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  • Storyboard Tips

    Let’s take some time to answer viewer mail. This recent exchange is a good one because it covers some things about storyboarding that I get asked from time to time. There’s not a lot of useful information on the craft, which I assume because it’s so specialized and also storyboard artists don’t want the competition. Like a lot people, the writer found my webpage on boarding and read that- which I should probably link to from here, but you can find it by following the Old Parkerspace link. I’ll keep her anonymous and in bold. It begins with bringing up the practice of animation studios sending out boarding tests to new artists.

    What exactly is on is on a storyboard test?

    If it’s called a “clean up” test, and it probably is, then they’ll expect you to redraw roughs that someone else drew, and make them all on-model, which means the characters match up exactly to their model sheets- which they would give you.

    If it’s a full storyboard test, you would get a script and be expected to break down about a page worth of script in rough boards. They almost always start new people with clean-up tests though, so that’s most likely what you would see. 

    On the “clean-up” test, am i dealing with loose pencil breakdowns that i would be required to flesh out or do they want to see how close i can match their drawing style?

    Replace the “or” in that sentence with an “and”, and that’s what they want from you! Ultimately they want everything as close to the model sheets as humanly possible. And the backgrounds are almost always designed ahead of time too, so you’d be going by models on that as well.

    In other words, would I have to draw the characters on the model sheets verbatim?
    i’m guessing for the full storyboard test they want to see clean transitions, arrows, backgrounds, proper camera angles etc.

    The trickiest thing about doing full storyboards is that most people don’t realize how many steps they need to put in. Artists often think they can draw say, the main characters about to walk off screen, and then put in an arrow suggesting that’s what happens. But that’s not enough, you have to draw each step of the way. It’s not as extensive as all the bits you would have to draw if you were in-betweening, but it’s pretty thorough. You’re picking the key moments of that walk and suggesting the attitude of the character. 

    If you don’t already have it, I recommend picking up the book Shot By Shot by Steven Katz. It covers cinematic storytelling well, though it only goes into boarding a bit. There is no terrific book on storyboarding, probably because storyboarders don’t want all the competition. One of the most helpful things you can do though is pick some good animation on DVD and watch parts frame by frame, and try to reverse-engineer how that was described. And of course, if they have the storyboards in the dvd extras, study those, even though they don’t include all the ones they drew. That gives people the idea that they don’t have to draw so many steps, unfortunately, but they leave them out because they’re usually incomplete pieces, just drawings of how a face or hands have changed since the last frame. 

    **The letter writer had already read Shot By Shot, so that’s a good start. Maybe I’ll redo the storyboard section and include this with some other notes so it’s a more helpful source. Soon as I make some deadlines…


    Comment from Ethan C.
    Time: April 10, 2007, 8:46 am

    Thanks for posting this, Jeff. I always have a million storyboard questions I want to ask you, but I feel like I’ve pestered you enough on this topic. This has totally inspired me to pester you some more!


    Comment from Eric
    Time: April 10, 2007, 10:58 am

    Yeah, thanks for posting this. Those of us who have no ambition or talent to be artists also find interest and enjoyment in being educated about the quirks of the profession.

    Now what you need to do is hand-letter this blog entry, and have it published in the back of an oversized Super Friends treasury edition.