Styleframes or concept frames are terms that are used so commonly in my inner circle of friends and colleagues that I forget when I’m working with a new client that they might not understand what they are. For me, they are a very important step in the creative process so I always try to make sure the client will understand what they are looking at.
Essentially, styleframes are a small sample or a few snapshots of how the video will look. Its a starting off point that determines the style and look of the video. Unless I’m doing a set of pencil or rough storyboards for the project, styleframes typically come before storyboards in my process. They usually look very similar to storyboards but allow me to experiment more before jumping into the project. When I’m doing styleframes I see it as an opportunity to try out different styles or new effects to see if they are what the client needs. It’s really the chance to play and have fun. You don’t have to worry about how one scene will animate to the next; the goal is to make a few very visually appealing frames so the client picks your work. Usually I’m trying out new character designs or styles as well as making sure colors and textures work together.
I typically show clients a couple different sets of styleframes, to give them a few different options or looks to pick from. Each set consists of three or four frames. This gives them a good understanding of how the overall piece will look. It also gives them a chance to change anything or head off any issues, like the main character should be green not blue or a girl and not a guy.
Once a set of styleframes are chosen, then I move onto creating the storyboards. By having a good base for the design it makes doing the full storyboards a lot easier.