Wow, hi guys! My name is Marius Fietzek, and I am a Double Fine intern from Germany. I made this interactive application to get DF's attention, and it actually worked! I started my internship at the beginning of August, and will leave by the end of October, which is actually pretty soon. Oh man, so sad...NO. I won’t go down that road. This shall be a happy and fun forum post, including pictures!
In this post, I will describe the process of making storyboards and animatics for Reds cutscenes. I started my internship as an animator, but at one point Lee asked me to do a storyboard for a cutscene. I love to draw and have been involved in filmmaking my whole life, so I was happy to do the job. Tim added, “Don’t f**k this up,” which was a big motivation boost.
The first step in my process is going through the design document for the scene. It is not as detailed as the script for a movie, but still answers important questions such as what happens to whom and how, where, why, and when it happens. For this forum post, let's take a look at the very first cutscene for our dear Space Boy in which we see him waking up and starting a typical day. The ship's robots do all the work of his daily morning routine, and the boy is obviously annoyed. He has outgrown this life.
Before I begin drawing actual storyboards, I make tiny scribbles in Photoshop while reading the script. They help me note down the images I have in my mind, and don’t need to be detailed or pretty.
After that I go through the thumbs one more time, maybe add or remove a picture, and then start drawing the storyboard.
Here's one full page:
When I am happy with the storyboard, I print out the pages and show them to Tim, Lee, and Ray. At first I pitch the whole cutscene by going through each picture and telling the story out loud. After that I get some feedback, and we talk about what works and what needs to be changed.
In this case, Tim had a different beginning in his mind where the player starts the boy’s story right after the character selection screen. So I went back to Photoshop and drew a mockup for the new beginning:
Tim was then interested in seeing an animatic of that cutscene. An animatic is basically an animated storyboard that gives a clearer visual idea of how the sequence will feel, how the timing works, and if it’s actually readable. With the new notes and feedback on my storyboard, I went back to the computer and fired up Adobe Flash to create an animation mainly based on vector graphics. I've worked with this program for many years now (my first Flash movie was this silly thing), and it's great for creating rough animatics quickly.
But first, in Photoshop, I split every picture element of my storyboard into multiple PNG-format pictures. If I want to move the boy around in his spaceship, I need his drawing without the background. If I am patient and super concentrated (sometimes), I name the files properly. 0303_boywideshot means its a picture of the boy in a wide shot, taken from the third image of page three of the storyboard.
As I said before, Flash is mainly a vector based program, but luckily it can handle bitmap-graphics as well. This is a huge advantage, since I don’t have to redraw all the bitmap work. The downside is that bitmap elements increase the file size of the project, and, being non-vector, enlarging it would reveal pixels, causing the picture to look "unclean." In this case, those cons don’t really matter, since I am working on it only for preview purposes and not public release.
I import the picture elements into Flash and start putting them back together. Then I begin to animate things. I move around the characters and zoom in or out for fake camera pans. When there is a moment in the cutscene where lots of movements are involved, I may not have enough material ready from the storyboard. In these cases, I draw the new material directly into flash.
Then it’s time for another review, and the guys watch the animatic multiple times. If there is more feedback, I go back and apply it, and we have more reviews until everyone is happy.
My last step is to export the animatic into a movie file and send it to the rest of the team. And that’s it, done and done! So, what happens next? The animatic needs to be recreated in our game engine. Right now, as I type, a cutscene tool is in the making. We will get back to you when it’s time to explain how to make a cutscene IN our game!
Dun dun dunnn!