Dev Blog: Storyboarding for Cinematics

Dev Blog: Storyboarding for Cinematics

Kristina here! I’m responsible for a lot of the 2D art and 2D animation for Quench. In particular, I’m working on the animated cinematics that will play at the beginning and end of the game, as well as between some of the levels.

In this blog post I’ll describe my process for making these cinematics, focusing mainly on storyboarding.

Overall Process

There are many steps involved in creating the cinematics for Quench. Before I delve into more detail about storyboarding, here’s a quick overview of the whole process:

Cinematic process

Figure 1: Flow chart of how we’re making the cinematics for Quench.

While I’ll likely go into more detail about the final few steps of this process in a future blog post, for now let’s focus on steps 1-3.

What’s Storyboarding?

Storyboards are graphic organizers that visually tell the story of an animation (or film), panel by panel (kind of like a comic book). Before jumping directly into making the animation, starting with storyboards help us pre-plan the major actions that will happen, help to time everything out, and (at least in our case) give us an idea of the assets that will have to be made to make the animation. Storyboarding saves money in the long run because it is much easier to make changes and fix mistakes during this stage than once the animation has been put together.

A storyboard will likely convey some of the following information:

  • What characters and objects are in the frame, and how are they moving?
  • What are the characters saying to each other, if anything? Is there any narration?
  • How much time has passed between the last frame of the storyboard and the current one?
  • Where is the “camera” in the scene? Close or far away? Is the camera moving?

There are many ways to go about storyboarding and many storyboarding templates exist, but I ended up making something that looks like this:

Storyboard template

Figure 2: This template has everything we need including spots for narration, timing, camera movements, audio, FX, and a box for the major actions happening in that frame.

My Workflow

First, I’ll take the story/script for a particular cinematic that has been written (by Tabby!), and start breaking the script down into frames.

Storyboard scriptFigure 3: Finished script with my notes and scribbles on it

After that’s done, I start making mini-thumbnails that correspond to the frames that I blocked out in the script. These are super rough, as they’re just the first pass. At this point I’ll usually run the mini-thumbnails by Tabby to make sure it’s what she was envisioning when she wrote the script.

Storyboard thumbnails More storyboard thumbnails

Figure 4: Quick mini-thumbnails with the little animal blobs that we’ve lovingly dubbed as poops

Finally, with my trusty template in hand, and using my mini-thumbnails as a guide, I start on the actual storyboards!

Storyboard good version Quench storyboard

Figure 5: Finished storyboards in cinematic 2

The Style

Storyboards can end up being as simple or as detailed as you want them to be, and don’t necessarily have to replicate the style of the final animation. They can be simple outlines, fully coloured, or even drawn with stick figures. For Quench, we decided to go somewhere in the middle.

At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that the visuals for all of the cinematics in Quench are such that they are supposed to look as though they’re drawings on cave walls, but of course in Hexels style!

For those of you who don’t know about Hexels, many aspects of Quench are being made using this program. While we are using Hexels in many different ways, in terms of the 2D art, we are using it to paint using different shapes such as hexagons (hexels) and triangles (trixels), instead of the typical square (pixel) found in programs like Photoshop. This gives the art a distinct look.

Quench cinematic

Figure 6: Some preliminary art made in Hexels showing the Western Elder tree and some animals on the cave wall texture (not a finished product!)

Because all of the final art work for the cinematics will be made by painting with trixels, we decided to go fairly simple for the storyboards (since it’s impossible to exactly mimic the trixel look while drawing by hand).

I did however want to mimic slightly the shapes that will be produced using trixels, and so you can see that the animals and trees are drawn to appear slightly blocky. To make the process faster, I created templates for the animals and trees beforehand so I could trace them quickly into the scene.

Storyboard assets Storyboard assets 2

Figure 7: Comparison of storyboarded and trixeled springbok and tree (left) and some tree and animal templates used for storyboarding (right)

Next Steps

After the storyboards are complete, the next step is to time everything out and make a simple animatic. An animatic is a preliminary version of the animation (you basically edit together all the storyboards to create a simple animated video).

This gives us a glimpse at what the final product will be, with the narration in place, without going into too much detail (and before we have to make all the art assets in Hexels). This will let us make changes more easily before we create all the final art and assemble the final cinematic.

In my upcoming posts, I’ll talk more about using Hexels to create 2D assets, creating the animatics, and assembling the final cinematics in Unity! Stay tuned!

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