Storyboarding Your Action
Storyboarding has a lot in common with the world of comic books. Illustrations are provided inline with the script to provide a visual narrative for what is being described by the words themselves. However, storyboards are typically more regimented than comic book panels. Your average set of storyboards is a sequence of illustrated and numbered panels arranged in a linear fashion. Next to or below these panels is an area for the related script text that accompanies the illustration. In a rudimentary sense, when you look at the storyboards, you are looking at the animation itself, but in skeletal form. (See Figure 11.1.)
When preparing your storyboards, you'll want to set them up in roughly the same aspect ratio as you anticipate you'll use for your final animation. That way, when you're illustrating scenes, sets, and actions on your boards, you'll have a good visual sense of how the scene will play out.
The average computer monitor displays at an aspect ratio of 3 x 4. Thus, if you set up your storyboards as a series of 3-inch-by-4-inch or 6-inch-by-8-inch panels, you'll be in good shape. Blank note cards are convenient for this.
Figure 11.1 Storyboards are the "blueprints" that help build your animation.
When your storyboards are complete, you have a number of options at your disposal to aid you in the process of converting your story to reality. Hand-drawn storyboards can be scanned, placed on a background layer in Flash, and traced using the drawing tools in Flash. For artists who like to start out the process by hand sketching, this can be an appealing option.
Another option is to use Macromedia FreeHand as your storyboarding tool. In the years that Macromedia has owned FreeHand, a number of features have been added to this already-rich illustration environment. These features make it a valuable productivity tool for Flash.
FreeHand enables you to define multiple pages inside a single FreeHand document, much like a Microsoft Word document can contain hundreds of pages. Although this might seem insignificant, if you are trying to create storyboards in some other illustration packages, you'll need to create several documents to accomplish the same task.
FreeHand is simply one of the best drawing tools on the market. This translates to a richer and more flexible set of illustration tools than you will find inside Flash. Because the two programs are so tightly integrated, you can copy your illustrations from FreeHand and paste them into Flash in the standard Flash format. Yes, this includes the Flash style gradients as well.
Now that you've got your storyboards in place, it's time to talk about animating your characters.