Kris Pearn storyboard class “week” 2

So on to the second lecture! This ‘week’ is shot class, vital stuff for anyone working in film or animation. But first Kris goes into something more specific to storyboard artists: quick sketching. Also often referred to as ‘drawing shorthands’.

Kris is really good at this, in the lecture he sketches out some figures that are simple but appealing and that convey a variety of emotions.

Kris Pearn sketches

Kris just drew these on the fly, they rock.

This type of drawing is something that I think I have a better handle on right now but when I did this assignment I still didn’t quite understand.

Anyhoo Kris moves on to describe various types of shots. The images he drew to explain the main types of shots you might have seen before, they seem to have escaped his lecture and led their own life on various blogs and pinterest boards. I stumbled across them way before I knew this class existed. In other words they’re good.

After that Kris goes into all the different camera moves used in movies and animation. Again he does a great job but with one caveat: there doesn’t seem to be a good general consensus on what some of the camera terminology actually means. Specifically I notice the terms “truck” and “dolly” seem to mean different things to different people…

Perhaps something to get into in the future but for now I shall stick to Kris’ definitions:
• ‘Truck’ refers to the camera move physically closer to or farther away from it’s subject
• ‘Dolly’ refers to the camera moving around the subject

Finally Kris describes the different cuts possible. I found this part particularly interesting as I think these can really make or break your sequences. I look forward to the day I will use a ‘smash cut’ effectively!

The assignment

So this time the assignment was to do something my senpai Dirk always recommends and what he practices faithfully: doing film studies. In particular what I call ‘reverse storyboarding’. Watching a piece of film you think is powerful and/or entertaining and then doing little thumbnail studies of every cut and camera move. All the while analyzing why the filmmakers did this and what effect it achieves.

I’ve done these exercises with lots of different movies but for this occasion I picked one of my favorite movies: Once upon a time in the west.
Sergio Leone’s best western and just a very visually powerful movie.
The scene choice was obvious: the final confrontation between Harmonica and Frank.

I was a little worried that if I analyzed this scene frame by frame some of the magic might be lost but the opposite happened: I have an even greater appreciation of how well this sequence is executed and what a great filmmaker Leone was.

As a side note people ask me sometimes if learning all this stuff about movies and storytelling ruins the enjoyment of just watching them and the answer is threefold:

  •  Good work becomes more enjoyable, you start to admire the work more and can still get totally swept up in the story at the same time.
  •  Bad work becomes more enjoyable too. You can have a great time analyzing why something completely fell apart. Hell there are entire webseries dedicated to it.
  •  Mediocre work becomes awful. Boring shots, lack of tension or emotion in the edits, style over substance – these and more are things I just can’t sit through anymore. 

But back in reverse storyboard land as usual I got a little carried away doing the assignment. I had recently started playing around with markers and had some fun drawing the little shots in a little too much detail. A few enjoyable late nights sniffing marker fumes and reveling in Leone’s genius later I was ready for the third lesson!

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