March 22, 2011
Bang! Bang! Studio creates around 30 storyboards and 10 animatics every month. We tried to find out what storyboard is directly from the participants of the storyboard creation process.
Illustrator Stas Orlov
How does art-director determine if a storyboard is necessary for the presentation?
Sergey Mikhaylov, art-director Ogilvy: Usually situation tells, because it is widely known that in most agencies advertisement campaign planning rarely leaves time for preparing a responsible presentation. Storyboard is a pre-evocation of idea, no matter what are you making — a movie or something else. It is not enough for you to understand the idea, the client has to understand the idea too. Get the idea, accept the idea, love the idea, make love with idea, marry it and live the long happy campaign with it. But the first stage of this relationship can cause trouble. Client has his own imagination and the risk of being misunderstood is high when you expose the idea in unfinished way. The client has to be sure that you know what you are doing. Show it with pictures. You would never believe in something unless you see it with your own eyes.
Pavel Soloviev, senior art-director LOWE Adventa: Usually, the decision of making a storyboard is not art-director’s personal decision, it is a necessity which comes from the brief. As for me — I am not a big storyboard lover, I prefer a video with an attitude or a live play of the idea’s plot.
Sergey Skrypnik, art-direcitor BBDO: If the heart of the idea is represented by visual way only or by some visual composition findings we do need storyboard.
How important is strong visual component of the storyboard?
Katya Pastukh, art-buyer Saatchi&Saatchi: It depends on the story, but in most cases it is very important. Good visual style helps understanding the idea more clear.
Daria Dvortsova, post-production manager Ogilvy: It is rather important because client has to see the idea for estimating it. The better idea is drawn — the better client gets it.
Agency BBDO, client Pepsi, illustrator Natasha Tabatchikova
Does the picture quality matter for the acceptance of the idea by the client?
Daria Dvortsova: The quality of idea matters at first, of course. He examines if it fits the brief and his tasks. But storyboards when they are drawn well impress the client better because they determine that agency did the presentation in an accurate manner.
Anna Ivannikova, art-buyer Leo Burnett Moscow: Ideas, AD campaigns mostly consist of plots with people and products. Therefore, the understanding of the idea depends on the quality of representation of the main character according to strategic plan and art-directors desire. This works for the product also. It should be attractive and it could be achieved through good drawing.
Do you draw storyboard on weekends and holidays often?
Katya Pastukh: Very often. Usually we do in on weekends, I must confess.
Daria Dvortsova: Often. Alas. On weekends and at nights.
Tanya Evetskaya, art-buyer LOWE Adventa: 3-4 times a year, approximately.
Agency Ogilvy, client Baltika, illustrator Stas Orlov
Is it more efficient to work with a freelancer of agency while making a storyboard?
Katya Pastukh: With agency, of course. But agency should be reliable and must secure against cases when artist cannot complete the task, if he is sick or something else.
Daria Dvortsova: Agency appears to be more comfortable, because it takes responsibility for the risks and guarantees quality and terms.
Anna Ivannikova: I prefer agency, because it is more comfortable to coordinate the process and take several projects at one time. We usually make several ideas and boards but the terms we have are really tight.
Can storyboard appear to be more impressive than the final product, movie?
Daria Dvortsova: From my point of view, yes. Some storyboards can take part in art exhibitions. We had a client who wanted to put animatic in the air.
Agency Leo Burnett Ukraine, client Tele, illustrator Stas Orlov
Which criteria are best to pick a storyboard artist for the project?
Sergey Mikhaylov: Criteria are simple: I must see from the artist’s work that he is able to draw what’s in my head. His techniques, his ability to combine techniques, his understanding of idea, his ability to cooperate and his ability to inject his own style into the work are the best criteria for me.
Pavel Soloviev: Accurate representation of emotions, lively curves, good colors and performance — these are the main criteria.
Sergey Skrypnik: Stylistic match of project and artist, artist’s ablility to “see”.
Tanya Evetskaya: Choice of artist depends on brief which comes for the creative department. We can pick style from the script and drafts, and so we are able to pick the artist. The are several organizational nuances which affect the choice of the artist. If the terms are tight for example, I’d better pick artists on whose performance I can 1000 percent rely on.
Can storyboard “kill” the idea?
Sergey Mikhaylov: Oooh yes! It can not only kill it, but bury. Even most fresh and exciting ideas can die from the artist’s inaccurate hand, from the copyrighter’s tongue-tie and from art-directors utter lack of writing skills. But fortunately, idea can easily be reincarnated and in its next incarnation it may become a butterfly which easily flies through the whole campaign. As the advertisement wisdom says — sell the good idea until it is sold.
Tanya Evetskaya: From my point it is an exception. When the artist’s portfolio matches the script’s tasks and when artist understands the idea, when all questions are answered and when art-director has sent necessary all references to the artist then I can say that the most part of the work is done. All we have to do is to transform the drafts into beautiful pictures complying the terms.
Sergey Skrypnik: Unfortunately, yes!
Pavel Soloviev: Of course. Even such thing as wrong color or inaccurate emotions of the second characters can ruin the idea, while testing it on a focus-group for example, and noone will help the idea in this case.
Agency McCann Erickson, client Nescafe, illustrator Natasha Tabatchikova
How many illustrations can be created by a storyboardist per day?
Sergey Mikhaylov: It depends on the artist and task. From my experience it was around 3-4 days for 15-17 pictures to be completed with commenting.
Tanya Evetskaya: It is a delicate question. There are few factors that can affect the result – script and terms, detalisation, amount of characters and intensity of the frame, and artist’s personal abilities. Approximate quantity is 5-7 colored pictures per day.
Pavel Soloviev: How many ideas per day can art-director and copyrighter generate? Some can’t generate even one, some can generate more than ten!
Did you face situations when all ides presented at the tender were made by one artist?
Daria Dvortsova: Yes, it happens quite often. I do not think that it is a problem.
Anna Ivannikova: Yes, it happens. But it can happen only I cases when terms are not tight. Presenting conceptions in one stylistic manner is all right — idea is represented and understood better in this case. But we pick several artists mostly to meet the deadline. Sometimes it is impossible to meet the deadline with one artist. Even when he is a super professional.
Agency BBDO, client Adrenaline, illustrator Jeka Lubaev
What is the most important part while making the brief?
Stas Orlov, storyboard artist: I can answer this question from the artist’s point of view. Art-director should already have the movie in his head and transfer his thoughts to the artist in understandable manner. At first it’s good to describe the whole scene and its mood. Then, while describing the frames, he should describe the details and point out the parts, which he considers important. The script’s text should contain the description of actions, the view type, camera point and its movement if needed. Text with drafts should contain understandable and precise references for the characters, items and mood. All of this should be placed in proper order and in the generally accessible document, preferably one. With due attention to the above the creation of the storyboard will go smooth and fast and client will see exactly what was art-director thinking of.
Tanya Vaskovskaya, storyboard artist: At first, the plot has to be understood as a whole – what is going on, who are the participants and etc. This cuts out lots of additional questions. At second, every frame should have the description of what is going on there. It is perfect to have the drafts. We can go without drafts, but they are helpful for art-director also. With the help of drafts you can explain the frame filling, scale, character movement and etc. Without drafts it is all left for artist’s decision. If you are ready to take his view, we can go on. Also there are some situation when art-director wants to show the dynamics of situation in one static frame, something impossible like “a girl walks on the street and takes a hand of a guy and a beautiful flower starts blooming in the office toilet in the next street”. In this case actions take place in two different locations. How should artist show it? In this case I always ask for a sketch. When art-director understands that this is impossible to represent in one frame I suggest splitting the frame into two or drawing two independent frames. And references, of course. If the client or art-director know for sure what they want, how character is dressed, which style is preferred and etc. they should attach all of these materials to the brief. Otherwise, changing character’s dress into jeans on all 20 frames will increase the cost of the project.
Natasha Tabatchikova, storyboard artist: When creating the brief art-director should remember that artist is sometimes distant. It is difficult to get the right understanding of emotions, characters and style by words only. It is very important to provide the necessary illustrations for the thoughts of art-director. The task which is written in simple and clear manner makes the task easier, makes the artist do his job more efficient and quick.
Agency BBDO, client Frustyle, illustrator Stas Orlov
Could you tell us about first steps of storyboard drawing?
Stas Orlov: I suppose, every artists builds his own scheme of work. As for me, I start from the composition drafts after reading the brief. Then I start drawing the outline and only then I start coloring. This workflow is the quickest way for me and it also gives the client an opportunity to trace the work process and see the mistakes. Sometimes, when art-director works with me for the first time and picks me according to my portfolio and he is not sure if he gets what he wants I prepare a the most striking frame in full-color to show him that magic, which gives birth to my drawing talents is still with me and I won’t fail the project.
Tanya Vaskovskaya: You should understand the brief first, ask all the necessary questions and cut out all the arguable moments. Art-director may have not enough experience or simply he could miss something. In the situations when the terms are tight corrections may result in several hours of staying awake at night or few holidays: it depends on the amount of corrections. Then I start collecting the facts: where do the acai berries grow? What is the color of the houses in Balkan village? How do the kids of the famous actress look like? Then I draw one-two frames for approval. After approval I start drawing the rest. For meeting the deadline I create a simple personal schedule, for example at first day I draw 3 frames, next day I draw 5, the rest days I draw six frames per day. This helps to distribute the job and avoid fire fighting and deadline failure.
Natasha Tabatchikova: After a close examination of brief, I start composing the questions. When I get the answers, I start looking for additional references for the characters, interiors and landscapes, which are present in the story. I draw the outline first, then I do tone and then I do coloring.
Agency Yarche, client Nescafe, illustrator Tanya Vaskovskaya
Can briefing cause rejection of taking the job?
Stas Orlov: It depends. Some artists take jobs with briefs which can be described as itinerary, and that is not good, because it stimulates creation of inaccurate briefs and gives birth to chaos as a trend. According to the technical task you can see which kind of person you are working with, his experience level and his desire to cooperate with other members of project. Advertisement making intends cooperation of many people who do not know each other personally. If the task is difficult and the brief is bad and you cannot get a better brief from the client I’d better refuse the job, because from my experience such work will become a nightmare full of misunderstanding, corrections and mistakes. Implementation of such project into the product is next to impossible.
Natasha Tabatchikova: I do not like when the client disguises big amount of work as an easy task to reduce costs. I dislike lots of corrections which are not artist’s fault.
Tanya Vaskovskaya: Deadlines and detalization level are included into the briefing. Sometimes agencies wants impossible things like drawing 15 frames per day in realistic style. One such picture take at least 2 hours of work and it resulted into 30-hour working day, it is more than a day and no artist will agree for this kind of marathon. Second situation is when nothing is clear and you cant make the client make it more clear. For example when art-director who wrote the brief slipped into a coma and the other one who took his place does not know anything and works his last day before leaving the company.
Do you have any favourite clients or brands you love to draw storyboards for?
Stas Orlov: Saatchi&Saatchi, EURO RSCG, Leo Burnett Ukraine.
Natasha Tabatchikova: BBDO, Magic Box.
Jeka Lubaev, storyboard artist: BBDO, Adrenaline. Lots of action, I really like it. And very few comments.
Tanya Vaskovskaya: I would not like to go into names — I love drawing for some premium products, when something beautiful pours out of some nice package. Or some crazy stuff — it is a good chance to run your fantasy and add my personal vision into illustration. I don’t like to make storyboards about “happy families”, when members of families happilly consume the product and get happier because of that. However, this is the most popular type of story, I classify it as a routine job and try to do my best in order to finish it as fast as possible. Also I don’t really like to work with so called client-oriented agencies, in fact, precisely those agencies produce the majority of stories about “happy families”, and it’s hardly possible to finalize the project quickly and effectively. Regularly it is quite a time and effort-consuming thing to work on such projects. The clients of the agencies are allowed to participate in the creative process, for instance, make changes in the initial brief after the illustrations are created, ask to make hundreds of variants – which leads to extra time and efforts spent on one project. Professionals and quite busy illustrators rarely agree on working with such a client, or make it for higher fee. Therefore, the client agencies punish themselves and so their clients, because normally the same quality of illustrations is achieved for lower budget and time.
Agency BBDO, client Eve, illustrator Natasha Tabatchikova
How would you evaluate your personal impact in the final project? (i.e. development of TV ad)
Stas Orlov: In my opinion any sort of job is important and is up to be classified as an important impact when you work in/with a group of people, even if you are responsible for holding a device at a film facility. It is not an individual creative work and it is strange to me to exaggerate the self-importance in that process. To me the most important is to implement the tasks conscientiously and apply your talent as much as possible at that point when everything depends just on you.
Tanya Vaskovskaya: Firstly, good quality illustrations help to sell the idea to the client. Undoubtedly, it would be a nightmare for any art-director if the initial idea is buried for the reason of bad or inadequate interpretation during development of storyboard. Beneath that, storyboard or animatic is a huge sort of testing area, which helps to understand and analyze the primary idea and its effectiveness. Usually, the final TV ad looks different when compared to created storyboard for that. However, it doesn’t mean that storyboard was put in a trashbin — it plays its own role and helps to find the optimal solution for creative team and client. The minimum goal for an illustrator is to demonstrate and implement the art-director’s concept in most accurate and close way. The maximum goal is to draw in that way so that it inspires art-director himself.
Agency Yarche/Adwenta Lowe, client Nuts, illustrator Stas Orlov
Please give an advice to beginner storyboard artists.
Stas Orlov: I think the most useful advice for beginner storyboard artists would be a personal participation in all stages related to the visual part of TV ad during production process: from shooting to editing and creation of special effects. If you have no such opportunity, then try study such things as various camera techniques of frame arrangement yourself, light arrangement, the variety and reasons of precise lens and objective usage, key features of editing. I have such experience and it helps me a lot during my work. The other important helpful thing would be to work out your own quick drawing technique since usual terms are critically short and tight. In order to do this you have to select your software properly. For example Photoshop is rather ineffective program to work with storyboards and you better choose an application which is oriented on frame-by-frame animation. Architecture of this kind of software is performance-oriented and provides the maximum productivity.
Sergey Mikhaylov: Learn, learn and learn. Watch movies, analyze the frames and perspectives, composition, try to get deeper into the story from the point of operator, and afterwards expound it as a director. Don’t be afraid to propose your vision — you can always distinguish a good art-director according to his drafts for the story. Show your storyboard to your granny and her “Yes, I got it” would mean you did your job well.
Daria Dvortsova: For becoming a good storyboard artist you have to be patient, have good performance, stress-proof. You should understand the tasks and advertisement as a whole. From one point of view it is art, from the other side it is commercial, applied. You have to join those to sides. And to work hard and never be afraid of making mistakes.
Anna Ivannikova: You should take tries on characters, try making different poses, emotions, actions, take tries on products. These are most important parts.
Tanya Evetskaya: Pay attention to the briefing . Learn how to draw high-quality, lively and expressive pictures. Keep good performance and meet the deadlines.
Jeka Lubaev: More drawing from nature and more copying of your favorite artists and no ambitions. This is the success formula.
Tanya Vaskovskaya: Remember that storyboard is not an instrument for self-expression. Of course, you can suggest domething, but they must affect detailes and nuances. You should never change the plot, change characters and etc. You should be hypercorrect. From the stage of receiving the brief you must ask all the questions and eliminate all doubts. This doesn’t disgrace the artist but contravise shows his professionalism. You should manage the time well. You shoild count how much time is needed for each task. Then you can discuss the deadlines at the stage when you get the brief. To be honest, not every brief you get makes you inspired and get to work immediately, but postponing task till the last day did not make any good ever. “Swiss cheese” method works best in such cases: do the easiest task first. For example storyboard has 3-4 frames of one type with minor differences, then you can draw them really quick and 25% of job is done. Then you handle the frames with no people for example. Another part is done. And a little more effort — and storyboard is done!
Sergey Skrypnik: Preseverance and diligence are better than genious – Erich Maria Remarque “Three Comrades”.