Based in Paris and Lille, Planet Nemo Animation is a highly creative independent producer and distributor of animated series and interactive gaming content for the youth market. Their expertise includes the artistic development, raising of funds, production and co-production of animated properties and interactive programs.
With more than 100 hours of kids programmes, Planet Nemo Animation has became the sixth-largest animation series producer in France (origin: CNC 2010) with a varied and original Editorial Line, thanks to successful programmes such as Bali, Missy Mila, Silly Bitty Bunny, Nelly and Cesar, Manon, and Bali Signing Time, sold all over the world.
Groove High is the latest production of the French company, combining animation and live action and aimed at 7 to 12 year olds, coming soon to Disney Channel in Europe. Stefan Vermeulen was the Storyboard Supervisor on the series, working with Toon Boom Storyboard Pro for the first time along with many of his team of boarders. Here, he shares his experience of using Toon Boom’s storyboarding software: "I had been doing paper boards for over ten years and had wanted to try a more WYSIWYG approach for some time, since I am convinced that working directly on a soundtrack makes for more dynamic boards."
"As it turned out for Groove High, this was certainly the case. First of all, it allowed us to detect some flaws in the original concept of the show early on in production. The scripts were well-written alright, with beautiful dialogue and exciting plot developments, but sometimes lacked opportunities for the kind of visual gags that Disney and Planet Nemo were after. They had a distinct live-action sitcom feeling that didn’t always blend well with an animation show."
"So it was up to David Freedman, the director of the show, and the storyboard team to translate these live action sitcom scripts into full-blown animation comedy. Basically every board started with an in-depth (very intense, but often hilarious) briefing session with David where every sequence was dissected and reassembled again, telling the story in a more visual, ‘animated’ kind of way. And we thought up a ton of gags. Then, the storyboarder would make a very rough version of the board loosely timed to the recorded dialogue and some occasionally added sound effects. David edited these rough boards, improved storytelling, pimped up some gags, cut or added others, all directly on the rough board. These edits then came back to us to finish the boards. Luckily David is the kind of director who challenges his team to have a creative input all along, so even while finishing the board we could improve or add a gag if we could come up with a better idea."
"For all this, and particularly for the song sequences which are an essential part of the show, Storyboard Pro proved to be a great asset. Working directly on the soundtrack is definitely the way to do this kind of comedy for me."
"It might have been challenging sometimes from a production point of view, but the WYSIWYG approach definitely allowed the boarders to be more daring and creative than they would have on paper boards, and the resulting comedy is therefore more pointed and fresh."
"Apart from all this, the WYSIWYG approach proved very helpful for me as a storyboard supervisor when working with first- time story boarders, of which there were several on this production. Coming up with a good gag is one thing, but translating it into a storyboard in an efficient and attractive way is something else. Storyboard Pro allowed these first-timers to have an immediate feedback of what works and what doesn’t. And it allowed me to make changes in a very direct way. This certainly speeds up the learning process, in my opinion."
"On a more practical note, the advantages of being able to renumber panels, export boards and panels in different formats, reframe shots and add camera moves are of course a big leap forward. But for me the creative possibilities remain the main reason to work with Storyboard Pro."
"I would and will reuse Storyboard Pro in the future and would certainly recommend it for use on television series," concluded Vermeulen.