CAN I DO IT?
Pre-production is about dreaming big. But also, it's about being realistic. What's the point of having elaborate plans if you can't execute? It's such a pity when an underwhelming execution ends up undermining what could've been great. As a perpetual project planner who has a notorious track record of not finishing what I started (if at all), I was especially cautious about NOT setting myself up for failure.
SET YOUR PRIORITIES
What's the most important to me in my film? What's the thing I want to be known for through my film? For me, it was the story.
First and foremost, this film was born out of a deeply personal place to the point telling this story essentially feels like doing therapy in public. Secondly, I as a creative aspire to be known for telling emotional stories, and doing it well. This meant that I wanted to prioritize being able to include all of the shots I have in my animatic. I absolutely REFUSED to find myself in a position where I have to cut out shots because I didn't have time. To me, my animatic was already the most trimmed down version, in which every shot had a narrative and aesthetic purpose I could not compromise to lose. If this meant my character design or my background art couldn't be as detailed, so be it.
Having solid, smooth character animations was next in priority. Especially since my story is an emotional one that focuses almost entirely on character study, I found it imperative to have characters that move like real people with real emotions. For one, having laughably limited experience in cel animation and suddenly having to do nearly five minutes worth of it, I knew I had to be conservative with budgeting time for character animation. Not only that, having had zero experience with ToonBoom up until this project, I also had to consider experiencing a learning curve and troubleshooting.
TESTING OUT WORKFLOWS
Because I knew I wanted to incorporate a variety of camera angles and movements for my shots, I considered setting up a 3D scene and using UV textures for my background elements. Here are some early tests of using a 3D scene to test out blocking and camera movements. Please note: I feel embarrassed to even call myself a beginner when it comes to working in 3D.
While I ended up not actually using this 3D heavy workflow, the scene I set up during this test later came in clutch as a perspective reference for drawing cars in the background. (See BACKGROUND ART)
TESTING OUT A COMPLETE SHOT
To test out the full workflow of completing a shot, I chose one of the most pivotal moments in the film, which is when Nick first encounters Frank. The shot has everything - extreme perspectives, a camera movement that changes angles, as well as dramatic lighting. While I ended up re-doing this shot in my final version, doing the test helped me understand my workflow and readjust my production schedule accordingly.