my husband Terrence for his cameo – his character needed to be clear and in control, so I turned off the autofocus for his performance and just directed him from behind the camera.

The Set and Backgrounds
Backgrounds are not exactly something I generally enjoy drawing, and my freehand perspective skills honestly could use a lot of work. So for this particular video I decided to do a little bit of a software cheat which would help me generate backgrounds quickly and efficiently. That software is called Sketchup, and it’s a free and easy to use 3D drawing program. It’s used by designers, architects, and many other types of professionals, but I learned this technique from some of my favourite storyboard artist mentors – it happens to be a common method they use because they need to get clear drawings out with super fast turnarounds.

I made two separate sketchup models: an exterior of the panopticon structure, and an interior path for which the action to happen. Based on my storyboards, I knew I needed a prison cell, a long hallway, a courtroom, and a punishment chamber. *cue dramatic music*

So, I built it all up in Sketchup and tried to be reasonably accurate in terms of world space and measurements – but if we’re being totally honest here, there was definitely a bit of a learning curve as I’d never used the program before, so it wasn’t perfect, but I still managed to get close to what I wanted.

Regardless, once I built all the sets, I could change the camera lenses and angles to find unique but accurate backgrounds for each of my shots based on the storyboards. Once I found something that I was happy with, I’d take a screenshot and trace over it in the final drawing, allowing me to break it apart into layers as necessary.

Next week we’ll talk about the drawing process for this video, including a little bit of insight into how I organized my final drawings so that they could be animated efficiently.