Gnomon Workshop - Visual Storytelling DVD

deemarie · July 25, 2005 7:11 am

I am a big storytelling enthusiast, so when I was told I would be reviewing this DVD I got pretty excited. Knowing how to present a story is one of the keys to success when you take your ideas to the screen. Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig, volume 1: Anatomy of a Story is the first of a series meant to teach you how to visually tell your stories. On this DVD you are presented the anatomy of the story. First of all, I have to clarify this is not a DVD on how to write a story or how to make a movie script. This one will give you the insights on how to setup your main story beats. The author refers as story beats to the main units of your play.
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Surely the first question that may pop into your mind is, what are units? I think that if you know what they are you will get a better idea of what I will talk about next. Basically, units are the equivalent to the stages of your story. When in your story, your hero goes to a specific place or sets to fulfill a mission, thats a unit. On the first chapter the instructor takes a brief moment to explain this method of telling a story. He goes through the 3-act play theory and the brainstorming process. He then takes a classic tale (The Little Mermaid) and uses the method he explained to make a story out of that tale. The good thing about this DVD is that he not only tells you what you should do, but rather, he sits and takes you through the whole development in real time. During the adaptation process the instructor also gives some practical examples from other works such as Rocky and Star wars. We see that the 3-act play and story beats can be applied to any story. This adaptation process runs for around 105 minutes (the running time is approximately 120 minutes). He starts out with the original story (The Little Mermaid) and then we see the story being reinvented. There is no little mermaid under the sea; shes out in space. Since this is an important change, we see how the rest of the story evolves. We also get a glimpse of character development. Since we are focusing on the visuals of the story we dont go deep into the look of the character. The character design is meant to portray different aspects of the story. For example; when Iain comes up with the design of the sea king (one of my favorites), he explains that the king is a very old and wise creature, so he tries to make him big and strong like an old tree.
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The same technique is applied to the rest of the characters. On the next series of DVDs these designs are taken as a starting point for the in-depth character development. After the whole adaptation process has finished, we get to see the finished piece. Each drawing portrays a single story beat on our story. The basic idea is to go through all the drawings and check if the story actually works. The DVD also includes lecture notes that will help you follow the class. These notes include even further information on the different chapters, as well as more real-life examples. This proves to be very useful ... if you want to take a review on a specific portion of the lecture you dont need to go through the DVD; all you have to do is check out those notes. While I was watching this DVD I kept thinking ok, what if I want to do this with an original idea? When I finished watching the DVD, I went back to my short film, and although it was difficult, generally it worked. The only drawback that I can think of, is, unless you ordered the set, youll have to wait till you get the remaining DVDs in order to see how the character design evolves. Also at the end of the DVD the instructor mentions Storytelling volume 5, however if you check The Gnomon Workshop site, you will see that there is no volume 5. I hope that DVD is finally released! Keep Animating! nemirc
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Message2218649.jpgAnimation Alley is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Writer Sergio Rosa [nemirc].
July 25, 2005

Article Comments


Paula Sanders ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 26 July 2005

The concept of that DVD is really interesting. Thanks.

ClintH ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 27 July 2005

I have several of the DVD's from Gnomon. The quality and content are fantastic!