Friday, May 11, 2012

Storyboards, Pre-Viz and Brainstorming Move Across Mediums

One of my presentation boards for a cooking show spot 
In today’s industries of advertising, filmmaking and video games, there are many tools available for the creative agency looking to develop and flesh out their next memorable campaign.

While developing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Walt Disney developed the idea of using storyboards - individual drawings that stand in for yet-to-be-filmed or animated movie frames. For years, the Disney studios propelled the craft forward into a reliable technique of story refinement and, when coupled with the story reel, where the frames are run together with dialogue and soundtrack, have tested the linear flow to perfect storytelling. 

Walt introduces storyboards during Snow White production
Storyboard artists are a staple of any animated film and big budget action movie. Directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese have all used storyboard artists, and many times have been known to draw their own boards to illustrate their story flow and demonstrate unique camera angles.

In addition, filmmakers and video game developers have been using Digital 3D software programs like Maya, 3d Max and Cinema 4d to build virtual environments that directors can film from any angle, then cut together to prove a concept or solve complicated logistics. When I was Art Director at EA Sports, I created numerous prototypes this way, which I was able to “sell” to producers, execs and other teammates before spending a dime on man-hours. In this way, resources could be planned and scheduled down to the last detail. 

Storyboards for Hitchcock's "Vertigo"
Stephen Spielberg used “virtual” environments before committing to animated renders in the recent “The Adventures of Tintin.” George Lucas pushed virtual visualization while directing his last three “Star Wars” movies. According to a story artist who worked with him, Lucas might suddenly decide midway in production to change the structure of a scene, and would test it via virtual environments and cameras before deciding. Regardless what you think of Lucas’s results, these methods help the imagined become reality quickly, thereby allowing filmmakers the confidence to commit to final production whatever the media.

Since my full-time services of storyboarding, cinematics and art direction was launched over three years ago, I have experienced an evolution in the methods of storyboarding and pre-visualization among the advertising industry. Where once I was given a shot list and asked to create roughs, submit them for approval, and then worked up finishes from the solitude of my studio, I soon found creative directors, art directors and writers were interested in having me work on-site. In this manner, I have been invited to collaborate and brainstorm on early concepts. Teaming with writers, editors, and designers in group sessions, agencies can witness the strengths of each contributor. 

Depending on the direction the ideas take, the creative lead may quickly assign roles with clear directives and deliverables, tuned to each person’s skill set or interest. Not only have I enjoyed adding my input, but I have been able to quickly demonstrate that my skill goes beyond that of someone who makes pretty pictures. I believe I have grown to be regarded as a thoughtful, service driven team player who wants to create the experience that will best reach the intended audience. I get a sense of ownership and a contribution I may not have had in other cases, and enjoy the side-by-side partnerships.

One of many storyboards I designed for a music video
I recently designed a music video concept that was embraced by the director who hired me. As a result, I believe said director values me not just for my line quality and sense of story, but also as a collaborator of the highest mark. I am grateful for opportunities like this.

Whatever your creative goals may be, using storyboards, story reels and team brainstorming can get you there. In the process, you may have an experience that is marketable as well as memorable.

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