A miscellany of weekly ramblings on comics, art and film by Ted Mathot, storyboard artist and writer/artist/self-publisher of graphic novels and comics

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Why Storyboarding Doesn't Work"

My jaw dropped when I read this article on the vfxworld website...Per Holmes explains why storyboarding is an outmoded shot-planning tool for the 3D environment.

"So what’s wrong with storyboarding? Well, the biggest problem is that storyboarding is so far removed from real camera work that probably 90% of shots and moves simply can’t be drawn in this format. That sounds like an unforgiving judgment, so let’s look at it. What camera work can you really draw in a storyboard? You can draw locked shots. You can draw pans and tilts. You can draw pushes and pulls. And you can draw characters stepping in and out of shots. But that’s actually about it.

That’s a problem, because the live-action film and TV camera work we see every day is far more complex than this. But as long as we use what’s essentially a slideshow as a basis for the camera work, the blocking is limited to the very basics. Even if both the storyboarder and the director or dp are very skilled in camera work, the storyboarding process itself removes so much information that almost nothing is left, except a sequence of static shots with small enhancements, like adding a slow push to an otherwise locked frame."

Wow. I'm completely gobsmacked at what this guy says not only in the first couple paragraphs, but in the rest of the 4 page piece. He goes on to explain camera moves that are impossible to storyboard, and then demostrates with a previs quicktime of said camera move that could easily be represented with drawn images. He doesn't seem to have much knowledge at all about how we storyboard for animation these days.

Here's another quote, regarding the camera move described above:

"This is real blocking, and you can see that the moment we’re working from this perspective, a whole new world opens up. Techniques that would have been invisible in a storyboard, are suddenly completely obvious and easy to do, because we’re working in the native language of camera work."

Based on this statement, it's fair to say that what are doing now in storyboarding for animation is far beyond what the author thinks we are capable of. He is actually belittling the role of a board artist. Real blocking? What does that mean? Artitsts block the shots for sequences they board, know where the camera is, know where and how it's moving, and what kind of lens is on it...these things are all taken into consideration when boarding a scene.

Have a read for yourself and post your comments below.

Why Storyboarding Doesn't Work


Rob.A said...

He is totally missing the point as to what a storyboard is meant to bring to a story. A good board can and does do all the things he says it can't. Emotion, intent, motivation, staging are just some of the things a good board does. As far as his live action comments go.. I have never been under the assumption that a live action storyboard was to be followed literaly from panel to panel. If that was the case the fight sequence in Raging Bull would have been strange. INTENT, EMOTION, MOTIVATION and STAGING! And if the filmmakers come accross camera problems thats why we do PreViz. Since when was a storyboard to be an exact representation of the final shot?

J said...

Yeah... I was saying to a friend of mine earlier, that much of his arguments are based on an antiquated notion of what is done. I think Jimenez would have a largely different take on this stuff.

MANDREWS said...

read the comments on the article- they totally bash the dude

Mandrews out

nick sung said...

Bad news, man.
I read this the other day and didn't really get it--I think he needs to watch some DVD extras.

And I feel bad for all the people he's misinformed over the years--I thought everything was drawable if imaginable...

OV! said...

what a complete moron. hows that for a reply.


BT said...

After reading the article I tried to think from the writer’s point of view, but I found myself shaking my head. All the fancy camera moves, trucks, and tracks will come into the process at the right time. I get no hint of this understanding in writer’s article. He tries to compare different aspects of the film making process to support his argument that just don’t make sense. All I really get is his muddled interpretation of the creative process of how films (animated and live action) are put together

Anonymous said...

man this is such a freakin' load of B.S. Every time I hear this lame argument it makes me groan and roll my eyes.

But really, it's no surprise. This is the kind of sentiment that's been growing and expressed by complete hacks and newcomer directing wannabes who obviously don't understand how to tell a good story, let alone know how shot progrogression or story pacing works, cramming in as many of the new free 3D camera gimmicks in a hopes to befuddle the viewer and over-compensate for their lack of actual skill.

unfortunately most of these people are people that get all the money, but also tend to overspend also.

but thanks for posting this TSM, it's important to know what mis-information is being gurgitated out there so we can help to nip it in the bud.

your fan


amelia said...

So I guess what the writer's saying is that all the story artists really just do nothing and they all should quit at this very moment? What exactly would happen if there were no story artists at Pixar...
Thanks for posting this. I'm really disappointed with this guy's total lack of appreciation.


Jeff Pidgeon said...

much of his arguments are based on an antiquated notion of what is done.

I think so, too - according to the article's author , board artists are still 'boarding like it's 1966.

All the fancy camera moves, trucks, and tracks will come into the process at the right time.

Excatly! I was amused at the fact that, close to the end of the article, the author admits that storyboards are primarily appropriate for telling the story, as if that wasn't enough somehow!

Monkeyfeather said...

Yes, the intent seems to have been missed by this fellow. Boarding for film, especially animated films now a days is far more advanced than he leads people to believe in his article. Just for an example look at the work done on the 100 mile dash in THE INCREDIBLES (I believe you boarded this Ted?) Very sofisticated staging, action and camera work done through drawing, then "plused" by some computer (after effects?) wizardry with the bg's etc.

Jeff's story point is spot on, this being one of the most important aspects of boarding, but I think the writer of this article has missed something else that is of vital importance from the storyboard stage, PERFORMANCE. Boards are the first indicator of character performance, emotion etc. Remember the whole standing on the shoulders of others thing? Well, board artists give the first ideas and indications of charcter performance in the animated film process and the whole idea of the production structure is that every department that follows, "pluses" the scene making it better. The animators take the boards as inspiration and bring those characters to life. As a board artist, you want to set the performance bar as high as you can so that the animator can knock the scene out of the park. The bar isn't set very high by a stiff, floating mannequin. Of course, everyone here already knows that, so I'm just preaching to the choir.

Jamie Baker said...

oh jeez... we better all find some new jobs quick before eveyone finds out that our jobs are pointless...

Sheila Stephani (Soejono) said...

Ladies and Gents we have travelled back in time. It's 1966, there's no Photoshop, AfterEffects or Final Cut Pro. Please adjust your groovy seats


Anthony said...

Hi Ted,

I delivered some more smack-down on this guy here. Yeah, jaw-dropping indeed.

By the way, your work is wonderful, in my humble opinion.
Good luck on the new book.

...and we may know some of the same people - Lou Romano (from Monkeybone days), Jeff Lynch, Bob Camp... anyway, take care.

Louie del Carmen said...

they say ignorance is bliss. In this guy's case, he isn't even smart enough to know he's ingnorant.

I feel sorry for the bastard.

Rob A. said...

There has been a rebuttle posted on vfx at

hope the link works?
Called why storyboarding still works.

Ross Dearsley said...

I think this guy is just not very confident with his drawing! I'd like to frame-by-frame through some of his favourite complex live-action camera shots and show him that he's looking at a series of 2D images that can be drawn!

When Richard Williams was planning complex animated shots for 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' people asked how they would be achieved? His reply... we've gotta just draw them!