World’s Only Animation Auteur Hayao Miyazaki Does His Own Storyboarding

World’s Only Animation Auteur Hayao Miyazaki Does His Own Storyboarding

When famed animator and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki announced recently that his latest film, The Wind Rises, would be his last, no one could blame him. The 73-year old artist has been working for sixty years at the highest creative levels, turning out some of the most stunning and celebrated animated films in history, including Spirited Away, which won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Film – and is the highest-grossing film in Japanese history.

Miyazaki is famous for the time he devotes to his projects, often spending years working on a single film. While no one can argue with the amazing quality of his animation and the spirit of his imagination on display in his films, many people are surprised to learn that one reason his films take so long is because Miyazaki does his own storyboarding work.

No Delegation

This is highly unusual. Storyboarding – especially when done by hand – is incredibly time-consuming, and is often delegated to collaborators or a staff by high-level animators like Miyazaki. That he spend so much time and attention creating the storyboards for his films tells us two things: One, that there is a clear relationship with the care taken with storyboarding and the quality of the final film, and two, that Miyazaki is perhaps the only true ‘auteur’ working in an animated film.

The Auteur Theory dates back to the 1950s. Auteur is French for ‘author’ and the theory states that the Director of a film, despite the huge number of others contributing to the project, is the defining and guiding voice of the film and should be regarded as the author of the work. You rarely – if ever – hear this term applied to animators, because animation, even more so than live action films, requires a team of artists who are often quite talented in their own right.

Full Control

But Miyazaki is remarkable not  only because that he insists on creating his own storyboards, but that he also reviews every single cell of the animation created from those storyboards – and often re-draws them if he is not satisfied with the artist’s work, or if he feels his vision has not been conveyed properly. This is why he’s often referred to as animation’s sole auteur – because he has complete control over every image seen in the final film.

You can purchase bound books of Miyazaki’s storyboards, although they are published by Japanese publishers and may be difficult to find in the U.S. Reviewing them demonstrates just how fully-fleshed Miyazaki’s ideas are before he even has a single cell of the film produced. While most animated films work from storyboards, they are frequently used simply to outline the film and demonstrate desired angles and compositions – Miyazaki’s are more like works of art in themselves. One could enjoy simply flipping through his storyboards.

Very few animators approach this level of artistry – and it’s a sad day indeed when someone like Miyazaki retires.

– Video Caddy

Storyboards: Essential to Success

Storyboards: Essential to Success

When young people aspire to animation or film-making, they often have a very closed idea of how a professional film and video is made, whether it’s live action or animation. A common misconception is that everyone just makes everything up, improvising their way through a film or cartoon.

Now, this does happen – Entire feature films have been made using an ‘improv’ aesthetic that has everyone just riffing on general ideas and making up lines and plot points. It even works, sometimes. But this is an exception, and an exception that’s done as a specific artistic statement for a specific project. In general, the one thing that few people think about when they’re merely aspiring to film making careers is storyboarding – and yet storyboarding is perhaps the most important part of the planning for any film project.

The Storyboard Effect: Budgets

Number one, creating a solid storyboard for your film or video will save you money and make your budget stretch further. There’s a simple reason for this: You’ll be able to approach every shot with your composition, your blocking, and your shot sequence already planned and visualized. You’ll be able to show actors, animators, and everyone else working on the project exactly where they should be, how they should move, and what the final shot is supposed to look like.

The long and short of it is, instead of wasting time figuring out angles and lighting, it’s all done. You did the work cheaply while sitting at a desk a few weeks or months earlier, and as a result you don’t have to pay for it now, when it’s ten times as expensive – and much more difficult.

The Storyboard Effect: The Story

Storyboarding is also a powerful editing and story revision tool. No story ever leaps directly from the frantic outline to the finished film or video without being revised. Plot holes, logic errors, and characterization refinements creep in at all stages as you realize mistakes and see opportunities to improve scenes or eliminate fat from your story.

Storyboarding forces you to work through each moment of the story with its associated visuals and stage directions and almost always exposes clunky moments, illogical plot twists, and other defects in a story, because it’s the first time you have to actually take your ideas and make them work visually together. Without a storyboarding process, these problems will be hidden until you’ve got animators at work or actors on set – and then it’s much more difficult to solve the problem.

The Storyboard Effect: Fundraising

Whether you’re meeting with deep-pocketed investors over a film project or launching a KickStarter campaign to crowd fund an animated film, a polished storyboard is also a powerful fundraising tool. People like to see where their money is going, and a finished story excites fans and inspires them to invest in order to see the finished product.

For more formal investors, a storyboard shows them that you have a story and you have all the shots planned. It demonstrates commitment, planning, and control that inspire investment.

Storyboards might seem like an old-school, but things like this survive into the digital age for very good reasons. If you’re planning a video or film project, animated or live-action (or both), do yourself a favor and create a polished, complete storyboard. You’ll thank yourself later.

– Video Caddy

Audio Formats for Different Projects

Audio Formats for Different Projects

The first time some curious audiophile opens up a digital audio workstation (DAW) they’re often stunned by the options for exporting their recordings. MP3, FLAC, AAC, not to mention a few varieties of MPEG – the list of options goes on and on, and even some experienced audio editors aren’t familiar with all of them.

Which format is right for a project? Knowing the right format for each scenario is crucial to getting the most out of your sound. Stipulating that there may often be several workable alternatives, here’s a short guide to the best formats for different projects.

Podcasts

If you’re putting out a podcast, you want to reach as many people as possible, including casual listeners who find you via web search or word of mouth. That means you want to go general with the audio format – and that means MP3.

MP3 is a terrible audio format for many reasons, but it has two distinct advantages for podcasts: It’s very compressible, meaning you can offer your podcast at very small file sizes, and it’s supported almost universally. In short, anyone can play back MP3 files on their devices, even if their computers are old or they’re still making that first-gen iPod work.

YouTube Videos

YouTube can seem a bit opaque or mysterious to newcomers, offering them with vague complaints about the video and audio codecs they’ve chosen to use. YouTube does offer plenty of documentation detailing how to prepare your videos, but it’s also a very accommodating service, accepting all kinds of poorly-exported video trying  its best to make it look good. That doesn’t mean you should just accept that and move on, however.

For YouTube Videos, the AAC audio format is generally preferred. YouTube likes a lossy codec because it’s serving up billions of videos every month and wants to conserve bandwidth, but AAC is a better format for lossy compression than MP3, yielding higher-quality audio at lower file sizes. Thus, setting the bitrate north of 192kbps is definitely preferred.

DVDs

If your DAW is capable of it, the AC3 (Dolby Digital Audio) is the best format for a DVD project. It supports surround sound as well as stereo sound – but the raw audio has to be set up with six separate channels ahead of time to get surround sound. Forcing stereo into surround sound will not work well.

Whatever you do, don’t use an uncompressed format like WAV or AIFF – it sounds great, but you won’t squeeze your project onto a DVD if you export using an uncompressed format.

Music Distro

If you’re creating a physical CD to sell or distribute your music, export in WAV, an uncompressed audio format that yields great sound quality but extremely large files. Almost every CD burner or CD manufacturer can take WAV files.

If you’re going to distro them on your own, the MP3 format is best for the same reasons it’s good for podcasts – everyone will be able to download them because they’re relatively small, and everyone will be able to play them because the format’s universal.

– Video Caddy