For most people, this is like listening to alien mumbling. At least, that was my case.
In most animated features and animated shorts, in the DVD “Special Features” section, they have all the secrets of how the production was done. First, you start with an idea (usually, the most complicated to define yet the cornerstone of anything in this media). After developing your idea, nurturing it and make it stand by it’s own, comes the next step: defining the style or “feel” of your film.
This is where the storyboarding process and Leica Reel come into play… and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now at VFS.
The first is a storyboard, where you translate all of your visual ideas or/and the script (if it there is one) into a physical state. This process is painful because most times, everything that is your head is close to perfect…and for some unknown reason, at the moment of putting it down on paper and drawing it, comes nothing close to perfection at first. So after a couple of drafts, usually in the form of thumbnail drawings, you’re ready to apply all the technical side of how you’re planning to tell your story.
After the genesis of the idea becoming a coherent storyboard that looks kind of a comic book with camera instructions and some other technicalities, The Leica Reel comes next. Here, you scan the complete Storyboard and you import it to a video editing software program, like Adobe Premier. There, you add a scratch track of music -not necessarily the final audio you plan to use- , special effects, sound effects, basic motion and ANYTHING that helps tell the story. No animation is done at this point.
At this part of the process, all the storytelling issues that may not be seen before are more clear and sound. Usually, the Leica Reel is shown at a producers meeting with the director and his team… or the director alone. There, changes are usually required from both sides and the cycle repeats itself a couple of times. The Leica Reel, though, may not be shown to the public, and usually the final draft is the one on the features at the DVD’s. This is done to save money in the production and to come out with a good product
I’ll leave a couple of examples. One of my favorite movies of all times, Pixar’s Monsters Inc., with a Leica Reel comparison with the movie!
And also the fantastic intro sequence of Tarzan, from Walt Disney Studios:
Did you like them? Wish me luck with mine!
Quick edit: I found the first Leica Reel of the opening of Tarzan. It’s a great example of why this works perfect as a story refining tool… and the previous one I posted was chosen over this one.