Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review: Storyboards – Motion in Art

This is the 3rd edition of Mark Simon’s book about storyboards.

Mark Simon starts off with the most fundamental: what is a storyboard, and what is the difference between a storyboard from a comic. Then he continues with who storyboard artists are and what to be expected. I thought a storyboard artist more or less took “dictation”, transforming the ideas told into a visual image. The author however writes that a working collaboration between a director and a storyboard artist is a just as creative situation for both parts, where the artist should be active in finding solutions and coming with suggestions to improve the visual language. The first part of the book is dedicated to your startup process, including everything from which pens to use to what to expect when getting hired for a job.

The next part of the book is about how to draw a storyboard. Of course this is the lion share of the book. Note that this is not a book about how to draw from the basics. If you have no clue how to draw a human figure, you should probably learn this on beforehand. This book is about storyboarding only. On the other hand there are plenty of things you need to know about this craft, even if you are a skilled artist. One thing is how to do quick thumbnails drawn on e.g. a meeting for you to have as a base for something to present later. Like the importance to keep your different characters apart, so you know which character is who when you get back to your studio. Then there is also a lot of terms described so you don’t have to look too sheepish when the director ask you do to a “production board”, a “comp” or an “animatic”.

Not only movies are storyboarded. There are animations, games and live shows which might need storyboarding too. Those situations are also part of the book.

One thing that is very characteristic for storyboards is the camera movements shown by arrows in the image. There is a whole chapter about these in the book. This might sound a bit to overdo it, but they are vital, since your storyboard will turn into a moving image by a camera operator using your storyboards as a base for his or her work. There is also a chapter about such fundamental thing like numbering so everybody knows which scene that is illustrated and in which order the shots should appear; it’s far from rocket science, but vital to get a working storyboard.

Part three of the book is about how you can promote yourself as an artist, like what to put into the portfolio and common mistakes by rookies. There is also a vast part about who hires a storyboard artist and in what situations they are needed – no need to knock on the wrong door at the wrong time after reading that chapter. Here you also find all you need to know about the practical and legal aspects of a job.

Part four of the book is filled with interviews with established storyboard artists. Part five with exercises.

Part six is short and only contains a part of a scene storyboarded by different artists. It is interesting to see how much that differs. Personally I also feel that a computer program for storyboarding (one of the storyboards was made in such) has lots of things missing to create inspirational images. The images are correct, but they feel very dead to me. I suppose it is all about what kind of result you want.

In the seventh part Mark Simon lists a lot of resources and books useful to enhance your skills as an artist and part of a crew. The last part of the book contains storyboard examples.

I enjoyed the book very much. It was an easy read and valid illustrations. The first three parts I found most interesting. When it came to interviews and exercises I felt that perhaps it would have been a more accessible book if it had been shorter and the price lower. Not that the interviews were worthless and I don’t need exercises, just the fact that it is a 450 pages thick book and for me that is a heavy and unpractical format and then I come to page 250 somewhere it keeps more to keep my interest on top.

This is not a book that will teach you how to draw. It is about how to use your skills to do storyboarding. It is important to be aware of the difference when selecting a book. If you know how to draw and are looking for a book about how to do storyboards and become a professional, this is the right book for you.