Creating an animatic with Blender
Once the storyboards are all drawn, I stick them together as a sequence to create an animatic (also known as a story reel). This gives a sense of the timing of the movie and helps to determine whether the shots are telling the story well. The technique of creating animatics comes from the world of animation, where it’s especially inefficient to create more finished footage than you’re actually going to use. The animatic helps with editing out unwanted shots before production. For live action, it is arguably not as necessary, but it’s nice to have anyway. With the animatic, I can show people the story in 10 minutes, rather than wasting my own breath or expecting them to read the script.
This is the first thing I use Blender for in this project, and it’s just perfect. Blender’s video sequence editor is easily the best (i.e. only decent) cross-platform open source video editor, and for simple tasks like animatics it’s as good as anything out there, free or not. I especially like the way the sequence editor imports and handles still images and sequences of still frame files (it also occurs to me that Blender may be the only video editor available that is designed specifically with animators in mind, rather than people working with traditional video footage, although it does handle video well also). I wrote extensively about using Blender to create animatics in my book with Claudio Andaur, Blender Studio Projects: Digital Movie-Making. If you’re thinking of using Blender in the pipeline for a movie, I humbly suggest you check out that book.
Making a storyboard animatic isn’t the only way to plan shots, of course. For our movie Gustav Braustache and the Auto-Debilitator, Rob Cunningham and I planned all the shots out using video prototyping to be absolutely sure that everything cut together nicely. That meant blocking and acting out each shot ourselves on a crappy old consumer video camera in the living room of his apartment. I think Rob eventually edited all those shots together (I don’t really know why. He was probably just addicted to editing at that point) and planted the result somewhere on the Braustache DVD as an Easter egg. Could be embarrassing if anybody ever found it.