• Starewicz as a Benchmark for Planning Animation Storyboards

    Some time ago I posted my analysis of “The Frogs Who Wanted a King” by Wladyslaw Starewicz on stopmotionanimation.com as a benchmark for developing shots and scenes. I am running through the exercise for my next project tonight as I draft storyboard cards so I thought I would re-post the info here at my blog.

    While preparing for a previous stop motion project I wanted to gauge the breakdown of shots and scenes for a short film. My intent was to get some benchmarks to work against while planning scenes and shooting specific shots. I decided to watch my Starewicz DVD for reference. I would pause and forward one frame at a time every now and then while watching “The Frogs Who Wanted a King”.

    The exercise helped me to get a sense of the pace and frame-rate I should be working with while filming something. It also revealed to me that I could plan on doing at least a shot per day (around 6 seconds or so) and just move along slowly but steadily until I filmed everything. I guess it helped me create a rough production schedule since I was also working with no script and just a set of visual ideas.

    Here are the specifics that I found.

    -25 scenes
    -62 specific animated shots
    -19 title cards shots
    -81 total shots
    -7 seconds: average length of shot
    -16 seconds: average length of title card
    -15 words: approximate number of words per title card
    -4 words per line for title cards
    -16 frames: number of frames for a “Starewicz-style” zoom

    The exercise is to take index cards (or the back of used old business cards) and quickly sketch or write out descriptions of discreet visual scenes of your film. Once you have at least 20 to 30 cards you have a bulk of visual material at your disposal. You then place them on a bulletin board with pins or magnets and start moving them around to find the flow, arcs, or connections of your movie. Ideally, as you review the stream of visual ideas, new ideas or directions will arise and you then sketch or write those and start sticking them on the board.

    Iterate through this exercise at least one more time to add 2 or 3 cards to each existing card when needed for clarity of visual communication. Pretty soon you have the visual concepts for around 4 to 6 minutes of footage. In some ways it’s like painting or sculpting with visual concepts on cards instead of paint and the board is your canvas. You can step back every so often and “read” the stream of cards until you feel confident that you can formalize your shooting plan.