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.

What he fails to realize is that a projection screen is flat. The image projected on that screen is flat. If it's flat, it can be drawn.

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

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Rafi said...

"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,"

what is this moron on about. the process of boarding involves a thorough understanding of film-making - from the technology (eg. lenses, focal lengths, tracking techniques) to theoretical (shot design, cutting choices) and translating all of that into a distilled visual guide that enforces the importance of clarity, readability and narrative at the forefront.

The storyboarding process doesn't remove a thing - it's where most of the thinking and planning is made most effective.

The method he employs (as shown in those quicktimes) is actually far more dangerous in detracting from solid film-making, because of the desire to move the camera whilly nilly without thought.

Jett said...

Actually after reading this post the camera work on too many live action flicks suddenly makes sense.
I've been complaining about what I call the "epileptic vomit-o-coaster cam" that seems to plague so many movies.

Just going straight to moving the camera around is like sculpting without doing any sketching. It feels uninformed and undisciplined.

I was griping about Spider-man III about the camera work...how I felt like every time the mask went on I felt like I was suddenly in a different movie because the camera was careening all over the place without any sense of where it was in the world and instead of immersing me more in the movie (which I'm sure was the intention) it ripped me out every time.

I never believed Toby/Peter was really swinging around because the camera wouldn't let me BE THERE and WATCH it.

I've always been amused that animated films seems to have better more believable camera work than a lot of live action flicks. (Are you listening Michael Bay?)

Looking forward to meeting you at Comic Con. (and ye gods, doesn't THAT sound creepy and stalkerish. ;))