The Storyboard Flash

Let’s assume that you already have characters and a story (why else would you want to create a cartoon show?) and that you want to build a cartoon based on that small beginning. In this section, we touch on some of the tips that you need to think about in the storyboard phase. Although it’s OK to play around, never start a serious cartoon project without a storyboard. The storyboard is your roadmap, your plan, your menu of things needed, your best friend when your project gets complicated without it, you are lost.

First, break up the story into workable cartoon scenes. In creating a broadcast cartoon, we use the terminology a bit differently. Long before Flash, cartoonists used the terminology of a scene to describe something quite different than a Flash Scene.

By scenes, we mean a cartoon scene, which is much like a movie or TV scene not a Flash Scene. Remember that cartoons are fast-paced adventures. Most cartoon scenes last less than 30 seconds. A cartoon scene is usually a section of dialog or action that tells a part of the story. Generally, a cartoon scene can stand-alone, but it needs other scenes to complete the story. Because of the length of time required for most cartoon scenes, it would become unruly if we were to rely solely upon Flash’s Scene function. You’d scroll through the timeline forever, just trying to cover a 45-second scene. But as you’ll learn in this section, there’s still use for the Flash Scene function.

After your cartoon scenes are established, break each of these scenes into shots. A shot is a break in the camera focus. For example, a soap opera (they are famous for this) will have a scene of dialog, but the camera will cut back and forth to whoever is talking at the time which means that one scene may have many shots.

Although the art of cinematography is beyond the scope of this book, that is what’s involved when deciding shots in a cartoon scene. Never create an entire cartoon in one Flash project file! Even trying to load the huge files created can create problems for Flash. Instead, use Flash’s Scene function for shots. (This may seem confusing at first, but the utility of this method will become clear as you work on your masterpiece.) Make a separate Flash file for each storyboard scene of your cartoon; then, within each of these Flash files, assign a Flash Scene for each of the shots within a storyboard scene. Think of it this way; the Flash project file is the Storyboard Scene, nested within that project file is the Flash Scene, or shot. Although this may seem contrary to the way in which you usually work with Flash, we are trying to reconcile the traditional terminology of cartoon animation with the recent terminology of the Flash program. Besides, the creation of broadcast cartoons isn’t an dvertised use of Flash.

The single most important work you’ll do in your cartoon is not the drawing but the voices of your characters; the voices are what make the character. Obtaining a voice can be as simple as your speaking into a microphone or as complex as a highly paid professional acting into a microphone. The key here is not the voice, but the emotion put into it. The right mix of unique voice and emotion can be taken into a sound program, such as Peak or Premiere, and tweaked with the proper plug-ins to render the cartoon sound that you’re looking for. Voice effects can always be added digitally, human emotion cannot.

Another important part of the cartoon is the use of sound effects. Try to imagine Tom and Jerry or Road Runner without them. There’s nothing like a good CLANK, followed by the tweeting of birds, when the old anvil hits Wile E. Coyote’s head. Many good sound effects collections are available on CD-ROM and online. These collections, used primarily by radio stations, come on CD-ROM and can easily be imported into the digital realm.

Sometimes, though, you just can’t buy the sound you need. So, when you need that special CLANK, it’s time to set up the microphone and start tossing anvils at unsuspecting heads. Really, though, it’s not difficult to setup your own little foley stage or sound effects recording area. A good shotgun microphone (highly directional for aiming at sound) and DAT recorder are ideal, although you can get by with less.

The capture device (audio tape, DAT, miniDV, MD, and so on) should be portable not only in order to get it away from the whirring sound of hard drives and fans but also to enable you to take it on location when needed. Another advantage of a batterypowered portable device is that static from power line voltage won’t be a problem.

After you get started and begin playing around, you’ll be surprised at the sounds that you can create with ordinary household objects. Be creative innovate! Sound effects are an art form unto itself. Although your dinner guests may think you’ve gone mad as they regard your meditative squeezing of the dish soap bottle, don’t worry about it. You know you are right! When amplified, it will make a nice whoosh. Great for fast limb movement of that character doing a karate chop

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