Making A Storyboard: One Artist’s Process


I guess I kind of missed a week there, didn’t I? Oh well.

I’ve been tackling a whole whack of pain in my shoulder that is tendinitis, but could be worse than that. So if I wasn’t up all the hours of the night writhing in pain, I was trying to sleep on the couch propped up with pillows for a week.

Not the makings of much creativity, I’ll tell ya that. And I couldn’t tolerate sitting in front of the computer at all.

But after much Ibuprofen and much ice, I’m now mobile. And can finally dress myself without screaming. Yay.

Anyhoo, we’re going to try something neat here.

A very whacky and all around nice-guy reader of mine, Aidan Casserly,  has started a series of blog posts on his own site about the process of making a storyboard for his portfolio.

Then he bought a Mini Critique (smart boy) because he knows how valuable feedback can be. He wanted my permission to post my feedback on his blog which I had no problem with.

But then I thought it could be cool to post it on my blog too. Partly for the great learning experience for you and partly for the easy content…me being a lazy ass and all.

Read moreMaking A Storyboard: One Artist’s Process

Back to School Wisdom and A Few Labeling Tips

Before I get to the meat of this post I just want to point you to two great posts from Christine Kane.

No, she’s not an animator or anything. She’s a blogger and a musician and all around creative person and pretty cool woman.

I don’t know her or anything, but I read her blog. She’s a great inspiration for the creative type who wants to follow their passion. Sound like you?

Since a lot of you may be going back to school or just starting college, I thought these two posts would be a good read. They totally fit in with pursuing an animation or film making career, being an artist and more.

Give them a read (after you read me of course).

Creating College: 5 Things I Wish I Knew as an Undergrad (part 1)

Creating College: 5 Things I Wish I Knew as an Undergrad (part 2)


Well, this is the fourth and final post from the series What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards. The fourth point I mentioned is bad labeling. I wrote:

If you numbered the scenes wrong. Wrote ineffective action notes. Have lots of spelling mistakes. Put the wrong name on some dialogue. All that kind of stuff.

Now labeling would be quite a long and detailed read if I covered everything. So I’m not going to cover everything. Because as a post subject, it’ll probably bore you to tears.

But I am working on putting together a nice guide about the whole labeling thing. So if you want that information, you’ll be able to get it.

Then I won’t be boring you to tears against your will.

So I’ll just touch on a few things here to help you out. And I’ll try to be entertaining.


Read moreBack to School Wisdom and A Few Labeling Tips

Are Your Cuts Making the Cut?

This is the third point I made in the post ‘What’s Wrong with Your Storyboards.’ That point being bad cutting.

But ‘bad’ is such a strong word, so we’ll say ‘poor choice’ of cutting.

The reason I don’t want to use ‘bad’ is because the samples I’m going to show are from one of the cool people who took me up on my free story consulting offer of a few weeks ago. And I don’t want to call anyone whose work I critique, “bad”. Because it wasn’t.

This brave soul is Fred Chung. He sent me some storyboard samples of his original stories. We then had a great webinar meeting and dug into his work. He came away with some solid feedback and (hopefully) some helpful advice to make his storyboards stronger.

So what better way to give a lesson than to use real world examples? Because let’s face it. Fred is not the only person making these kinds of cutting choices.

Trust me.

In the ‘What’s Wrong with Your Storyboards.’post I wrote:

This can be a gray area. Is a bad cut, a wrong cut? Yes, sometimes it is.

I’d say the closer in similarity two shots (cutting to each other) are, the more chance you have of it being a bad cut that must be changed. If it creates a ‘not for dramatic effect’ jump cut, it’s wrong.

Say you have a wide shot of three people and you cut to the next shot of the same three people and that shot is just a little closer, you probably have a jump cut on your hands. Change it.

Now I’m only going to get so far in this post. There can be so many variations of improper cutting in the world (I don’t mean just you Fred!), that I could write a book. So I’m going to show you two examples of one kind today. This subject can continue in the future when I see a good example pop up, OK?

Makes for easy material when I’m feeling like a lazy ass too.

Let’s get to it!

Read moreAre Your Cuts Making the Cut?

The Art of the ‘Hook-Up’

You want to know how to hook-up?

Well, first you’re going to need a lot of liquor and…

Oops…wrong hook-up.

I mean hooking up your storyboard panels and scenes. Not you.

Sorry to disappoint. 😉

Warning: long ass post ahead with lots of images.

This is the second point I made in the post ‘What’s Wrong with Your Storyboards.’ That point being bad continuity and missing hook-up poses.

I once took a course in Script Supervising. The Script Supervisor works in live-action film and television and is responsible for all the continuity on a show or movie. It’s quite a detailed-oriented job and I was pretty good at it…being the organized, anal person that I am. I just never did much with it when the course ended.

But I did come away with a highly tuned awareness of continuity errors in movies that I didn’t have before. The instructor told us of all sorts of mistakes in ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Terminator 2’ and others.

When I got home and popped ‘Pretty Woman’ into my VCR (yes, I still have some VHS tapes…sue me) I started to see what she was talking about.

Julia left this side of the frame and walked back in on the wrong side. His tie is on, his tie is off, it’s back on again. The croissant suddenly turned into a pancake (OK, I admit I had always noticed that one!).

There really are lots of them in that movie.

Why had I barely noticed before?

Read moreThe Art of the ‘Hook-Up’

How to Not ‘Cross The Line’

In my post ‘What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards‘, the first storyboarding mistake I mentioned was screen direction and crossing the line.

How do you not ‘cross the line’? I’ll tell you how.

Forget about ‘the line’. Sorta.

But you better know what the heck the line *is* before I start telling you to ditch it.

The line of action, 180 degree line or the axis line (whatever you like to call it) is an imaginary line drawn down the center of the action of a scene. In many live-action film making books it looks something like this.

Illustration from ‘Film Directing Shot by Shot’ – Steven D. Katz/FrankBolle.

What’s a circle? 360 degrees. Draw a line through the center of it and you get 180 degrees (isn’t math fun?).

Illustration from ‘Film Directing Shot by Shot’ – Steven D. Katz/FrankBolle.

The principle is that once you choose where that line will be, you can put your camera along any part of that 180 half circle and the scene will work direction-wise. Like this.

Read moreHow to Not ‘Cross The Line’

What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards.

That’s not a question.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with your storyboards.

Not as much as you think.

So to help out, I’m going to tell you what the wrong stuff is. The mistakes you might be making that I would make you fix, without argument. Because they’re wrong.

Here we go:


I could write a whole post on this. And I probably will (I sense a series coming on).

You have to know what the 180 (or action) axis is and why it’s wrong to cross it.

A proper definition is: “An imaginary line drawn through the center of an action. A sequence of scenes can only be shot on one side of the line; otherwise the audience’s point of view will be disorientated.” (Thank you Shamus Culhane).

I’ve seen live-action movies sometimes get away with crossing the line and switching screen direction. I still think it’s wrong, but sometimes it works (or slips by us). They usually use some ‘artistic’ excuse for doing it. Which means they probably screwed up the shot and used it anyway hoping no one will notice. I think live-action is more forgiving for this.

But in animation, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. It looks wrong, it feels wrong, it is wrong. You must learn this principal so you can avoid doing it. Next post.


Ever see a film where the guy is holding a full drinking glass, then in the next scene the glass is almost empty? That is bad continuity.

Read moreWhat’s Wrong With Your Storyboards.

Pencil vs Pixel: A Storyboarding Showdown

So what’s better for storyboarding, the pencil or the computer?

Well, for most of my career I have used good old fashioned pencil and paper. I’m working that way right now. But for one of my jobs I did work by drawing on a Wacom tablet directly into Flash. So I do have some experience with both. I’m just going to discuss this on a basic level for now, giving my personal pros and cons for each.

In the future I’d like to give more in-depth reviews of specific software. But I’m not going to do that until I try them out obviously. And right now I haven’t used any others except for Flash.

If you’re an artist, nothing really beats a good pencil. Especially when you get that one that flows oh-so-sweetly. The feeling of it on paper is hard to duplicate. It just feels like that’s how we artists are supposed to work, doesn’t it?

Yes. Yes it does.

But then these new tools come along (yes, they ‘came along’ for me…I’m old) and they can make your life easier. You can change things at the click of a mouse or swipe of a stylus. You can fix mistakes without eraser shavings all over your desk. It’s sweet.


Those tools can also make you want to toss many hundreds of dollars worth of hardware out of your eighth story window. I have contemplated this myself.

Read morePencil vs Pixel: A Storyboarding Showdown