Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Part 2: Throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks, part of Artists and Their Work: Conversations about Mograph, VFX, and Digital Art.
- Now you've got it open, Photoshop open right now. - Yeah, yeah. - Maybe we could draw a little sequence or something. - Yeah yeah, sure. - Yeah I don't wanna keep it too complicated, maybe a story about... I love bicycles, so maybe I come outside from a-- - You ride 'em or you just stare at 'em? - I ride them, I stare at them, I dream about them all day long. And I love my bike and if someone were to steal my bike I would probably go crazy. So maybe just a little short sequence about me discovering my bike is stolen - Sure. - So I come outside, my bike is stolen.
I go Hulk crazy, maybe I get some muscles and stuff. - Sure, okay. - Smash up the place, but then I realize my bike isn't stolen. Maybe somebody, you know, my buddy says, "Hey dude your bike's over here." and now I look like a fool. - Okay, yeah I could totally do something like that. - Okay. - So my process, like I tend to separate design from film making. - Okay. - So if you imagine this... Do you do life drawing? - Not very well. (laughs) - Oh okay. But you know the concept of life drawing? - Yes, absolutely. - Like, you don't just start off and start shading in, like, the upper lip. - Yeah, yeah. - The idea is that you catch a gesture and you kind of build it up.
It's like a Polaroid. So building a sequence is a bit that way too. You know, I'm just gonna start throwing spaghetti on the wall and we'll see what happens. - Okay, excellent. You wanna keep talking, I guess, while I do this? - Yeah, absolutely. - Do you wanna do it here in Vancouver? Or what's the setting? - You know, Vancouver's such a beautiful city. Vancouver it is. - Alright. - So it's the setting, we're over, you know, maybe on the waterfront and, you know, usual urban setting and... - I'll just put on a bit of a slope here. Just gonna do like a stoop here. - Excellent.
- So generally when you're storyboarding, you're looking to communicate the idea. And part of the idea is not losing your audience. So you're juggling a number of different things. So there's tone, like in terms of how you're gonna shoot it. Like Woody Allen shoots the movie a lot different than Bruckheimer. - Right, right. - So I suppose what this would be, would be kind of our establishing shot right here. - Right. So you're really grounded in the, sort of the filmmaking school as well. I mean, you have to think about shot choices and how it's gonna edit together. - Yeah, absolutely.
- And really, you are filmmaking even though you're just drawing pictures. - Yeah, I mean, yeah. It's what we're doing, it's ultimately... You're making something that someone's going to be sitting on a couch in Sandusky, Ohio watching. I mean, you have to think about your audience's response. Now do you wear those little bike shorts? Are you...? - Yeah, but I don't look good. (laughs) So make me look a little bit better than I actually do. - I'm terrible at caricatures. - (laughs) Okay, good. That means I'm safe.
And I notice how you have your Photoshop set up. You've already got a whole bunch of layers pre-set up for yourself? - Yeah, so I'm an old animator. I'm old in two senses. One, I'm old, and the other one is that I used to be an animator, does that make sense? (laughs) - Yeah, actually drawing on paper. - Yeah, back in the tudy day. I wasn't a good animator, but I was trained that way and I was coming up, and that was what I was gonna do for a living before the whole industry collapsed. But I still think that way, so you'll notice I work from bottom to top.
- The bottom, yeah. - So it's a bit like flipping paper. - Yes. So I'm coming out of the - Actually, you know what? - the door now. - You should be happy. - Yeah. - You shouldn't be depressed. - I'm excited to see my bike. I haven't seen it all day. - You haven't seen it? You love your bike. - I do love my bike. - I know you love bikes. I know very little about you, but I know you love bikes. (laughs) What kind of helmet do you have? - It's not too aero, it's kind of normal-looking.
(mumbling) - You need more of a jaunty step. - So you really are just capturing the gestures and you're not obsessing about filling in details. - So on an average week I'm usually delivering two or three boards. - Okay. When you say boards, boards are multiple frames though, right? - Yeah they're like sequences. And so you're talking about roughly like 300 drawings every couple days. - Wow, in a week? In a couple days? - Every couple days.
- Wow! - And some of that's revision, some of it is, you know... Like you'll see what I'm doing here is I don't re-draw my background every time. I just draw what I need to move. Alright, so you're coming down... See you coming down the step. And everybody works different. - Sure. - So if you get 10 boarders in a room, you're gonna get 10 different processes. (laughs) - And when you're working at this point with the director, would you... If they said, "Hey, Chris, I think we want to might "cut in to a close-up at that point "and maybe really get a big jaw-dropper "or something funny like that." Is that...
Would you start over again? Or do you keep that in the same sequence? Or would that start a new file-- - Yeah, it depends. Usually I'll do a pass, and then I show the director, and then we talk about it. And depending on how many changes are requested, I'll either start over from scratch or I'll just tap in to what I've done. The whole goal is to get it to editorial. (laughs) So editorial is where we cut it. So when we cut it, what we're doing is we're taking these from being drawings to giving them a notation of time.
- I see. - And when drawings fall into time, they start to become film. Does that make sense? - Absolutely it does. - And so ultimately, much like animation... So when I started I was an animator. I had a directing animator, Lynn Simon, who always told me, "Don't draw the drawing, "Draw the movement." And if you draw the movement, then your drawing and design sense will catch up. And you can always go back in and re-draw stuff. The idea is to get it down as quickly as possible, shoot it, and look at it. - And really ask yourself, does this feel right? Do you have weight? Now you have to have, you know, we have to have drawing chops to get there.
- Yeah. - But you can get there with very efficient sketches. You don't have to go in and like, kind of do all the detail and stuff. Even I'm not blocking in all of your, you know, your... I just have dots for eyes, but I'm getting the idea. So it's like... (comical noises) (laughs) And then from there I would probably cut to a point of view. And let me think, I might put you... I'm gonna start off putting you in the shot. - Over the shoulder? - Do a dirty point of view. - Do you ever reach a point where you, like, collapse some layers together and actually, you know, merging things? Or do you always keep it as a whole ton of layers? - No, eventually I'll split it off into another program.
You know, we can use Flix, I can use Bridge. - I see. - I take it out of being in a stack here and I make it into individual drawings where I can flip it. Now I need to tell a story that your bike is gone, so I'm gonna change my color here. - Okay. - Just for the sake of my own sketching it in. And usually what I'll do is I'll rough in, like this. I'll try and rough it in as quick as I can. Even working looser than what I'm doing right now, because I have a camera on me. But if it's just me on my own, I'm doing stick figures, right? - Gotcha, yeah.
- Just so I can get sense of sort of where everything is. So I'm gonna do, like, a bike lock. - I see. - Unless you have a better idea. - No, a bike lock is great. That's what would tip me off. Let's imagine this were a scene from a much larger movie. As the film project comes through the process, is there ever a point in where the storyboards are no longer necessary? Or do you find - (mumbles agreement) - that you guys are boarding all the way through the process? - We are, but there are times when it's easier to solve the problem in layout.
You know, where you have live camera. And there are moments where you can go even right to your animators and say, "Listen, I just need this change made. "I'm not gonna go back in the story. "Can you guys manipulate the camera "to get this new angle and just execute this idea?" - Right, right. - So the whole idea is solve the problem with the proper tools. Do you know what I mean? With the best tools at your disposal. - Right. - If there's a screening coming up, and we're not gonna have time to fully realize something, the thing about layout is layout's a really practical department for us as filmmakers.
It's a hard thing for an audience to watch, because it's very cool. And even though drawings are sketchy, there's a warmth to them. Do you know what I mean? - Yeah, they feel human. - And you can get your performance, you can get a sense of your acting in there right away. So I'm gonna do a take here because you said you'd be really distraught. - And I mean really like, MGM Tom and Jerry distraught.
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