Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hitchcock's Storyboarding: Psycho & The Birds

Although critics and film historians can use storyboarding to build on controversy, as conveyed in this recent blog post about changing the aspect ratio of Hitchcock's Psycho for its Blue-Ray release, it is useful to see how crucial storyboarding is to the visual presentation of story on film.  Although it is possible the shots in Psycho could have still materialized without storyboarding, the cost of processing etc. almost necessitated extensive storyboarding for any complex mixture of shots (as one online critic complains, this explains why newer films that don't use "film" fail in their storytelling).

See how closely related Saul Bass's storyboards for the Psycho are to the actual footage of the film (I suggest turning off the sound for comparison), but also note departures from the storyboard as well:

Watch the film up to about 1:40:
Of course now you can start to see where Hitchcock built more suspense by cutting the attack scene back from the original storyboard, saving the shower curtain being pulled down until after Anthony Perkin's character has left. Vivian Leigh is still breathing, we have seen her block some blows (despite the sound of knife in flesh), so maybe she will survive

And finally the focus on the drain and juxtaposition with the eye, a technique used to full effect for the film's closing scene (turn sound off--this is an altered clip), but one notably missing from the shower scene storyboards:

And one that has oft been referenced and spoofed:

The Birds provide a more effective demonstration of how storyboards can be used to visually build suspense as we "see" the plot unfold on the boards and on screen.  Here is a basic juxtaposition where the viewer makes the connection between the leaking gas and obvious outcome (see textbook for Hitchcock's distinction between suspense and surprise):

But the playground scene with the growing murder of crows works on multiple levels because we slowly realize just as the character slowly realizes that something is out of the ordinary:

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