Prolific storyboard artist Mike Milo teaches us about translating the tricks of the trade from his traditional background into the digital world.
I was first introduced to digital storyboarding when a friend turned me on to the Motion LE1600. He was using a now-defunct program called Mirage (later which turned into TVPaint). I could not get used to it’s poor interface.
Instead I gravitated towards Alias’ Sketchbook Pro (version 2). I was truly in love with Sketchbook Pro’s easy to use interface and light footprint that would work on just about any tablet or computer.
It gave me a confidence I did not have traditionally most likely do to my new best friend The Undo Button. The Undo button is a POWERFUL tool and I actually find myself looking for it any time I make a mistake in life, drawing or otherwise. I always want to be able to go back and undo a mistake I’ve made. With the Undo button, now I could!
A film I did for Nickelodeon called Flavio was my first opportunity to sync my teeth into digital storyboarding in a professional environment. I did the rough boards in pencil, but I cleaned the characters up using Sketchbook Pro.
It gave me a new way to draw and repeatedly erase and hone my drawings to my hearts content until I got it right. It also allowed me to play with the shots: zooming in to center them, flopping scenes for proper screen direction, and resizing elements to better tell the visual story. In one small app I was now armed with what an entire studio had - all by myself.
My first real serious digital storyboarding job came in the form of freelance storyboards on a show called Twisted Whiskers with Bill Kopp, a wickedly talented writer and director. He’s one of the youngest animators to ever win back to back Academy Awards for his animated student films. In typical Kopp flair the storyboards were filled with madcap fast paced situations just like classic Warner Bros cartoons.
I was in heaven- that’s right up my alley. We had a quota of 450 pages of storyboards, which is a HUGE amount of work. Since it was a 3d show they were relying heavily on animatics, and wanted the storyboards very posed out.
This meant start positions, end positions, antics, overshoots, and plenty of squash and stretch. That’s okay- I was ready: armed with Sketchbook Pro, my LE1600 and 15 years of accumulated knowledge.
I dove into the digital world and found it MUCH easier than traditional storyboarding. No light table, no eraser, no horde of pencils. Gone were the whiteout, X-Acto blades, and Post-Its. I actually breezed through it. When I handed my board in they were amazed. I had done a fine job - but my board was so CLEAN compared to everyone else’s . They immediately gave me another one.
(Ka-Ching! Six grand in my pocket thankyouverymuch! )
One of my boards actually came in short, so they let me write three minutes of pure pantomime gags. That’s how I met the writer of the series Martin Olson, who recommended me for my next job, writing and boarding on Disney’s Phineas and Ferb.
I did six boards for then and the last one I did in my car during lunch hours. (reworded) Try THAT with traditional storyboards. I dare you.
Thus, began my venture into new territory whereby boarding was now easier in some ways but also more difficult because more was expected of you.
From there I did many digital storyboards and even was able to do some internationally. Q-Piz was a series of Italian shorts about three boy-crazy alien girls. Initially I got a freelance gig with them, and they liked the board I did so much that they offered me a staff supervisor role.
After all that, digital storyboards were the way to go for me. I’ve done dozens and dozens since then. In my next installment I’ll talk about digital boarding at Disney tTelevision and Cartoon Network.
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