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Drawing Storyboards
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Drawing Storyboards

Storyboards are an important building block in the film making process. They help you tangibly sort out your ideas. As I have been freelancing now, I meet many untrained creative people who have great ideas, but really don't know how to make full use of those ideas. Mostly they have a fear of drawing. This is when I try to encourage them to draw it out, even if it's just stick figures.

Concepts

Before we get to the Storyboard Stage, we must first explore the ideas or concepts. Whatever your ideas may be, draw them out on whatever you can get your hands on! I cannot stress this enough. Ideas are fleeting! They can come to us in an instant and be gone in that same instant. Most often these ideas come when you least expect it, so make some record of it. Some people get great ideas in dreams. I've had a combination happen to me. Before I made my way to graduate college, I worked at Maytag building washing and dryer machines on the assembly line. They gave us lithography pens to write down our numbers with. As I was repetitiously doing the same thing over and over again on the assembly line, my mind would began to wander. In these moments often an idea would pop in my head, and I eagerly wanted to draw it out. To do so, I grabbed a piece of cardboard to draw out what I saw in my mind. Fortunately, there were times when the assembly line would need repair so we got a lot of down time. This is when I would start drawing to my heart's content. Once I got down my idea to explore later, I began to draw the people in the factory. They enjoyed their caricatures! People all over the factory encouraged me to develop my artistic talent. I worked at Maytag for a month during December 2003, and then in January 2004 I started graduate college at Savannah College of Art & Design!

During the Concept Stage, draw all the ideas that come to mind. This is called Brainstorming. Then refine the drawings that you really like. The other drawings can be saved for later or you can throw out the stuff you don't want. Personally, I don't throw any of my ideas away. I keep them in my sketchbook. Later as I review my sketchbook these unused ideas may spark something in me that leads to another idea. Often though these unused ideas are a great mark of where I am in my drawing. It's a record of my emotions, state of mind, feelings of that time, etc.

As you develop your concepts consider the environment or setting if it's a place or object. You want to draw this out in as much detail as you like. For characters, consider their emotions, wardrobe, personality, and so forth. To start use black and white first, just so you can get a sense of the weight of the values. Then move on to color.

Refine the Drawings

How you refine your drawings depends upon what the subject is. In character development, you would clean up the initial sketch. Then think of your character from all angles in space. You create a turn-a-round of the character called the Character Model Sheet. Here you create a frontal pose, three quarter pose, side pose, and back pose. Some Artists also create a frontal three quarter pose along with a back three quarter pose. Finally, you create an Action Pose. It's simply a depiction of the character doing any type of action you choose.

If you want to go even further, in film production Artists may create 3D models of the characters made with sculpey, another form of clay, or any substance they are comfortable using. Especially with 3D Animation, having an actual model helps a lot!

Storyboards

Now it's time to create the storyboards! Before you get started it's a good idea to create even more rough sketches of the environment, atmosphere, and most importantly; camera angles. Atmosphere is the feeling of the environment. Is it foggy? Is it dark and damp? Knowing what camera angles will be used is one of the most crucial reasons why storyboards have great value in film making. As you draw out the scenes you can use arrows with a box or circle diagrams that show the movement of the camera.

Actually, I explored this in a class called Animation Layout. Layout Artists, whom my professor joked are the ones who do not possess top-notch drawing skills, roughly setup up each scene based upon the initial concept work given to them. You can look for books that show this process. I was not given a book in college. The professor taught from his experience. Still it's always great to have some tangible reference, so you could search for books that will help you the most.

Once you've roughly gotten all the details; your setting, atmosphere, camera angles, etc, figured out then it's time to draw the actual storyboards. Most often we use index cards for storyboards because they're convenient, but you can use whatever you want. Some people use note cards. Now you can work in whatever style you like. Most people may start simply with a regular number 2 pencil and leave it. In the industry it's most often more demanding than that, so I recommend starting out with the number 2 pencil first to lay down your base drawings. Second, think about what mood or atmosphere you want the viewers to feel in your presentation. For my thesis project I used charcoal to capture the emotions of sadness and despair. It also helped convey how dark my subject matter is. From here, finish up your drawings and you're done.

In the studios I've seen hand drawn storyboards done in color with colored pencils. You also have other options. Some people create storyboards digitally in Photoshop, Illustrator, or other graphics software. Then they add color. In the studios I've most often seen digital storyboards in color. It's a very nice, refined finish that shows you putting your best efforts forward for the sake of the presentation. Still I guess the approach in a work situation strongly depends upon what your supervisor(s) expect of you. Different people have their preferences.

Storyboards are really fun to do because you get to see your film in the process of coming to life! Some people who enjoy the process of creating have to be careful not to get too caught up in this moment. Storyboards are essential to the film making process in that they can help you tell the story successfully!


Street Talk

Excellent article Shawn. I enjoyed it very much!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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