Currently the animatic is set up a little weird!
We’ve linked in scenes from every blend file into a master timeline in the video sequence editor (making significant use of the mapping cameras to timeline markers)- which is both cool and not-so-cool. On the plus side, it gives immediate updates. Whenever anyone updates an animation or a model, all we have to do is update SVN and bam! It’s in the animatic.
The downside to this is that the VSE was never really designed to do this. It can, but from what I hear the feature was implemented more as a joke than anything. As the files have become increasingly complex, the time to open/save the timeline has increased to rawther absurd lengths, and since it has to load each scene in order to play it in the timeline, there are often long lags between cuts, which makes judging timing difficult. I have to render the entire film in order to see how the timing actually works out, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that that can take a while (Although, huge thanks to Campbell for putting in an ‘openGL animation render’ option in the VSE, like we have in the 3d view! Without it, this wouldn’t be feasible at all).
All that to say, we’re probably going to switch over to the Sintel method soon, which consists of rendering AVIs out of each individual scene, and just editing those AVIs in the master timeline.
Over the past couple weeks most of my time in the studio has been composed of making the animatic as accurate a representation as possible of what we’ve got to capture on set in 3 weeks. It’s a very iterative process. Initially all of these thoughts were just conceptual: ‘A shot of Captain sitting at his desk’. Now we have to figure out where exactly that desk is on the set, what type of camera movement we can feasibly get on set, and what type of camera rigs/lenses/lights we’ll need to film the shot.
This is also the part where we get to look at the film and make sure every shot’s composition is as interesting as it can be. Of course, we’ll have other chances to do this as well (again on set, again during the edit, and again as we set the shots up in final 3d space and composite it all). I think it’s important to take advantage of those opportunities. While it means the end film may not resemble the opening animatic as much, keeping the film a bit ‘soft’ ensures we’re able to put as much creativity and good ideas in there as possible.
As a quick example of how this process goes, I figured I’d upload the latest version of a shot I put up a while back.
This was the original storyboard. Panels 23-29. Gorgeous stuff by David, and I loved the big sweeping shot, but if you’re going to have a big sweeping shot, I felt it needed some sort of justification. In this one, it started strong, with the boat, tower, city, and sunrise, but ended on just the tower. Since this is the first look we get at post-apocalyptic Amsterdam, it would almost make more sense to reveal in reverse- but since this is the establishing shot of a scene which takes place in the tower, it’d be a bit weird to fly away from it, just to snap back in.
This was the first animatic. Simplified a lot, and designed to lead the audience into the scene. 1.) establish a brooding dawn (not really visible in the animatic) 2.) introduce an unknown shape rising from below 3.) reveal it’s an augmented clock tower 4.) and then there’s a flying boat thing. The actual composition of the shot is more-or-less the ending (or, the concept of a large shape passing behind the clocktower), and everything’s working towards building that image.
This is where the animatic is as of this morning. The same as before, but we’ve added one more reveal/element. And we were able to get that big sweeping shot back in! Now, though, it’s revealing the crumbled spaceport, which should really drive home the contrast between this and the previous scene, where we see the spaceport shiny and operational and not fallen over.
Even still, there are a few things about the composition that don’t thrill me. The ending has an unclear point of focus, it’s a bit too symmetrical, and there isn’t all that great use of negative space. There are also a few animation issues: the camera motion makes the boat movement look like parallax, and the boat probably enters the shot a bit too soon to begin with. But! That’s why we keep working at it!