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Storyboard

Animator and director Chuck Jones, in his hilarious autobiography, Chuck Amuck (Avon Books, 1990), says this on the role of the storyboard:

A sluggish slug would soon have discerned what escaped Ray Katz: writers and directors wrote and directed animated cartoons by the development of storyboards, very similar to gigantic Sunday comic strips—one hundred fifty 3 × 5 sketches thumbtacked to a framed 4 × 8 foot storyboard. It was somewhat difficult to grasp the fact that animation writers do not write, but draw, and animation directors do direct but draw also.

The storyboard is invaluable for visualizing the scenes and flow of an animation. You can add, subtract, and replace drawings simply by pulling down one drawing and substituting another. The storyboard is a very clear and efficient way for anyone involved in a project to see what's going on.

When I worked at Hypergolic Studios, we covered the walls with standard quarter-inch wallboard, painted white, from the lumberyard and kept plenty of push pins handy. Because these boards were 4 × 8 feet, they offered lots of room for sticking up drawings and moving them around, and it was easy to take down a drawing and replace it with a new one.

Creating Storyboards

Be sure to create storyboards that match the aspect ratio of your animation. If you're creating a full-screen animation, for example, the proportions of the storyboard should be 640 × 480, which is the same aspect ratio as a storyboard 4 inches wide by 3 inches tall. A full-width Web banner ad at 468 × 60 pixels has an aspect ratio of 7.8:1, or nearly 8 inches wide by 1 inch tall. If the proportions of your storyboard are wrong, visualizing the staging of your animation will be very difficult.

Tip

To simplify creating storyboards at the right size, draw a rectangle of the right aspect ratio on a piece of cardboard and cut it out to make a stencil. You can lay this rectangle down and quickly trace it onto as many sheets of drawing paper as your storyboard requires.


Tip

To speed storyboard drawing, draw in the background in the first drawing to set the scene; then leave it blank for the rest of the drawings. The main objective of the storyboard is to create the story and to include any important action and animation detail.


Digital Storyboarding

Any program that allows you to paint pictures is useful for storyboarding. Programs that support layers are particularly helpful, because they let you draw objects on different layers and hide them as they disappear from a story. Layers also allow you to copy drawings from one storyboard frame to another, which can cut your drawing time at this stage, especially if you're working with graphic-design elements that don't change a lot from scene to scene.

You can use the text tools in paint and drawing programs to add captions to the bottom of storyboards.

If you use a program such as Macromedia Director, Apple Media Tool, HyperCard, or Quark's mTropolis for storyboarding, you can add audio to create a multimedia storyboard. Using audio can be even more effective than a purely visual storyboard, especially when you're conveying your ideas to others (selling an animation concept to a client, for example).

Warning

But before you get carried away, keep in mind that the great advantage of a storyboard is that you can move, remove, and replace drawings at any time, which makes developing a story fast and easy. A storyboard on the wall can be viewed at any time by anyone who's working on the animation, which lets everybody involved in the project know exactly what's up. Resist the temptation to jump straight into anima-ting on the computer, as you're likely to find that working without a storyboard will leave you with more problems in your animation than you'll want to solve.


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