Storyboarding

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Ever wonder how animators create those elaborate and high energy sequences making up the most memorable parts of your favorite animated classics? It involves more than sheer vision and artistry, and is a much more technical process than many casual spectators might assume. In fact, much of the final outcome depends on a complex and intricate process known as storyboarding.

Storyboarding is the graphic organization of every scene or sequence in a film that will be created by animators — a storyboard is, in effect, a giant comic. The main purpose of storyboarding is to previsualize what will ultimately appear onscreen, kind of like a sketched rough draft of the final product which uses minimal dialogue and is usually done in black and white. And storyboarding isn’t limited to animation: video game and website designers also use the process to map their layouts, as do live action filmmakers and television directors employing heavy sequences of computer graphics. Films like Gone with the Wind, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings all utilized storyboarding during the filming process. The process has also gained popularity in advertising for the purpose of finalizing the concepts of commercials.

Walt Disney himself is widely credited with having developed the storyboarding process in the early days of his career in the 1930s, when animated shorts were gaining in popularity. As his films grew more complex, a more detailed planning process was needed. Disney, in conjunction with animator Webb Smith (responsible for the design of Pluto and writing for Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia), came up with the idea of first sketching sequences on paper and then laying them out on a bulletin board in a sequence corresponding to the action of the story. The first complete storyboards were used in the production of the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs.



Storyboard artists must have several skills in addition to drawing and sketching — they must be able to quickly visualize sequences as dictated by the script or writers, and they must be able to work in several mediums, including TV, film, commercials, and the web. They must also be familiar with a variety of computer design programs, including Flash, Photoshop, and Illustrator, which are nowadays the preferred method of storyboard execution. FrameForge 3D Studio, Poser, and DAZ Studio are also used by many artists to create highly detailed and accurate storyboards.

Storyboard artists are typically only involved in the initial stages of a project. Once the main production gets under way, they are no longer needed. Storyboarding is, therefore, a largely freelance career, and artists are usually recruited by film and art directors. Much of storyboard artists’ work is done in tandem with script writers and directors who require not only quick sketching and drawing but frequent rewrites, which makes storyboarding an often rushed and tedious process. Working overnight to ensure that animators and advertisers have something to work with the next day is not uncommon.

The process has also been applied in business, where it has been used to design proposals used to attract both customers and investors. It can also help spell out new procedures used by companies to improve the quality of their products and services.
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