The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Training

This is Adrien Van Viersen’s premiere guest post! He’s going to expand on my first article in the series of “Getting the J-O-B” about Training. (In case you don’t know, P.O.V. means point of view.) -KJL

SCC Storyboard Panel 1

I completely agree with Karen on the training aspect. You simply can’t go into animation storyboarding without some training in the field, or at school. I learned storyboarding on the job at an animation studio, first as a clean up artist and then as a revisionist. Only after a year of doing these things was I allowed to tackle a show.

And even then, I wasn’t given a whole show. I was given an act. This way, if I screwed up, the show wouldn’t be in in trouble ‘cuz they’d have my act done at the same time the other acts were being done.

If you want to get into storyboarding animation, but you don’t want to go to school ‘cuz yer a really good drawer, you can do it the way I did and get in by designing backgrounds. Not a bad way to start.

You can then learn all the other aspects of the field through osmosis and study the boards being produced in the office. Then you volunteer to revise them. Nobody WANTS to do this job, so people will look at you like you’re insane.

SCC Storyboard Panel 2

Now it’s a different story for film.

You can do it without going to school, but you can’t learn it without study. You have to know film: what makes a good scene, what makes for good drama, good action and basically really good storytelling with clear, concise action. You really have to love it. Know what motivates a scene or the camera to do what it’s doing, so you can take a mundane moment and make it interesting.

I have memorized a great deal of film. I watch them over and over (I have more than 350 of them). I have seen the top 100 films of all time. You should all know these. I often run into a director who asks for a scene played out like…(movie title here). Nobody has new ideas anymore.

The one thing that most novice board artists do is ‘cross the line’. That’s another blog post in itself, but it’s the one thing that most newbies screw up, myself included. It’s a tricky thing to learn. But you can learn it from a book. Drawing skills are needed in film, but it’s more about composition and draftsmanship than it is about being ‘on model’ with strong poses and acting.

Always leave the acting to the actors, unless it’s a specific beat in the script.

Being able to interpret lenses is something nothing but experience, trail and error and a good view finder can teach you. If a director wants to see you draw the shot with 28 millimeter lens, you have to be able to give a good approximation. Not exact, but wide enough to be close. Once you’ve learned these, you’ll be able to look at a movie and know what lens they’re using.

So, how do you learn these things from a book?

Well, there’s a bit of dry reading ahead. I own these books and swear by them. One can’t do without the other. Both books compliment themselves and can be referred to like a manual once you’ve read them.

Film Directing: Shot By Shot

Film Directing: Cinematic Motion

Stay tuned for Adien’s next post when he expands on my article about Building a Storyboard Portfolio.
Subscribe to the RSS feed or by email if you don’t want to miss it!

UPDATE: Here are the other posts in this series.
Getting the J-O-B Part 1: Five Key Things You Need to Storyboard Professionally
Getting the J-O-B Part 2: Building a Storyboard Portfolio
The Live-Action Go-toGuy’s P.O.V. on Portfolios
Getting the J-O-B Part 3: Professionalism in Animation…or Anywhere
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Professionalism
Getting the J-O-B Part 4: Contacts in the Industry
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Contacts in the Industry-Part 2: Unions and Film Commissions
Getting the J-O-B Part 5: The Right Attitude
The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on the Right Attitude

15 thoughts on “The Live-Action Go-to-Guy’s P.O.V. on Training

  1. Debi

    Welcome Adrien! Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. Great info in that first post of yours. πŸ˜€

  2. Adrien

    Thanks, Debi!
    Feel free to ask any questions if you have any. The one thing I forgot to add in the blog is this: the fundamental difference between the two mediums is that in film, the camera is always moving; whereas, in animation, it’s the drawings that move to give the ILLUSSION that the camera is moving. It’s this aspect of animation boarding that has to be learned and studied in order to grasp the limitiations of the ILLUSION. There are a lot of tricks that can give the audience a ‘live action’ feel and there are a lot of things that simply can’t be done. What these things are are the things that need to be learned on the job or in school.

  3. KJL Post author

    Very good point Adrie. That’s what I’m talking about when I say you have to know the medium you’re boarding for. Otherwise you would make some big mistakes (and studios don’t like big mistakes!)

    Thanks for joining in guy!

  4. Koni

    Hi Adrien, many thanks for your great advice! Not only does Karen share her vast knowledge, she also brings in friends for more great advice. I’m an avid follower of KLJ’s SB. I used to do storyboards in the ad business many, many winters past. Right now I’m attempting to get back at it . The type of boards I was doing were much simpler and hardly technical at all. They were presentation boards to ad agency clients, whose main concerns were the end products: great tv commercials. On some ocassions, during pre-production, I would revise the boards into shooting or director’s boards.

    Although my storyboard background is not in film or animation, the advice I get is quite here is quite relevant and I hugely benefit from it.

    Having said all these about my background, do you ( and this goes for Karen too) think I have enough basic knowledge to learn boarding for film and animation on my own? Would these companies be willing to work with someone long distance…via internet, fax, courrier, etc?

    I’m currently reading FD: Shot by shot. No, I didn’t discover this on my own. Karen swears by this book too in one of her previous posts so I bought it. Now I’m reading this with double the confidence, not that one isn’t enough!

    I visited your website and all I can say is Wow!!!!!
    Another powerhouse! What’s awesome with you and KJL is that you both are not just ‘talking artists’ but industry practioners with vast, expansive knowledge.
    who so generously share it with others. You know why? You have confidence! You both are at the top of your game!
    Lucky for me!
    Thanks so much!! Koni

  5. Adrien

    Thanks Koni!

    I have done a bunch of commercial work, but in comparison to my film work, it’s a very small percentage. I can say that this type of work doesn’t help in any way understand animation storyboarding, so I suppose that answers half of your question. Any experience in storyboarding is good experience. A lot of colleagues of mine (most from the US) dabble in both film and commercials. Commercials tend to pay better, but the work is much harder in the short time you have to do it. Like I said, you can learn film boarding from a book, so I’d have to say YES, the experience you had with the ad agency is probably going to help.

    I do a lot of work via the Internet. I use a web cam and have the story meetings face to face. For me, it’s just like being there. That said, I have lost more than a few jobs by being remote. Not a lot of people are willing to make the adjustment. It all depends on the studio, ad agency, or director. But it can be done. To find out which ad agencies will use a remote board artist, you’d have to be represented. There are agencies that represent storyboard artists. I will talk about this in a later post, so hang tight.

    All the best,

  6. KJL Post author

    Hey Koni! (And thanks for that great response Adrie.) πŸ™‚

    We’ll be touching on some of your questions when we write the post about Contacts in the Industry. It helps for advertising and film to know the right people. But I think even more so for animation.

    It’s hard for studios to trust you if they haven’t met you or know someone who has recommended you. All of my work has come from ‘being in the loop’ or from word of mouth. It would have been very hard otherwise. I don’t like to say impossible, but it will be harder without those contacts. It’s a very ‘incestuous’ industry, so to speak. πŸ˜‰

    I have worked from long distance as well..but again I was recommended, sent samples along and got the job. Then that job leads to another. So for animation, training is quite important and contacts in the industry are too. You have to know animation to work in it.

    But keep going along your path and for now you should focus on getting the work up to speed and having strong samples to show. Because your ability is what will ultimately matter in the end.

    There’s so much more I want to put on the site like book/DVD recommendations and a glossary but I’m just so strapped for time, it’s frustrating. All in due time I guess…when I’m an unemployed bum I’ll get to it! Another good live-action book is “From Word to Image” by Marcie Begleiter.

    I’m really digging Adrie being here. More posts from him very soon!

  7. Koni

    From the bottom of my ‘storyboard infatuated’ heart, I thank you Karen and Adrien most sincerely!! : )

    (K, I got that other book too, plus all the markers, etc , guess there’s no turning back for me….full force aheaaaad)

  8. Adrien

    hmmmm. markers. careful with the markers, Koni. Sometimes very helpful, other time very bad, especially when working remotely. The don’t photocopy well. They tend to make the work look like mud when you do. It doesn’t matter what film you work on, they always photocopy the boards for distribution, and sometimes, not even from the originals. This means that you get multiple generation loss in the work. This is why I don’t work in anything but ink. If I work in pencil, I scan it in and punch the contrast waaaaay up to make the blacks as black as possible. Now, if you really want to do the marker thing, use a variety of blue marker at the lighter end of the scale. This way, the blue marker will either not photocopy at all, or it will photocopy a light gray, depending on the quality of the copier. Also, marker takes a lot of time in addition to the drawing, and time is something most board guys don’t have. If you look at the boards for the last Star Wars movies, or many of the other blockbuster movies, you’ll find that very few of them are markered.
    I would suggest that a computer/scanner is more useful than markers. All my work is scanned in the computer for a variety of reasons: ‘green’ productions now use PDA’s for board distributions. You can ‘marker’ the boards in photoshop and maintain the inks or pencils in case the need to output separately. And you can email them if you’re working from home, which is about 50% of the time for me. Just something to think about.

  9. KJL Post author

    (These comments are turning into a post in itself! lol)

    For the animation board artists out there, I would say stay away from markers and ink completely if you’re working for television.

    Sometimes for a feature film it’s acceptable, but it’s rarely done for TV. As Adrie said, they need to photocopy clean and clear. They are mostly done with dark pencil (those col-erase I mentioned in another post are common) or on the computer. The digital boards will still be photocopied/printed too, so the same applies.

    And you shouldn’t shade or crosshatch. If it’s a night/dark scene, I just use thin diagonal lines to represent it. That photocopies cleaner.

    Note to self: We’ll have to do some posts about ‘technique’ in the future. πŸ™‚

  10. Debi

    Great to hear talk about how to be a remote artist! That’s been one of my biggest hurdles.
    I’ve even contacted a few agencies and they won’t even look at your stuff if a) your not in L.A. and/or b) you’re not union (is “How to Weasel Your Way into the Union” another post for the future?).
    I’ll be waiting on pins and needles for that agencies post of yours Adrien!! Hurry up..the pins and needles really hurt! πŸ˜‰

    Koni, if it gives you hope, I’m completely self-taught for both art and storyboards. It is possible. Reading as many books as you can and gaining experience on short films are key. Check out craigslist, film schools, and film forums for free jobs for experience. Stay away from doing free features..that’s just a rip off, IMO.
    Since I’m gig-less now and have free time galore, here’s my reading library:

    For the drawing:
    Any Burne Hogarth books
    Artist Complete Guide to Facial Expressions
    Bridgeman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life
    Atlas of Anatomy for Artists – Schider
    Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes
    Perspective! For the Comic Book Artist – Chelsea
    Then any good book of nudes: Figure in Motions and The Nude Figure are two good ones.
    I also love using a digital picture frame for any photo references I need. Saves paper and is very easy to use.

    For the film:
    From Word to Image – Begleiter
    Film Directing Shot by Shot – Katz
    Directing Television and Film – Armer
    Film Art – Bordwell, Thompson
    Visual Storytelling – Caputo
    Setting Up Your Shots – Vineyard (great quick reference)
    Storyboards – Simon (some good stuff)

    Karen, feel free to snearch any of these for your list to save you time. πŸ˜‰

  11. KJL Post author

    Thanks for that Debi…you’re a doll. I’ll get a list up at some point…got a rough two weeks ahead.

    Adrien will address some union stuff in his ‘Contacts in the Industry’ post…coming next week, I promise! Take a deep breath…let it out…ahhh πŸ˜‰

    I also want to talk about the ‘working for free’ thing at some point. Lots of material ahead…love it.

    Thanks again for that list!

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