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Opening Image

Take a look at these posters





The posters give you a taste of what you are in for if you watch these movies. When you are telling a story visually, your first few boards should show the audience what they can expect. Take a look at the opening sequence from Jaws


Big shark eating people. What about Star Wars?



Sweet space ships flying through space shooting at each other? Then cool robots? This is going to be good! I may seem tame compared to what cinema magic can do now, but back in 1977 this was AMAZING!


Think about your story. What is the world like? What key moments are there? Who are your characters? 

Now produce an image or two that will get others interested in your story.  


Here's some more inspiration:


These images draw you in with a promise of what's to come. Tons more to see here.


We'll take a look at your images in class next Tuesday!


Lesson 4 -dialog

Writers love to write. They will write pages and pages of dialog and then you get to board it all! A good writer will give you some great lines to board. It's as if the storyboards draw themselves. Often times that is not the case. Your job as a board artist is to make good stuff great and boring stuff better.

You'll need to analyze your scene a bit to help you decide what to do with the characters while they are talking. The last thing you want is 'talking heads'.


Here's a fun clip from the Iron Giant:


Hogarth has just drunk his first cup of coffee. Espresso no less! Look at all the acting the animators got into this scene. It really adds to the dialog because he is so fast.


Some questions to ask:

What is the subtext of the scene? A character might not say what he means, but he will show it in body language.

What contrast can you amp up? Are there themes in the movie that you can exploit in this scene with your acting choices?

Keep in mind:

The camera angle. How does it help or hinder the dialog
The shot choice. Do you really need to be close on the one speaking? Could it be more powerful to see a reaction?
What is the character doing while they are speaking? Actions betray more that words. When boarding dialog it often what you show that is more important than what the characters are saying.

Heres some boards from Iron Giant:








In this scene Dean is trying to explain the difference between art and junk to the Giant. The theme of the movie is you can choose who you want to be. Here we explore the softer side of the Giant. He's not just a hungry mouth. He can make art!

Here' one from FARGO:

Notice how the camera stay on Mr Mohra. You never see officer Olsons face. This type of scene would be hard to pull off in animation because animated characters usually aren't that subtle. The body language tells us the Olsen doesn't think much of this guys story.

Buzz and Woody's breakup:

There's no props used in this scene but Woody's acting is awesome. The moon is used for Buzz's line about Zurg's weapon and Woody circles him incredulously.


Okay, here is some horrible dialog and animation. Granted this was low budget and reusing animation was the name of the game. You could probably make this show in after effects today!


Now on to the assignment. The dialog I have taken from “Devil Wears Prada”. Andy gets a makeover.

Let's do the part after the make over. It starts at 1:16

Assignment: Storyboard this dialog

Girl one: I have no idea why Miranda hired her.

Girl two: Me neither. The other day we were in the beauty department and she held up this eyelash curler and said, "What is this."

Girl one: (laughs) I just knew from the moment I saw her she was going to be a complete and utter disaster --

Andy walks in looking amazing. She saunters past Girls one and two. Phone rings.

Andy: (picking up the phone) Miranda Priestleys office. (pause) No, actually she's not available but I'll leave word.

Girl one: How'd you - are you wearing

Andy: The Channel boots? Yeah. I am.

Girl two: You look good.



Here's the setting: Girl one is getting her hair cut by girl two in a salon. Andy is Frankenstien.


Think of some subtext. Don't just copy the movie attitudes. What can you do with the hiar styles? the clothes? the body types?


Lesson 1 - Getting Started

When you start out to learn the craft of storyboarding you are learning the craft of directing. You to learn how to put a story together. Think of all the pieces that go into making a storyboard -- staging, composition, character, poses, line of action 180 rule as building blocks.



There is a certain way of building a wall that works. Interlock the bricks. It's been proven effective since the invention of the brick.


The same goes with storytelling. There is a certain way of telling a story that works. Get the audiences interest, keep them wanting more. BUT... Just like a there's a million different types of bricks, there are million variations on telling a story. American cinema uses the three act structure. In this course we'll be working with short stories so we won't get too deep into the 3 act thing. We'll keep it as simple as set up & pay off or beginning middle and end.

3 act story


Stories don't have to be linear. They can start at any point in the narrative. But, just like building a useful wall there has to be some integrity to it. Your main character should have a goal.

non linear stories


The Social Network is a good example of non-linear story. You can start almost anywhere in this story because it's not a story about Facebook. Its subject matter is as old as storytelling itself. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin said the movie is about "the themes of friendship, loyalty, jealousy, class and power."

Your stories must be grounded in human themes. Something people can relate to.

Humans crave interaction and emotional connection. We thrive on it. Storytelling fills that need. A good story will let you live vicariously through the hero. A good story will stir your emotions. A good story will stick in your mind.

Storyboarding is the marriage of verbal storytelling and visual storytelling. The perfect partners.

What's your Idea?

To start your story you'll need an idea. Usually, a personal experience is a good place to start. Maybe there was a moment in time that you wish was different. Maybe a shared experience that many people can relate to and you are telling your take on it.

The Hook

Once you have that figured out you need a hook. Something to draw the audience in. Movie trailers are good at this.


You'll need to get attention quick to keep your audience. Your hook should be simple . It could be a question like how does the grim reaper spend time with his son? It could just be an image. Look at the visual hook in this teaser:

As a board artist you should be working in mostly visuals and keep the dialog to a minimum.


Next introduce your theme, or in other words, what are you trying to say about the world you are showing us?

Don't get bogged down in this part. Is there a theme in a Bugs Bunny cartoon? Maybe. It could be 'Life is hard if you're stupid.'

Wile E Coyote can never get the roadrunner. Theme? Life is unfair for a coyote.

By having a theme you always know where to go when you get stuck in you story. All the gags in a Bugs Bunny cartoon would support 'life being hard' for hi antagonist whether it is Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam. They will occasionally get the upper hand but it always comes back to Bugs out smarting them.

Finding the theme can be elusive. Often it will reveal itself as you dive into the story.


Your characters need opposition. It would be a boring story if the hero never struggled to achieve his goals. There has to be opposition in all things. Imaging trying to tie your shoe with one hand. Your remaining hand has no opposition from the other hand and therefore nothing for to pull against. Opposition is what builds character.

What makes Dumbo who he is? The ridicule of society.

sad dumbo




The struggle is real!


What makes Sid so lovable?

sid the sloth



Nobody loves him so he loves others the way he wants to be loved.

A good rule of thumb is, "what could be the worst possible thing that could happen to your character?" Now to that to them.


This is where good set-ups fail. Your ending needs to be better than your beginning. I like to figure out my ending first so I know where I'm going.

When I was starting my storyboarding career at Warner Brother I had the privilege of working with Bob Camp. I loved his Ren and Stimpy cartoons. His told me his pattern was: set-up, gags, ironic ending.

Now it's time to get to work. Don't spend your time writing what's going to happen thinking you'll go back and draw it later. Start your thinking with drawings! Crappy drawings, lots of them. Don't edit yourself. This will put you in the creative mood and you'll be surprised at what comes out of you. When I was working on the opening scene of RIO I just started sketching out ideas. Some of them took, some of them didn't. Don't get caught up in pretty drawings, just get the ideas out.

blu alarm clock

Blu wakes up Linda.

blu alarm clock

Blu walks into the bathroom

blu alarm clock

Sees Linda

blu alarm clock

She's applying makeup.

 blu eww

She's not very good at it.



Storyboard three stupid criminals explain their impossible escape plan to a fourth inmate. They are trying to enlist his help because he has a tube of toothpaste they need for the escape.


Storyboard a story of your choosing.


Keep it to about 80 -150 panels but it can really be however long or short as you like. Share it with me on google drive. I'll go over your boards in class next week.

Technical stuff

Use a rectangular template. Write your dialog under your drawings. I like Photoshop or Sketchbook pro. Both are excellent digital drawing tools. I posted a template in the assignment folder.





Now that you've got your story finished, step back and look at the overall picture. When you start a story usually you board more than you need.
First things to look for are repeated beats.  Did you do something two or more times without realizing it?
Did you cut when the scene actually ends?
Are you showing unneeded action? 
Get to the point!!
If your board is causing grief and not getting the laughs you hoped for, it's time to reexamine it.

Things to examine:
What is the conflict your story is built on?

Have you been true to it?

What are you trying to say?

Are you saying it?

Is your comedy cliche? Are your gags predictable?

A good place to start is juxtaposition. Take something normal and cross it with something that doesn't go with it.·

A baby elephant with big ears who discovers he can fly! Dumbo.

A giant war robot who doesn't want to be a gun. Iron Giant.

What does your story have in it to hook the audience?


Cutting helps you direct your audience's attention to the information you want them to see. A good cut goes unnoticed. The viewer should be so wrapped up in the story that they don't notice you've cut to a different shot. Each cut should naturally flow from the previous cut.

As a general rule, cut when you have new visual information for the audience. For example:

Introduce a new character
Introduce a new idea
Introduce a new set
Point of view shot
A cut-away shot

Take a look at the famous opening shot from Orson Welles' A Touch of Evil



In this sequence, it is one continuous shot with no cuts! It's one long perfectly orchestrated shot giving you all the information you need. Notice how the car comes and goes in the shot to keep your interest on it and how new characters are introduced? Welles was being artistic and it's pretty cool but we aren't going to go that far, we are going to use cuts.

It’s tempting to cut for each new line of dialog, or just because you’ve been on a shot for a while. I'd like for you to resist that urge. Be smarter than that. If you set your shots up in compelling ways you'll be able to hang on a shot till you give the audience the information they need.

Look at the way this scene from The Graduate was shot. Starting at 1:28 Benjamin tells Elaine about the 'older woman'. Both Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson are wet – tying them together. As Elaine turns to look at her mom the camera loses focus on her. As she comes back into focus it dawns on her who Benjamin is talking about. Very metaphoric. The scene is set up so well there is no need to cut away to Mrs. Robinson.


Pacing is your timing. It adds variety to your story. If you were to run at a constant speed it will get monotonous. If you vary it your jog becomes more interesting. Same thing with your story, As your story intensifies, your cutting may get faster or slower depending on how you want to play it.

Pacing applies to more than just cutting. To make a truly funny sequence you must build on your gags, Each one gets funnier than the rest.

Of course cutting style also depends on what the director dictates. I choose a scene from Ice Age 4 to show my thinking on cutting. In this scene Manny and Diego previously tried to communicate with the little hyraxes. They want them to help them to steal the pirates ship and take it home.They don't succeed so Sid asks to take a stab at it.


Random Storyboard

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