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In the animation process, one of the most important stages is storyboarding. This step acts as a blueprint for the entire production to come. Often overlooked by those who see the finished product, the storyboard artist is responsible for drawing and creating the layout of shots, forming a plan for almost everything that follows. These artists are the first people who take script to sketch, drawing up a work plan for the film. The storyboards are a tool for the animators, a bridge between the original conception and the finished project.
A storyboard artist will often create several passes of a storyboard, working closely with the director to establish the most effective imagery to convey the cartoon’s message. Whether created digitally or with a pencil and paper, it is often important to keep a storyboard simple. Working out camera angles and focal points is important, but it cannot be allowed to overshadow the message of the show.
For example, a dynamic wide angle shot with gorgeous lighting can potentially overshadow the joke or the dialogue of a comedy film. In this case, often the easier methods work the best. It is the storyboard artist’s job to help make sure that the images presented for the animators are both understandable and complimentary to the story. Simplicity and clarity often tell us more.
In terms of the layout of a storyboard, the artist will often act out roles to best convey the emotion of the character in the shot. This can help to create the most effective pose that reflects the scene. Backgrounds can be less detailed depending on the image and more often than not, annotations and story notes are written above, below and on the images to indicate everything from speed, to the arc of the body, to the movement direction and emotions of the face.
The dialogue of the shot is also usually placed under the images so to make it easier for the animators to match words to movements clearly in the later stages of the production. All these elements come together to give the production team a better understanding of what needs to be seen.
The most important aspect of this work is to go above the script, to remember that characters are three dimensional, that they live and emote within the piece and that every movement is reflective of the story. The artists are often given the freedom to add to the script, incorporating their own personalities and ideas of how shots might splice together better or flow more seamlessly. After constant drafts and back and forth, as well as artist to supervisor communication, the finished storyboards can go into the next stages.
The storyboard artist has a vision, a creative input that helps to develop a piece from concept to reality. Within visual storytelling, the storyboard is the first creative choice that leads to what we all see on screen. Do storyboard artists get the credit that they are due? Probably not, which is a shame. They pave the way for putting our characters on the stage. They breathe life into a shot and create those first steps towards a loveable series or film.
The storyboard has, and always will be a mainstay, a crucial part of the visual production process. It allows for us to see the amazing medium of film and all the enthralling storytelling visuals that keep us coming back for more.