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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Friday, March 17, 2006

Storyboard Study: Shot progression

This one is based on something that filmmakers and board artists use all the time; shot progression. Mark Andrews brings this up frequently in our talks about story, and is one of the many concepts that we must juggle around in our heads while we're boarding.

He demonstrated the following and I thought I'd post my take on it here. Take a look at progression number one, six shots of a couple talking in a restaurant. It's a basic progression that starts far away and neutral and ends up in an extreme close up featuring one character. The script may start out with some chit chat between the characters, and intensify to where in panel six the woman makes an important statement (ie: " I'm pregnant, or "I'm leaving you", or even "oh crap-- I left the oven on" etc etc). For all intents and purposes, this is correct. The shots slowly intensify to a visual climax.


Now look at progression 2; same six shots, but I've jumbled them around. For the script we're using in progression one, this would be considered wrong. The shots are all over the place. Sure the woman could say "I'm leaving you " in the close up in panel six, but what impact will it have after the extreme close up in panel one? How is it building intensity if we're going to a wide neutral shot, then close up , then out to medium shots?


Now the tricky part. With a different script, the second progression could work. I added the panels at random, so I'll try to work backwards from this and come up with a scenario that works. Say the woman gets a phone call from the man and he says " Sally, the money's gone; meet me at the cafe".

With that intro, the script for progression two may go like this:

panel one: (woman) "what do you mean the money's gone?"
panel two: (man)(looking around nervously and whispering) " I don't know, the suitcase was empty"
panel three: (man) "we've got to find that money"
panel four: (woman) "all right but being here is making me nervous, they could be following us"
panel five: (man) " what do you think we should do?"
panel six: (woman) "we need to get out of town"

The most important bit is the woman's reaction to the money being gone and the XCU opens the scene with a punch. The second biggest bit is "we need to get out of town", so that gets a close up in panel six although not as big as panel one. The lines of them talking about being scared of being followed are in wider shots to emphasize the people around them and that they're in a public space.

Now while this isn't perfectly ideal, I just wanted to illustrate that a progression like number one, although visually solid, isn't always the right one. Your shot progression will depend on what is happening in your scene. Make sure your shots best emphasize what's happening in the story.

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1 comment:

Rafi said...

hey this is an excellent post!!! really helpful in understanding and anlysing shots in film - more please! :)