While this article was written about the storyboard process, the underlying tenets
apply to all types of pre-production art.

Working in a Visual Medium

I usually start my involvement with a project by asking my client a lot of questions; I want to have a firm idea of what the client is after. When I have an overview of the situation in which the storyboard plays a part and a grasp of the necessary details that will be filling the frames, I am better prepared to create an effective storyboard.

A script or treatment of what I will be drawing is useful, if the concept development has gone that far. But often enough, a verbal idea is a sufficient starting point. Although more time needs to be spent in these situations working up a list of shots for me to produce, the resulting storyboard can be just as strong. Depending on the situation, I might make some quick sketches to verify that we are on the same wavelength or start work simply with a written list of shots.

Any visual research that the client has done is appreciated. Visual references for unusual subjects (such as a logo, a particular personality or make of automobile) not only make my job easier and faster but make the storyboard stronger and more authoritative.

There are a variety of pre-production circumstances with individual clients or teams in which I can assist. Some clients have clear and complete ideas that they want represented. Many times, however, the picture is incomplete and my clients are grateful to have help in solidifying the visual component of their proposal. I find that I can help my clients "fill in the gaps" by asking about such specifics as framing of the shots, motivation of the characters, or even what kind of room it is.

Under ideal conditions, storyboards for graphics would be done by the designer of the project. However, for many reasons, this is not always possible. I am often called in when the designer is too busy to render full-color boards or when 3-D animation boards are called for. I have found that my familiarity with computers, paint systems and the editing process, as well as my work as a designer in slides and video, give me a unique perspective as to what is possible and what is appropriate given the tight budgets that projects often have.

On certain occasions, when the project is large or important enough, I have been included in the brainstorming sessions that have led to the storyboarding phase. I enjoy the creative development aspect of storyboarding and contributing to the pre-production process by refining an image, or suggesting an appropriate visual approach to a problem, or simply drawing for everyone what is being described.

We work in a visual medium and a significant percentage of the creative and production community are primarily visual. I see this alone as a compelling argument for the use of storyboards in most projects.

If you would like to read more about Storyboards, check out my article "It's All in the Wrist."

David White is the principal henchperson at David White Storyboards, a firm that provides storyboards and other pre-production art, as well as illustration, design and animation services.

Copyright © 1990, 1997 by David P. White. All rights reserved.