Production Update 114 Preparing for 2015

Production update time is upon us again, let’s get down to business. As you can tell by the title of this post, 2015 is right around the corner and preparations need to be made for the con season! I put in a couple applications for panels at a couple cons so far and have a list of others on my radar. Of course I will keep you all posted on the news of getting into cons and what appearances I will be making. Just wanted to let everyone know, preparations have begun.

The second item of business is the work for the week. I was able to get another scene wrapped up and sent off for audio work. The scene was only 3 shots but it is a good feeling to get it sent off for audio. The previous scenes that were sent for audio work have been sent back and we are working on revisions to the audio.

With another scene wrapped up, I will be starting on a new scene this week. The new scene is comprised of ten shots. This week I am aiming to get a rough animatic done of the scene. That consists of me getting the cameras moved around in the environment and roughing out the timing of each shot.

More updates to come!

Rage Session #5 Timing > Possibly Part 1?

This week I thought I would write about some more tips in storytelling, today’s topic is Timing. Timing might be a hard concept to grasp when you are first starting out with your writing. First off, timing is not only relatable in terms of writing but also animation. While I was in college learning about the 12 principles of animation, it was striking to me that each animation principle could be brought to the world of writing as well.  I will refer to writing in a couple different ways in this post, and probably will need a follow up at some point because it is such an interesting and wide topic. However, the first being the literal meaning of actual time.

For instance, let’s revert back to our story of the child going to the store along with preparing for a test and dealing with a bully. If we time frame this story within one school year, we now know of an exact time frame the sequence of events operates in and when it starts and ends. Within this time frame, we can add many more layers to our story. For instance, if the bully and the kid become friends towards the end of the school year they could be disappointed that they won’t see each other until the start of the next school year.   On the flipside, if the conflict between kid and bully is resolved early in the time frame, they have the entire school year to be friends. We could even change this time frame to cover an elementary school career or the high school years of the characters.

You can operate in a universe where time is a little looser. For instance look at a show like Dragonball Z, they never tell you how long the battles last, there is very little reference to the passing of days in certain periods. Other shows use time even looser than this, and that is perfectly fine. Let me explain why.

I occasionally will watch some reality TV, mostly Top Chef. Last year they had their season finale as a cook off between chefs and the winner was the first one to have the best 3 dishes out of 5. The show operated in a one hour TV time frame. So what happened, was Chef A won round one, Chef B won round 2, Chef A won round 3, still on the edge of your chair? I wasn’t, I knew who won round 3 was going to win in 4 rounds. The reason I could tell was the winner of the 3rd round was announced about 45 minutes into an hour long show. Unless they were going to cram 2 cooking rounds in the final 15 minutes plus commercials, time can work against you. By locking in a timeframe, your audience now has an idea of how long they can expect a resolution and the closer you get to that time the more the audience expects a resolution.

Timing can also be used to emphasize key points in the story, in the regards of how much time is spent on a certain event. If you get the chance to watch Flowers of Evil, as I reviewed last week, you can see the timing in that show is very methodical and calculating. By acting in a slower and more calculating manner, they can build up more emotion in areas. For instance, after the climatic scene in episode 7, episode 8 has very little dialogue and it revolves on 2 characters going home. Now some people thing that it was boring or arrogant for them to spend an entire episode on that, however, I look at it in a different regard. The 2 characters had a major turning point in their relationship and I felt that episode 8 was exactly how I would feel as a person in that moment as well, the characters seemed to live in that moment and it emphasized one of those nights that we never want to end. There are earlier episodes that had 2 or 3 school days in them, by using an episode for just one night, tells the audience the importance of that night for the characters.

Note, there will also be critics of your work no matter what you do. You just need to be able to separate the ones being haters and the ones actually trying to provide you with feedback and useful thoughts. “This sucks” is not valid feedback. If that person doesn’t explain why it sucks or why they would have done it a different way, I would generally rule that comment as garbage. Writing like everything else takes practice and you shouldn’t be writing to please an audience, you should be writing because you have an interesting story to tell and share with others.

Just like an epic battle in Dragonball Z wouldn’t be completed in 1 episode, by spending more time in certain areas, you can use it to build up the importance of the event. The reason for this is because viewers want that climatic moment to be worth it, they want the pay off of their time being invested in your story. Whether its a 26 episode series or a 100 page book, the payoff is what sticks with the audience. We have all seen a bad movie we didn’t like how it ended, we didn’t like the payoff of our investment in time of watching the film.

Have you ever seen a film or read a book where all hope was lost and the odds were stacked against the characters so much and then an event or something happens and the characters turn out ok? That is also based on timing, just like when you hear someone say that so and so has great comedic timing. This is timing in more of a sense or emotional way. This comes in a variety of ways and formats it is impossible to name them all here. In films it could be a character who you thought was dead showing up to save the day. In comic books and manga they actually set frames up so cliff hangers are at the end of the page, so that short amount of time it takes you to turn a page you are filled with suspense to see what happens next. This of course happens in books as well, hence why we have “page turners”. Even tv shows have this in the form of the timing of commercial breaks and how episodes end in a series, its to keep your audience coming back for more. The building of events creates this moments where we can turn the story one way or another or use it as a breaking point before another chapter, episode or film.

Through these turning points that timing creates, we can create a fast paced action story or a slow methodical story with one or two distinctive pay off points. The slow methodical approach is similar to when you go to a horror movie and are teased about being scared, but they drag it out to the point it gets to be unbearable, but in a good way. For instance a person enters a room and sees something run into another room and the character tries to track down what they saw, only to jump cut to something creepy and scare you. There are benefits to both ways and it usually is determined by the story you want to tell.

I think that’s quite a bit to digest for now. Next week we will tackle the topic of anticipation and how that can effect timing.

Rage Session #2 Working with Extended Stories

Last week we discussed short form stories and some basics for story outlines. Our point of reference last week was the varying outlines for the scenario of the kid going to the store and losing their money. We discussed potential story routes if the character found their money and routes if they couldn’t, depending on the type of story you wanted to tell. Most importantly we discussed the triangle or acts of a story involving the beginning, climax and end. Many of these principles apply to telling a longer form story, let’s dig in.

When we talk about a long form story, we are essentially talking about all sorts of little stories that, when put together, make up a larger story. With each of these little scenarios, we can use our triangle to determine the start, climax and end of each of these.

So, let’s jump back to last week’s examples, (you can view the post here). Let’s take the base story premise, of the kid going to the store. Now let’s say we want to add a relationship or interaction with another character in the story, let’s go with a bully from school who wants to take the kids money. When you hear of the word “arc” in references to stories, they are referring to a certain triangle outline of the main conflict in the story. For instance a Batman vs Joker arc. While Batman will have obstacles to overcome, until the conflict is resolved with the Joker, it is considered to be in that arc.

One major component to keep in mind when writing a long from story with multiple arcs, is timing. Timing was a major lesson in animation, not only the timing of storytelling but even the timing of a character. In terms of timing, we can offset the story arcs so not everything is happening at once. Check this out.

So we can take our 2 arcs (the trip the store and the bully) and we can start to play with the timing of events to help progress our story. Both of our arcs need an introduction, a beginning. We could start our story with an altercation between both characters at school. Or we could start our story with the kid going to the store, and on the way to the store runs into another character, who turns out to be a bully. We could even introduce the bully later in the story and have our main character run into the bully after the trip to the store or even while at the store. So you can already start to see how many options we can get for even just a two arc story. By adjusting the gaps of the events in the story you can get drastically different stories.

For instance, if we start our story off with the interaction of the kid and bully and then have our kid go to the store (either later in the day or maybe the next day or even later), we then need to plot out our climaxes in each arc. We could have our climax between the bully and kid on the way to the store, at the store or after the store. With this flexibility, it gives you the most range on your story.

We could even decide to overlap the arcs or fit one complete arc within another. If the kid goes to the store and runs into a bully, we could fit the entire bully arc in between the beginning and end of the store arc.

If we added a third arc into the mix we could really start to play with the timing even more. For fun let’s throw in a third arc about the kid having to study for a test in school. Our points can be the introduction of the test, the characters struggle with the material and the conclusion would be taking the test. We know have 9 plot points (3 from each arc) in order to craft our story. So we could shell our store and bully arc within the test arc, or we could complete the test arc and have one or both remaining arcs conclude outside of the test arc.

We could do fit all of the arcs within the test arc for instance if the test is issued on a Monday and given on Friday, that would give us a week to complete the bully and the store arc.  Another route would be if the test was sprung on our character in the morning and to be given later in the day. In the same day we could introduce the start of our bully arc as well.

The arcs will heavily depend on the type of story you want to tell and also your stories beginning and end points and even the theme or idea of your story. I hope this helped you with your story writing, if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me.