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Storyboarding an animation saves time and confusion later on. These tips should BY NIEL BUSHNELL give you valuable pointers for planning out your ﬁrst project
storyboard is a visual script that helps everyone pitch process. Sometimes the boards can be used as one of the marketing tools to help green-light a project, especially if the investors are having trouble envisaging how a complex script might be translated onto the screen. These days many productions also use storyboards to create an animated storyboard, or ‘animatic’ – a version of the ﬁnished ﬁlm made from the storyboard images, which is used to test edits and scene timings. The animatic is a draft version of the ﬁnal ﬁlm; as shots are completed, they’re dropped into the animatic, replacing the storyboard image. Without this simple tool to save time, money and confusion, most modern feature ﬁlms could never be made. While most storyboard artists still use basic tools such as pencil, paper and marker pens, you don’t necessarily need to be a great artist. Some people use toys or action ﬁgures to create their storyboards; others simply pose actors or friends, then video or photograph the results. Whatever your medium of choice, the ﬁve tips on the right should contain much of the information you need to get started.
Our expert this issue…
Niel Bushnell is the founder of Qurios Entertainment, a UK-based studio specialising in storyboarding, illustration, concept design and animation. He has worked on numerous commercials, feature ﬁlms, television series and computer games. His most recent storyboarding work was for a series of pop videos and Qurios’ second short ﬁlm, All Colours Grey. [w] www.qurios.com
involved in a production to understand exactly what’s required for each shot. While the basic concept may be universal, the exact function of
a storyboard will vary according to the type of project for which it was created. For example, traditional 2D animated series use storyboards as templates for the animators to follow. As 2D animation is typically produced in a different country to the boards themselves, it’s vital that they include as much information as possible. Typically, this will include every key pose of the animation, where the camera should be positioned, and how each shot should be composed. By comparison, the storyboards for a 3D or live-action ﬁlm will usually be far less polished, and will be stuck to less rigidly. Live-action ﬁlmmakers typically use storyboards only for complex scenes, or those including visual effects work that needs to be planned out in advance of the shoot; while some directors prefer to board out an entire ﬁlm, this is rare. By contrast, TV commercials tend to be boarded out as part of the
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in my experience. All ﬁlm and video loses a portion of its outer edge due to cut-off during the transfer from drawing to screen. and notes. Think of how to cover the action – what are the best places to view it from? ﬂip and ﬂop should become second nature to you. dolly. where two actors are ﬁlmed from either side by two cameras. it’s important to know something about staging for ﬁlm and television. but a good boarder can make the best of a small or partial set. too (see image. with lots of dead space above INSIDE TRACK | Storyboarding a two-shot A typical two-shot Here’s a simple scene featuring two actors and ﬁlmed by two cameras. One classic rule is known as ‘crossing the line’. There are mathematical reasons why some compositions look better than others. You’ll soon realise ● ABOVE Good composition. It’s worth creating a template for your boards. ● ABOVE One possible layout for a storyboard. so the relative positions of the characters are maintained throughout the scene. All the action will be captured from one side of an imaginary line. Standard formats include 4:3 or 16:9 for TV. And don’t forget to compensate for TV cut-off. Actor 1 should always be on the left-hand side of the screen when viewed from either camera. ● ABOVE Making a plan of your scene can help you to position your cameras and create a good board sequence. Dead space or bad composition can make a scene distracting. If you cross over this imaginary line. This establishes one side of the line of action. Once you’ve got a template you like. To help the viewer understand the geography of the scene. It’s also helpful (although not.tut_story 055 11/3/05 10:01:55 am . dialogue or scene descriptions. but it’s a common mistake to put a person’s head in the bottom half of the frame. the two cameras should not cross an imaginary centre line. have space for your drawing. and the cameras won’t cross this line 01 The camera one view Note that the bald actor appears on the left of the screen in this shot.Storyboarding tips | TUTORIALS that particular scenes look best from certain angles. print out lots of copies. I prefer not to work too large. and cause the viewer to lose track of what’s going on. the scene or sequence number. and think about where you’ll need to place your cameras. the longer it will take you to draw! Try putting two to four of your templates on an A4 sheet and see which size you’re most comfortable with. some 3D projects only use partial sets. so exploit these positions. don’t overcrowd it. See the boxout below for an example of how to storyboard a two-shot. take a trip around your local art gallery. This should CREATE A PLAN VIEW Take the time to sketch out your scene as a plan view (looking down on it from above). right). Experiment with your own – don’t work too large. GET ORGANISED It sounds obvious. so you may be limited in the directions from which you can shoot. Establish a numbering sequence early on and stick to it. but most artists are able to judge this instinctively ● ABOVE Not so good composition! This is an exaggerated example. the viewer will have difﬁculty following the action. but you can quickly become swamped in drawings for a project: a complex sequence might require dozens. the bald actor still appears on the left of the screen. the bigger the picture. and keep the images numbered RATIO. ● DON’T CROSS THE LINE! When storyboarding. or even hundreds of images. LENSES AND TECHNOBABBLE Know what aspect ratio (the ratio of the width of the screen to its height) you’re working in before you start drawing.35:1 for cinema. enabling the viewer to follow the action 03 May 2005 3D WORLD | 055 TDW64. familiarise yourself with camera-speak! Words like pan. 02 The camera two view Despite the change of angle. Make sure that your shot makes maximum use of the frame. If you don’t know much about composition. drawing inspiration from sources outside of ﬁlm and TV will also help to keep your work fresh. vital) to know a little about camera lenses and their effects. allow the image to breathe. OBEY THE RULES OF COMPOSITION The best ﬁlms follow the same basic rules of composition as classical painting and architecture. you’ll be severely limiting the usefulness of the board. and think about where the best positions for a camera would be. Finally. locked-off. If the shape of the storyboard panels don’t match that of the animation. and also establishes the geography of the scene from the viewer’s perspective. and may just give you the jump on the next guy. This is important in a ‘two-shot’. Also envisage how the action moves around the set. and 2. although there are many others. It’s a good idea to treat the animation as a live-action shot. Much like live-action. In other words.
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