Shot Selection

O.k., so you have all these shots available to you, how do you know when to use them and what order can you put them in?

Well, there aren't really too many rules and regulations about this, and of these rules, you can (and many directors have) break them and make up new one's to fit the needs of your film.

So, here's the number one rule, which really should never be broken: Don't confuse the audience. If the viewer says in their head, "I have no idea where I am or what is going on here or what this means.", chances are, you've done the wrong thing... unless your whole plan was to be confusing.

It's like telling a joke that isn't funny, no one will get it. And no one will want to listen to it again. If your film doesn't make sense, who will want to watch it again?

It's point meaning the where a not you're. If, order a understood of the like is sentence to are make out trying words. In other words: It's like a sentence where you're trying to make a point. If the words are out of order, the meaning is not understood.

When you sit down to write a script, you usually write a story from the beginning to the end. You usually also play the whole idea through your head a few times before you actually start writing on paper, and try to work out the basic plot. You might start with a core idea and then build around it in both directions or you could even start with the punch line and work backwards or do the ending first and then try to figure out a way to get to that ending. While this isn't really about story construction... it actually is. It's about how to tell your story visually.

Another good term for shot selection is "Visual Language".

Sometimes you can tell a short story with just one shot. Sometimes with two or three, but most times, depending on the length of the story, it takes quite a few more. Typically, a half hour television show (which is actually only 22 minutes in length, which allows for 8 minutes of commercials) has around 350 scenes in it, if it's got a bit of action to it. Shows for younger kids tend to be slower in action and therefore will have fewer scenes. 22 minutes x 60 seconds = 1320 seconds รท 350 = 3.77 seconds per scene, more or less, depending on what's happening on screen. There are usually 3 panels to a scene (again, depending on the action involved) so there's around 1050 panels in a show (give or take).

Just to give you a better sense of this, let's say each storyboard panel took you 5 minutes to draw. That would take you 5250 minutes to complete the whole show. That's 87.5 hours total. Working 6 hours a day (with breaks) it'll take you just over 14 1/2 days to complete, not working weekends, that's 3 weeks.

Now from a money point of view, if they offer you $2.00 a panel, you'd get paid $2100.00 for the whole show or at the rate above (at 12 panels an hour) that's $24.00 an hour. At $5.00 a panel, you'd get $5250.00 for the show or $60.00 and hour and you can do the math on your own for any other rates you want to check out. Most animation studios have a set rate that they pay for a show. Most shows are divided into 3 acts and a storyboard artist will get an individual act to work on. This way a show can be completed in a week rather than three weeks. So now you can take that paycheque above and divide it by three to get your weekly rate. Of course this doesn't count any revisions, which you usually don't get paid extra for unless there's a writing or design change.

So, back to Shot Selection.Typically, a television series will have a written script that is "final" by the time it gets to the storyboard department and all the shots are written out for you. All you have to do is illustrate what's written. For feature films there may be a script, but depending on the studio, it's up to interpretation for the storyboard artist to "plus" it. This means, they should be trying to make it better than what's written. If you can come up with a more entertaining way of getting the plot across, then draw it and pitch it in a story meeting (something that never happens on a television series).

This is also true for shorter films. I worked with Chris Landreth on his films, "Ryan" and "The Spine", drawing the storyboards. Both were similar an the way we went about it, but they also had some major differences. On Ryan, Chris had a loose script written and usually just told me verbally what it was that he wanted and I would go off and draw a section of the film and come back and we'd go through the boards and he's say he liked this or wanted that changed, etc. We went through the boards in a fairly linear way, starting at the beginning and ending with the final sequence. Chris let me play around with his ideas quite a bit and because the script was fairly loose, he allowed me to add in some little visual gags here and there (which in the end were all kept intact in the final film).

After the film was pretty much finished, we watched a rough cut of the animation before it went to rendering and I have to admit, it wasn't very good. I remember turning to one person in the room after it was finished and saying, "This will never win an Oscar." The way the film played out was very choppy. The sequences did not flow together and it didn't really make much sense. I told Chris how I felt and a month later, he showed it to us again. He had recut the entire film and switched around the various sequences and it all made sense. It then went on to win the Oscar for Best Short Animated Film in 2005.

The Spine was somewhat the same but this time he had a much tighter script, which he really didn't want to deviate from. It was more like the television production system. Again, he gave me the script and we went through each and every shot. However, this time he'd tell me exactly what it was that he wanted to see. The camera angles all the actions. We'd actually become the two characters and act the scenes through together. On several occasions though, after I had completed the boards for a section, we'd pin up all the panels and go over it and he'd make changes. Sometimes subtle little things like and arm action or head turn. On a couple of sequences, he made some pretty major changes. One scene in particular that stands out in my mind was when the husband goes into a blind rage in his living room and runs around turning over furnature and pulling the drapes down, etc. before finally slumping down into a chair. The scene had about 58 panels to it. (He told me I had basically animated the scene.) After looking it over, he told me he loved what I had done but he wanted to change the camera angle, so I had to redo all 58 panels to the new camera angle.

On Ryan there was a similar situation where I had boarded this fight sequence between Ryan and himself. It was really long and involved with all sorts of visual effects. When he saw the boards he almost fell over. He was going on and on about how great it was. Then he paused and said, "I'm sorry but we can't use it." I said, "Why not??" He said, "I don't think we can do something like this in 3D animation! The software isn't capable of handling this type of action." Remember, this was in 2003/04. Now, that sequence would have been a piece of cake. (As a matter of fact, the final fight sequence in the first Fantastic 4 movie versus Dr. Doom was very similar to what I had going on in the Ryan sequence.)