Pixar Storyboard Class Weeks 6 and 7: Indiana Jones Returns!

This semester I am taking ANM 499 Digital Storyboarding for Feature Animation with Pixar Story Artist Kristen Lester. I am chronicling my experience on the blog for myself and for those interested in learning more about storytelling. I highly recommend trying your hand at the assignments we were given, as well as watching the films assigned. Happy boarding!


This week’s assignment was to watch the film Gravity. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Hands down this film and Frozen were the two best films I saw in 2013. Sandra Bullock gives the performance of her career as Dr. Ryan Stone, who along with Matt Kowalski (played by the always marvelous George Clooney) are installing a device of Bullock’s creation when everything goes horrifically wrong. The story, visuals and especially the sound are particularly compelling. In fact, the soundtrack is perhaps the best part of the show. The music entertains and frightens at the same time.

I saw the film both in 3D and 2D. I highly recommend that you see it before it comes out on DVD. It’s not going to the same experience on a television set as it is on a gigantic screen.

BullockThe reason why this film works so marvelously well in my opinion is because of the excellence of the drama — it leads the audience and draws you in and forces you into the excitement. You are also compelled by Sandra Bullock’s story — you realize that she doesn’t even WANT to be in space, and she in a few short moments becomes the lone survivor who must put aside her personal demons to save herself. External and internal conflicts abound. ASTOUNDING.

Story + Where It’s Set + How It’s Shot = Great Movie, and Gravity fulfills all of those requirements.

And now for the main event, the lesson for the day. And this day we learned about
The Tools of Composition

  • Subject Size
  • Point of Focus
  • Contrast
  • Location within frame
  • Clear Silhouette
  • Horizontals
  • Verticals
  • Diagonals

I bold the last one because it is something that I remind myself of constantly. If you want some terrific examples of how to create a clear silhouette, watch any film by Akira Kurosawa.

All of these are important because they are used to lead the eye to where you want your audience to look. Compositional tools also help the audience know what is happening and help you as an artist make sure that the background is not competing with your characters.

Getting into more detail, Horizontal lines typically mean that everything in the scene is in statis and calm.

Diagonals imply that there is a dynamism to the shot, because it mimics motion.

Verticals imply stiffness, or formality. For example, a la Gilbert Huph from The Incredibles:






image from doblu.com

The Golden Ration — the epitome of showing people where you want to look. According to LiveScience.com:

“The Golden ratio is a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. It is often symbolized using phi, after the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In an equation form, it looks like this: a/b = (a+b)/a = 1.6180339887498948420 …”

– See more at: http://www.livescience.com/37704-phi-golden-ratio.html#sthash.ebdNnsOm.dpuf

Visually, the Golden Ratio looks like this:

goldenratioImage from underpaintings.blogspot.com

And to see real examples from nature of the Golden Ratio, check out io9’s site: http://io9.com/5985588/15-uncanny-examples-of-the-golden-ratio-in-nature

Basically, the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds are quite similar, so think of them when you are creating your boards to create interesting and easy to read shots. As long as you ask yourself “Where do I want viewers to look?” you will have a better time creating the types of shots that you want.

In short, the tools of composition will show you WHAT is important and WHAT the scene is about.

Finally, the best thing I learned from weeks 6 and 7 was a concept called the Area of Action.

That and the Indiana Jones boards coming to you soon…


Gravity poster from horrornews.net
Sandra Bullock picture from johnnoshark-reviews.com