Artsy Rants

Story Boards? Not a Real Fan

  • July 30, 2015
Never hurts to throw in a little barnstorming action.

Never hurts to throw in a little barnstorming action.

Story boards are a staple of the animation business. They enable you to block out the important action sequences in a proposed animated story and, with animatics, you can even capture a sense of the movement that will go on in the actual piece. They are valuable tools to get a client on board with your concept and vision.

I also don’t like them.

No, I don’t toss the concept out the window, but I just can’t get into traditional story boarding. I find the medium too stilted, too limiting, even with animatics. I have the de facto industry standard software for creating them, but it largely lies hidden in my hard drive, unused.

What approach do I employ instead? I’m primarily a 3D kind of guy, but I can bang out a conceptual animated sequence, or series of sequences, in very short order using none other than After Effects. Using AE as my tool of choice, coupled with my ability to hack out layered elements quickly in Illustrator, I can block out a nontrivial animated concept in about the same amount of time it would have taken me to sketch out those static board panels and chop in some animatics to make them look more interesting. In fact, by blocking out sequences to time in AE I can end up with a lot of the 3D timeline work already done, and the 2D elements I build in Illy are excellent reference when I go to build the 3D versions.

Don’t just take my word for it. This is an example of a recent story board concept I threw together in just a few hours for a local ad agency to pitch to one of their clients:

The agency emailed me a description of what they wanted, as well as a draft script, and I enlisted the aid of a good friend and local voice talent to record the piece for timing in exchange for a shot at landing the voice part for the final commercial spot. The rest was courtesy of my good friends Illy and Wacom with a lot of AE on the side. The final piece is intended to be modeled and animated in 3D but, as you can see, the layout, timing and look & feel of the elements are done even before I start laying down my first polygon. Icing on the cake: my 3D modeling and animation software imports Illustrator paths and objects so, with just a moderate amount of extruding, lathing and/or beveling, the foundation for many of the 3D elements is already in place.


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