A miscellany of weekly ramblings on comics, art and film by Ted Mathot, storyboard artist and writer/artist/self-publisher of graphic novels and comics
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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Storyboard Study - Over the Line!


I'm sorry Smokey, that's a foul.

In storyboarding there's something that's known as the 180 degree rule, line of action, or the camera "line"; an invisible line that runs through the shot to maintain screen direction and continuity. Most times this line is the line of sight between two characters and is part of a semi-circular area where the camera can be placed to maintain continuity.

With some directors, this is a hard and fast rule that is not broken; with others, it is broken liberally. Most directors fall somewhere in the middle. The most important thing (at least to me) is knowing HOW and WHY one crosses the line. To me the 180 is not really a rule; it is a suggestion. Most of the time we are within the comfortable confines of the 180 semi-circle, but every now and then, to break up what can turn into monotony and also to generate interest, we go over.

Some suggestions on how to go over the line:

1. Lead the viewer's eye to the part of the screen where you want them to look when you cut over the 180.
2. Create a big enough change in the shot that the characters don't jump or pop.
3. Cut away to a third character or object or action
4. Cut to a neutral angle (an ON AXIS shot, where the camera is ON the line of action)
5. Move the camera over the line creating a new line.
6. Just do it (to elicit a reaction from the viewer) (good examples are the opening of The Insider by Michael Mann and the dinner scene from The Underneath by Steven Soderbergh).

It's up to us to use all the tools available to make our scenes and shots interesting. Just because a character is on the left side of the screen doesn't mean they have to be there for the whole scene; or because a car is moving from left to right doesn't mean it has to be moving left to right in every shot, especially in action scenes.

Take a look at your favorite films and see if and when the director goes over the line; look at it and ask yourself HOW and WHY the director did it.

(the above shot form the Big Lebowski is not an example of going over the line in the film sense).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Working Space

Thanksgiving is over, time to dive back into the book before more holidays are upon me. Here's the current working space.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

More studies

Hope everyone had a great turkey day. Here are some clothing studies from over two years ago. A lot of this study came from the drapery and clothing chapter of the Famous Artists' Coursebook from 1954. I highly recommend seeking out these volumes and buying them. They are a treasure trove of great information. Over the years I have mamaged to aquire 16 volumes, covering many aspects of illustration, cartooning, and painting.

The drawings below are of various folds that in the lesson have been simplified for the illustrator including the pill fold, diaper fold and directional fold; all are very simple and effective (the butt fold is one I made up). Knowing how and where to place them and with how much emphasis is the tough part. I'm still struggling with these folds, but it's starting to come a bit more easily now.



Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Storyboard Study - Building Suspense in "The Gift"

I did this exercise a few years ago while watching Sam Raimi's "The Gift". There's a scene in there that has a really nice dramatic and suspenseful build to it, so I decided to break it down into shots to figure out what made it work. This is a really great exercise for anyone who is interested in storyboarding or what makes a good scene work. I learned quite a bit from it.

Note the shot economy: there are only 12 total shots in the scene.

(the progression on each page is from top to bottom on the left side, then top to bottom on the right side.)



Storyboard Study - Building Suspense in "The Gift"

I did this exercise a few years ago while watching Sam Raimi's "The Gift". There's a scene in there that has a really nice dramatic and suspenseful build to it, so I decided to break it down into shots to figure out what made it work. This is a really great exercise for anyone who is interested in storyboarding or what makes a good scene work. I learned quite a bit from it.

Note the shot economy: there are only 12 total shots in the scene.

(the progression on each page is from top to bottom on the left side, then top to bottom on the right side.)



Thursday, November 17, 2005

Here comes the rain again...


Part of Rose and Isabel's journey takes place during the Overland campaign of 1864, during which there were days and days of incessant rain. It certainly added to the misery of all involved and was a major factor in the way that part of the war was played out. The drawing of this inclement weather has been difficult in its own right. This is a rather dark time in the story, literally and figuratively and to be quite honest has at times put me in a low mood. But I forge on, even though there isn't much room for levity; there will be time for that in another story.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Joe Bowler

Some more images from my collection of one of my favorite 50's magazine illustrators, Joe Bowler.





And one from The Rules of Attraction which has a lot of great images of 50's and 60's illustration and comics.

Roughing it

Had a very productive weekend working on the book (didn't see much sun though). It's one of those good times artists may know as "the zone" where the ideas and drawings just flow out. This one wasn't as good as some in the past, but yielded some good spur-of-the-moment ideas, ones that I hadn't thought of prior to laying pencil to paper. Of course I can't reveal any of them to you..that would spoil the surprise. About half of the book is layed out now; a quarter of it is finished. And I'm just about to dive head first into the really hard stuff. Still a long way to go...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Light Refreshment




I'm a big fan of 50's illustration, especially the series done thoughout the fifties advertising Pepsi as "the Light refreshment". Pepsi used some heavy-hitters during this period, including one of my favorites, Joe DeMers, who illustrated the piece above. The reason I like these ads is not that much different from those listed in the Tenenbaums post; well composed, nice arrangement of shapes, good use of color. Not to mention DeMers was a heck of a good painter and draftsman.

Color-wise, a no-brainer. They want us to look at the attractive woman, so she is in-your-face red; the eye goes to her first. The man couldn't be any more desaturated. Now look at the horizontals and verticals versus the diagonals here; the diagonal of the woman's arm and the horizontal of her leg converge at the man's face. His look brings us back up to her face. It's like a continuous loop: Her face to her arm down to her knee to the man's face and back up to hers. The man's Pepsi is also in her direct line of sight (can't forget about the product placement!).

Solid.

Here's another one, with the full Photoshop treatment applied. I do think there is a charm to yellowed old paper, but it's interesting to see what these would look like on white paper.

Not sure of the artist on this one, but it could be DeMers again, or possibly Joe Bowler. Great composition though.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Updates

Hi folks, sorry for the lack of updates the past week; I've been concentrating a little more on my other blog Current Flavor lately... There is a two-part post on film composition there if you're interested in checking it out.

More Rose and Isabel updates are coming later this week or next...

Composition, part 2

Aarrrrg! Part of this post was deleted and is unrecoverable by Blogger...I'll try to get the rest of it back up in the next day or so...

This is a continuation of last week's post about composition. Every time I look at films like this one I notice new things. Here are some more of my observations. Feel free to discuss in the comments section...


A combination of flat and deep space; the doorframe providing the flat space as well as framing what's inside. The door is angled perfectly to shoot your eye right at the mouse habiat in the background.

Also a combination of flat and deep space; the foreground elements of the table, computer, phones, lamp, coffee maker and the punching bag are all pretty much flat, and again are framing the deep space. The coffee maker and lamp are framing Chas. Although he is very small in the frame, those elements focus the eye on him (Chas' posture is a diagonal, one of the strongest ones in the shot).

Great shot; you can see 11 individual faces here, but two are important (Royal and Margot). Royal is the largest whole figure in the shot; Margot is the smallest figure; two extremes that draw the eye to them. Margot is smack dab in the middle of the shot, framed by the other characters, and if that's not enough, she's looking right into the camera lens. A diagonal of perspecting heads takes the eye from Royal to Margot. No confusion on where to look here!

All flat elements in this shot...not one diagonal here; great arrangement of shapes.



Composition, part 2

Aarrrrg! Part of this post was deleted and is unrecoverable by Blogger...

This is a continuation of last week's post about composition. Every time I look at films like this one I notice new things. Here are some more of my observations. Feel free to discuss in the comments section...


A combination of flat and deep space; the doorframe providing the flat space as well as framing what's inside. The door is angled perfectly to shoot your eye right at the mouse habiat in the background.

Also a combination of flat and deep space; the foreground elements of the table, computer, phones, lamp, coffee maker and the punching bag are all pretty much flat, and again are framing the deep space. The coffee maker and lamp are framing Chas. Although he is very small in the frame, those elements focus the eye on him (Chas' posture is a diagonal, one of the strongest ones in the shot).

Great shot; you can see 11 individual faces here, but two are important (Royal and Margot). Royal is the largest whole figure in the shot; Margot is the smallest figure; two extremes that draw the eye to them. Margot is smack dab in the middle of the shot, framed by the other characters, and if that's not enough, she's looking right into the camera lens. A diagonal of perspecting heads takes the eye from Royal to Margot. No confusion on where to look here!

All flat elements in this shot...not one diagonal here; great arrangement of shapes.



Friday, November 04, 2005

Composition, part 1

I love Wes Anderson's films; I refer to them often when I'm storyboarding because of the way they are composed. I love the flat space staging, the design of the shots. It's very hard to stage something in flat space without making it look, well, flat.

That's where the design of the frame comes in. The placement of characters, props, lighting; things to move your eye and keep you interested. Below are some shots form the prologue of The Royal Tenenbaums that illustrate this idea very well. Not all of the shots are flat space of course, but to me, for some reason, the shots with diagonals and shapes that recede in perspective still seem to imply flat space, like a storybook. And that's a GOOD thing.


Title card; totally flat, as well as symmetrical, with the mouse added for interest (also a story point). Also of note is the use of color here. Pink against green. Who would've thought? (pink, green and brown are dominant throughout the film).


Flat again, with just a dab of asymmetry.


Although the buildings recede in perspective, this shot is still flat. The tops of the buildings form a straight line that cuts right through the middle of the frame. (notice the color on the flag; green and pink)


Deep space. I love the placement of the actor Gene Hackman here; taking full advantage of the 2:35 frame.


Awesome staging. Great use of the wide frame and interesting placement of characters. This is flat space again; there are only two (yup, two) diagonals in the shot; the molding on the wall behind Margot's head and the angle of the book she's reading. Both are angling towards Etheline (Anjelica Huston), the focus of the shot.

The book Margot is reading is cheated to the camera so we can see the title (Chekhov - she is smart and like plays). Chas' head is out of frame and he's standing in profile to the camera, creating flat space (supporting his rigid and analytical nature). Richie is wearing tennis gear and looking at a book of maps (when we first meet the adult Richie, he is traveling). There is so much information just in this one shot, all because of the way it's composed.

More to come next week.

Composition, part 1

I love Wes Anderson's films; I refer to them often when I'm storyboarding because of the way they are composed. I love the flat space staging, the design of the shots. It's very hard to stage something in flat space without making it look, well, flat.

That's where the design of the frame comes in. The placement of characters, props, lighting; things to move your eye and keep you interested. Below are some shots form the prologue of The Royal Tenenbaums that illustrate this idea very well. Not all of the shots are flat space of course, but to me, for some reason, the shots with diagonals and shapes that recede in perspective still seem to imply flat space, like a storybook. And that's a GOOD thing.


Title card; totally flat, as well as symmetrical, with the mouse added for interest (also a story point). Also of note is the use of color here. Pink against green. Who would've thought? (pink, green and brown are dominant throughout the film).


Flat again, with just a dab of asymmetry.


Although the buildings recede in perspective, this shot is still flat. The tops of the buildings form a straight line that cuts right through the middle of the frame. (notice the color on the flag; green and pink)


Deep space. I love the placement of the actor Gene Hackman here; taking full advantage of the 2:35 frame. There is a tiny swatch of warm orange in the doorway to emphasize him.


Awesome staging. Great use of the wide frame and interesting placement of characters. This is flat space again; there are only two (yup, two) diagonals in the shot; the molding on the wall behind Margot's head and the angle of the book she's reading. Both are angling towards Etheline (Anjelica Huston), the focus of the shot.

The book Margot is reading is cheated to the camera so we can see the title (Chekhov - she is smart and like plays). Chas' head is out of frame and he's standing in profile to the camera, creating flat space (supporting his rigid and analytical nature). Richie is wearing tennis gear and looking at a book of maps (when we first meet the adult Richie, he is traveling). There is so much information just in this one shot, all because of the way it's composed.

More to come next week.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Il Conformista

This film has been on my mind lately, and has led me to wonder when the heck it will be released by Paramount on DVD. The Conformist is a visually stunning piece of work; I first heard about it during a lecture by Bruce Block on visual storytelling.

Someone on the message board over at IMDB who was in contact with Paramount said the DVD is in the works, and will preserve the film's original aspect ratio.

I can't wait for this release; I got to see the film projected at a Vittorio Storaro retrospective at LACMA a number of years ago.
One scene out of many memorable scenes that has always stuck with me is of Stefania Sandrelli in a striped dress dancing in a room with semi closed blinds. The light is filtering in and manipulated to create patterns of alternating light and dark all through the scene. Beautiful.



Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What if

When I was designing the charaters for Rose and Isabel, something about father's design made me think of actor Sam Elliott.
I was bored the other day and photoshopped this "what if" scenario...father played by Sam Elliott.