Making of "A is for Al....": From storyboards to final film / by Rok Andic

In this video you can see sequence progression from storyboards to final film from “A is for Al….”.

The storyboards as you can see are pretty simple. Since I only draw them for myself and not as a presentation for somebody else I keep them very simple. I know in my head about the rest of the scene so I don’t spend too much time on drawing elaborate sets and backgrounds, just the main action. The boards were drawn with pencil in a notebook, scanned on the computer, cropped and put into sequence. I like drawing on paper. It’s fun but it can also be slow because you can’t copy & paste parts of the board like in the computer. Thus every board must be redrawn. This is the main reason that in the future I’ll probably draw everything digitally. Simply because it’s much faster.

For the layout I focus on camera, space and timing. I don’t worry about anything else.  The most challenging parts for me are the first and second pass of blocking. I define the whole animation here. If it’s not working here it definitely will not work in the final film. I usually draw a few key poses on paper or film myself on camera to figure character acting and actions. When drawing I usually don’t draw every inbetween or overlap, just the main poses. I found that for this film I drew key poses just for a few shots. Mostly I filmed myself and used that as a reference.

When filming myself for reference I usually split it into smaller specific chunks or actions (typing on buttons, jumping, grabbing something…). The main reason being that it is rare for the whole filmed action to be usable so I rather focus on smaller parts and connect them together later. Sometimes there’s also a problem with lack of space. If I film myself in a small room I simply don’t have enough space to perform everything in a shot. So splitting into smaller segments makes a lot of sense.

Spline animation and polishing are usually the fun parts for me where everything is already defined but the details have yet to be made. I enjoy it especially when working on my own projects like “A is for Al….”, because I already know I will not make any major changes to the shot so I am allowed to make a mess with keyframes when making overlaps or creating additional keys. When working for a client I usually try to keep this stage clean as possible in case there are any bigger changes to the shot made later and I have to go back to spline or even blocking.

As you can see the light also plays a big role in the film but I don’t create it in phases like I do  animation. I spend most of the time to set key lights which in this set are from the top. When I am finished with those I set highlights or rim lights to accentuate the forms. Then I setup the fill lights if necessary. Sometimes I create the fill lights before rim lights depending on the situation but I always start with the key light. I first set lighting globally per set. Once I am satisfied how that looks I adjust it per shot accordingly.

As for rendering I try to render as few layers as possible. I usually have just two layers - the character and the background. I don’t do any heavy compositing with these shots so it is not necessary to have more layers. In compositing I mostly just fix render problems or add glows if necessary but otherwise just put layers back together and push them forward to color grade where final images are rendered.