As anyone who has worked in storyboarding knows, the task of creating a storyboard is an art form unto itself. Knowing the whys and wherefores of how to prime a story and turn it into a storyboard or animatic, have it make sense to those for who will use it to advise their final product, and be able to do so within stringent deadlines is no mean feat. It requires a steady hand, a cool demeanour, and an eye for detail.
While that may make it sound a bit more like bomb diffusion than animation, it's important to remember that storyboards are the foundation upon which entire productions are built. Whether they're intended for an animated or live-action film, without the plan there can be no execution.
No one understands this more than Lupus Films. Lupus is providing training sessions to small, select groups of animators who wish to have powerful storyboarding-fu. This way, they're assured that the next generation of storyboard artists have the ability to meet not just Lupus's needs, but also the needs of the industry in general.
A boutique studio in London's Islington district, Lupus Films was founded in 2002 by animation industry visionaries Ruth Fielding and Camilla Deakin. Creating films and TV programs in all styles, including 2D and 3D animation, their pedigree is as impressive as the studio is prolific.
Lupus Films has been spreading their particular form of animated joy with productions like Toot the Tiny Tugboat, The Hive (Disney), and The Snowman and The Snowdog, based on characters created by Raymond Briggs, to name just a few. Check out their particularly lively showreel below.
The decision to offer storyboard training was an easy one for Lupus. As a boutique studio, they work closely with other studios and freelancers on a show-by-show basis to help fulfill their mandates, ensuring that everyone is getting the best out of the production. Lupus has directors and art directors in-house, a full design team, but a lot of animation and storyboarding is outsourced to other studios or freelancers they have on their roster.
In 2014, for the second year in a row, Lupus Films hosted a four-week training session for storyboard artists with support from Creative Skillset. This year they had 10 trainees who had the opportunity to learn their craft from the staggeringly talented Frank Gladstone.
If you don't know who Mr. Gladstone is, you most certainly know his work. His film credits include productions like Shark Tale, The Road to Eldorado, Rescuers Down Under, The Lion King, and on and on and on. He's highly sought after as a teacher, and has given courses for Industrial Light & Magic/Lucasfilm, Disney Animation, Vancouver Film School, and that list, also, goes on.
Suffice it to say, Frank Gladstone is the right guy for this job, and students jumped at the opportunity to learn from him.
In order to build the foundation for this training, a Toon Boom trainer was brought in for the first two days. In just those two days, they learned everything they needed to know in order to use Storyboard Pro effectively while engaged on the course.
During the training, Mr. Gladstone carved each of these students into competent, professional storyboard artists. At the beginning of the sessions, only a few could declare themselves boarders. As graduates of animation school, they were not necessarily taught the skills of storyboarding, or how one needs to think about what goes into a board — or even how the end product will be used. The intensive course gives them the ability to really drill down into the nitty-gritty of what one needs to know in order to become a storyboard artist.
The artists on the course get a lot out of it. In particular, they get tips on how to let go of some of the habits they may have developed as animators, such as reducing quality just enough to tell the story, but still get the job done; how to reduce the number of cuts for particular scenes; how to be conscious of deadlines and how to draw to meet them; and how to really convey the intent to the next person in the pipeline through the most effective means possible.
A storyboard created in Storyboard Pro by Jamie Iles for Lupus Films for the popular kids' series, Toot the Tiny Tugboat.
Throughout, they get the chance to do everything they're working on in Storyboard Pro. Bianca Ansems, a graduate of the course said, "Toon Boom Storyboard Pro is really easy to use and very quick to learn. Within a few short hours … we were well to grips with the program. The program is completely set up to make the storyboarding process go as smooth and fast as possible in all different stages of the process. It's easy to create a board, pitch a board and even make an animatic … without ever leaving the program. It has significantly improved my workflow and I enjoy using it for all my professional storyboarding work."
At the end of the training, each storyboard artist produces an animatic in Storyboard Pro. Working from actual scripts, they work on live assignments for actual productions, giving them a sense of how the real world of boarding works, and how to work with real assets.
As a part of their commitment to the industry, Lupus invites representatives from different animation companies, like Disney and Turner Entertainment, all of whom have the opportunity to see the completed work and to interact with the freshly minted storyboard artists.
That the major studios use Storyboard Pro artists as a matter of course gives these boarders a leg up on the competition right out of the gate. Many have seized the opportunities presented to them, with 10 of 15 graduates of the first course securing employment within weeks of leaving the course. Lupus also bagged two of the graduates from their 2014 course to work on two of their current productions.
It's great to see the next generation of boarders being shepherded along by talents like Mr. Gladstone, and all of it facilitated by the wonderful folks at Lupus Films. With training in Storyboard Pro and a well-rounded education in the fundamentals of boarding, the animation industry is in good hands—as clean as they may yet be.
Studios interested in viewing showreels by course participants should contact Abigail Addison at email@example.com.
Lupus Films is a London based production company set up in 2002 by Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding. Lupus Films specialises in producing films and TV programmes for children and families, working across all genres and techniques including 2D and 3D animation, puppets, live-action drama and factual entertainment. They have produced shows for the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV, Disney Junior, France 3 and WDR Germany, and their productions have been seen in over 150 territories worldwide.