5. Film grammar
Current time:0:00Total duration:11:50
- Now that you've had some practice with framing, staging and motion, it's time to put everything together and draw some storyboards. As we mentioned earlier, there is no one right way to approach storyboarding. To give you a feel for how I approach it, let me demonstrate. In Ratatouille, there was a moment where the restaurant critic, Anton Ego sits down to order food at Gusteau's. At the start of the scene Mustafa, the waiter, sees Ego enter the restaurant. And approaches Ego nervously to take his order. As Ego tries to give his order, Mustafa doesn't understand what he wants. Ego stands up abruptly, makes his order clear, and then sits back down. Here's my thought process for boarding that moment. So I want to start to think in terms of shots, you know story telling shots. Where I'll draw simple frames. And I'll try and figure out what's a good composition to set up what Ego is trying to do, right? Ego is trying to assert himself. Ego doubts the restaurant. So Ego is in a position of power. So I might start with something like maybe I want to see Ego in an upshot, maybe. I don't know if that works, so I'm gonna just keep exploring. I want to find something that feels interesting to me. I know I want a shot like this. I need to have a set up where maybe Ego is gonna be by himself. And then maybe there'll be other tables around. Other people having a good time. Whatever it is. I just want to make sure that Ego is the center of focus. There'll be a lot of people's backs. Whatever it is. You know if I pushed him back further and made him seem bigger than the table, which is another thing I can do. It's kinda like what they did with Clint Eastwood. They made the door frames smaller to make him seem bigger. I might want to do the same thing. So even if I had tables around, people are gonna seem relatively small compared to the tables or at least maybe more in scale. But that's only because I want to make sure Ego seems like he's the biggest. Maybe I'll kinda bring in some sort of framing device to allow me to go okay, all we look at is Ego, see? So I frame him. And I saw maybe I'll use that shot. So I'm gonna leave this one, maybe I'll put a check by it for myself. Now I need to figure out more of what else can happen. I know that the waiter is gonna come in. Mustafa is gonna come in at some point. So maybe what's the dynamics between them? Maybe I want to have, and I'm drawing really rough here because I want to keep things simple. It's really important when you draw characters to you know, Ego is kinda like a spike of some sort, right? Maybe a vulture. He's all black with basically a white, kind of oval head like that. And Mustafa who's the other character in the scene is a little bit more doughy. A little bit more round and blocky. So I go ahead and draw them later. I know that when I'm drawing my simple shapes, that this is something that I wanna utilize so I can keep my drawing simple. Maybe I need an upshot, so I'm gonna try this. And what I do on an upshot is maybe I'll want to have Mustafa kinda cowering a little bit. His head is kind of in his shoulders. Maybe he's holding his hands. Even though it's an upshot, which we've talked about being a position of possible dominance, I can flip that. Meaning that I can now use size as a way to show dominance. Maybe I'll want to go over Ego's back altogether. And make him occupy most of the frame, and therefore when I draw Mustafa, I might have him even though it's an upshot, I'm gonna have him a little smaller in the frame. Giving Ego all the power of the frame. Right, it's a very uncomfortable frame. I kinda like that. I don't know if I'll use it, but I'm gonna mark it cause I kinda like that. So I have an over for him, so now I need what's called a complimentary shot. And that is when you have an over, you want to have a shot that is the other side of the conversation. And by over, I mean over the shoulder. Now I need to complement that, right? I don't want to change it and go okay, now Mustafa on the flip side is not going to be big and Ego is going to be small. I don't want to do that because that switches the power, it's confusing. And I need to be clear. And I want to complement that shot in my over the shoulder. So instead what I might do is something like this. And this is just me thinking. So maybe what I'll do is, I will give Ego more space, even though he might be smaller, I'm gonna give him more space. And give Mustafa less. I want to now find my climax so to speak for my scene. Essentially when I'm referring to the climax, what I'm looking for is I'm looking for that moment that changes the scene, you know? There's a spike, right? When we learned earlier, the story structure goes as this. The character starts here, goes through obstacles to a point or a climax and then there's the resolution, right? Every scene is similar to that. We want to find that change so to speak. The change I have in this scene is that there is a miscommunication between Mustafa and Ego. Ego gets frustrated and has to get into his face or do something to get his attention that shifts the power dynamic. That we know that he's in charge. And so for this instance, I think that what I want to do is not be tricky. You know, I don't want to be upshot, comes in the camera up like this, where maybe he'll stand up in the frame. Where the camera might move up with him. And the frame will look something like this. So, he looks very dramatic. You know, as a one, two to the shot. You know, he stands up in the frame, he looks dynamic. Something like that oftentimes feels good, but it doesn't quite connect. And I need it to be simple and clear. So oftentimes like we talked about, simple and clear is the right medicine. And for this instance, I think that if I was just doing a side shot, if I have my two characters like this, something like this. Maybe what I'll do is I'll kinda go ahead and have Mustafa stay neutral, but I'll have Ego get in his face. Right? So he's gonna move up and get in his face. And maybe he even cowers a little bit because Mustafa's already afraid of him. Everyone's afraid of Ego. And a quick movement like this can really change a scene without being overly tricky. So I think I'm gonna stick with that. And on top of that, what I might do is actually punch in which is to go in a little bit closer. And now show maybe Mustafa with Ego. So I would really want to continue that action so I really want to make sure I emphasize it again. This is just a punch in, which means I'm taking this set up that I have, and I'm just framing it a little bit closer. And I have to redraw it. What it does is it gives us emphasis, right? So as soon as he moves, we're gonna cut. And we're gonna finish that move in this close up. Because now we go from just the action of Ego moving up to actually seeing the expressions continue that action. So when Ego moves in the frame, and makes Mustafa lean back a little bit, we're gonna see Mustafa go from something like this to something like this. And that's my change. I think that I want to stay really simple because I don't need to be overly ambitious with this scene. Cause it's a very simple scene. So that is gonna be my climax. That's the big build. That's what I'm gonna build to. So now that I've put together a few shots that I like, what I want to do is find that progression. So I need to have an intro. And I think for this instance, since I've established that centered shot of Ego, I think I'm gonna stick with that. And so my B to that might be as maybe Mustafa unknowingly looks to the camera, or looks kind of towards camera, and gives a big sigh like oh no, I have to take this guy's order. I need to show him move. So he's gonna move away in this shot. He's gonna start to walk towards Ego. He's gonna have his head in his shoulders. He's very nervous, right? And he's gonna move in towards Ego. So now this is where I might use camera movements. So I'm just gonna block a shot that I like that makes sense to me right now. I may not use it later but I'm gonna try. So maybe I'm gonna go ahead and approach it, maybe some sort of side shot. Mustafa is walking towards Ego and he's gonna meet up with 'em and get into a position, something like this. He's gonna go up to take his order. I established already that I wanted a shot, something like this. I'm gonna have Ego kind of domineering in the shot. It's gonna be an upshot. As he takes his order, he's like, take your order? Now I need that complimentary over that I talked about earlier. And maybe I have something like this where I have Mustafa, and I'm just slightly over his shoulder. But I'm gonna give a lot of screen space to Ego. And so the next one I go to is have Ego actually looking at him, but what I'm thinking about doing is actually pushing past Mustafa. Meaning that the camera is gonna start to move in closer to Ego and Mustafa's going to be become out of frame, maybe. Cause I want to emphasize something he's saying. And he might be saying, I think the dialogue I might have heard was, I need to order, I want perspective. And so, maybe we want to go closer now. I'm gonna a little bit closer and have Ego here. And Mustafa still small in frame. But he's closer now, and he's like what? So, I'm gonna go back to that side shot. The one I talked about earlier. Where I'm going to have Ego stand up in his face. And then we're gonna cut in for emphasis. When Ego gets in his face, Mustafa is gonna lean back, right? Cause that's the power. Ego dominates the frame. So he's gonna tell him. He's like, essentially give me whatever your chef thinks is the best food he can possibly give me because I don't believe that this place is good. So that's my turn, right? That's exactly what the whole scene's about. I've just kinda nailed it in my mind what it can be. And now with these roughs in mind, I can go ahead and actually start to explore space and develop my shots that actually work better than these. But these are a great starting point for me. And let's see how the final boards came out. The drawings for these final boards were pretty detailed. But when making your own boards, you don't need fancy drawings. Simple drawings are generally enough to support a good story pitch. (sighs) - Do you know what you would like this evening sir? - Yes, I think I do. After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? - Oh, with what sir? - Perspective. Fresh out I take it? - Uh, I'm sorry. - Don't apologize. There seems to be a shortage currently. Hence your grotesquely undeserved reputation. Very well, I sense you're all out of perspective and since no one else seems to have it in this bloody town, I'll make you a deal. You provide the food, I'll provide the perspective. Which would go nicely with a bottle of '82 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, thank you. - I'm afraid, your dinner selection? - Tell your chef Linguine that I want whatever he dares to bring me. Tell him to hit me with his best shot. - Now you're ready to storyboard your story. It takes a lot of practice, refinement and iteration. So expect to have to do it a few times before it feels just right. Keep at it and don't get discouraged.