Join Ian Robinson for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating storyboards in After Effects, part of After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics (2011).
Whether or not you're familiar with creating storyboards, it's important to understand exactly why you would want to create a storyboard. Basically, it's to help save you and the client lots of time, and hopefully lots of money. Instead of doing all the work to create a finished, complete, polished animation, all you're trying to do with the storyboard is create keyframes that you can then in turn show to the client, and they can sort of make up the differences in between each frame, creating the animation in their mind, if you will.
So I know that sounds rather abstract, but it'll make a little bit more sense as we move throughout this video. Now first off, I want you to look at this composition here, and as you can see, I've got a blank screen with this brushstroke. What I'm trying to do is create a storyboard for a title open called Revealing the Artist, and most of the time when you create a storyboard, you'll start in one composition. Now, just so you don't have to sit there and watch me go through the actual process of creation, I've pre-built four different compositions, showing individual keyframes of the animation.
But I'll talk you through how I actually got to each individual comp. So first thing, let's open up the TextureBackground folder, and in here, you've noticed I have four comps: Board_01, Board_02, Board_03, Board_04. Really, these are all part of one board. These are just different frames. Most of the time when you create a storyboard, it will usually be three frames or six frames, or what have you. But honestly, you can set any number of frames you'd like to create.
Now I chose four for this animation, because it's only a 10-second open. So if we double-click on Board_01, you can see, I've got this brushstroke here. Looking at this individual frame, you're probably thinking, yeah, that's not very exciting. But when we go to drop this in the storyboard, we'll add some narration underneath of it, just with some text explaining what's going on. Now just so you know, this brushstroke will be sort of painting itself on, appearing out of this kind of soupy orange yellow background.
The second frame here is that same brushstroke, but the camera has zoomed in Z space really, really close to the brushstroke. We go from wide to close up here. Typically, in the narration, we'd add other keywords, like energetic, or there is a burst, or a zoom, or nice descriptors to really give people something a latch on to other than just looking at the individual stills. So we start wide, we zoom in to a close- up here, and then right around Board_03, this is where things kind of go awry, and basically the camera has kind of moved underneath of that initial brushstroke.
Since there are so many brushstrokes here, it's probably kind of confusing as to which stroke is which. Now I'm just going to tell you. In Board-02, this stroke that's going on here transitioned to this big stroke right here that we're seeing in the middle of the page. As you can see, also the titles are starting to be revealed, and they're revealing right around each one of the brushstrokes. So again, it'll be important to mirror this in the narration of the actual board creation.
The final frame is the actual type itself. Again, we're being very loose as far as what happens between frame 3 and frame 4. But even if I click back and forth, you can kind of get the feel of an animatic where you can sort of see how the type would start a little bit wide and blurry, and then end up kind of close and nicely set, like it is right now. This whole process is a creative process that you definitely have to experience yourself when you actually go to create the project.
When I created this, I started with this one comp, and instead of actually animating the camera and moving each object and creating more keyframes, it was faster just to duplicate the comp and then manipulate all the objects in the subsequent comp. Because honestly, most of the time when I'm submitting storyboards, I'm submitting storyboards for at least two designs, if not three, just so the client has some different things to look at when they actually go to approve a finished look or style for whatever title or package design it may be.
What you do once you actually have all these compositions together? Well, you just render out the keyframes. So let's do that. Double-click on Board_01 and press Ctrl+M or Command+M to load up that frame in your Render Queue. Now when you do Command+M, if we click on Best Settings here, you notice by default the render is going to start rendering at 0 frames and end at 923. So it's set up to render the entire scene. Now there is another way to queue up a render of individual stills, and that's by going up under Composition, and choose Save Frame As.
If we choose File, it'll automatically drop that into the Render Queue. Now when I click on Current Settings, notice by default, it's only going to render that one frame. The one thing you want to do is make sure to change the Quality from Current Settings to Best. That way even if you have your comps set at a lower resolution, it set to the Best Settings. Now we can go ahead and delete this first render that we had set up. Now we have Custom Settings for Photoshop. The next thing you want to do is set your output.
So I'm going to go ahead and set my output to render to chapter 11, and create a new folder in there called StillFrames. Okay, and go ahead and click Save. Now let's load up the rest of the composition. Again, just double-click on the next comp, go up under Composition > Save Frame As > File, and open up your Current Settings. Make sure it's set to Best. We'll click OK. We'll do the same thing for three and for four.
Now, once you have your comps set up to render, go ahead and press the Render button. Now we've actually created our keyframes that will appear in our storyboard. I'm going to jump to InDesign, because I like building my storyboards in InDesign. But obviously, you can build your storyboard in whatever kind of application you choose. Now if you do have InDesign, I did save this within the chapter 11 folder as well. But like I said, all you need to do is save the individual frames on one piece of paper.
So really, you can do this in Word if you have to. So let's go ahead and select one of the frames here, and I just want to go up under File and choose Place. We'll go to our Chapter11 folder, under StillFrames, and we can go ahead and just Shift+Click all of the frames. Now, I have four frames set up. As you can see, I have a thumbnail for the first one, so I'll just click in the first window for that. I have a thumbnail for the second, so I'll click in the second window for that, a thumbnail for the third, and a thumbnail for the fourth.
Since I can't see these properly in InDesign, what you have to do is grab your Direct Selection tool, select the object, and right-click on it, go to Fitting, and just say Fit Content to Frame. There we go, Fit Content to Frame. Okay, so as you can see, our storyboard here is set up where I have 1, 2, 3, 4 frames taking you through the actual animation itself.
Now, I want you to pay a special note to what's going on up at the top here. Up in the left, you want to put your company name, just to kind of help brand your storyboard. In the center, I'm going to go ahead and put the title of whatever this is. So the show is called Revealing The Artist, and this is the actual title design. You can do the same thing for bumpers, and lower thirds, and any other graphic elements that you've created. Last but not least, make sure you have a date set. That way, you always have a good reference as to exactly when each board was created.
Now it's important to go create the actual narration. I'll double-click in the frame here, and just start typing, and I'll zoom in here so you can see things a little bit better. There we go. Okay, so notice when I typed that "A lonely brush stroke paints itself into the scene out of the murky yellow and red background," I'm being very descriptive, just like an author would when they were trying to paint a scene in the book.
It's just really important that you embellish what's going on, because it will definitely help you sell your project as you're going through the pitch. So, same kind of thing here; let's go ahead and add a description. So through the magic of the editing, you can see our final finished PDF. When I was finished adding in the title itself, I just went ahead and exported a PDF. As you can see here, we have our company name, the title of the project, the date, and our style frames.
So once you have your storyboard created, it's really up to you to actually pitch this to your client and really sell the design. A lot of times you will get the luxury of being able to pitch in the same room. But as I'm sure everybody has experienced, many times you'll actually have to just send an e-mail. So if you're sending an e-mail with a PDF approval, you want to make sure to really embellish whatever it is you wrote, and accentuate everything that you've written about.
So all in all, I hope this helps you understand a little bit more about the process of creating storyboards, and more importantly, exactly when and why you would like to use them.
- Converting type from Photoshop and Illustrator
- Creating shapes from text
- Using markers in animation
- Editing techniques for graphics
- Using type presets
- Animating type
- Exploring color correction tools
- Building animated textures
- Creating custom vignettes
- Understanding Lights and Material settings
- Adding dynamic transitions
- Rigging cameras for animation
- Working efficiently in 3D space