Efficient Sketching and Animatic Win Every Time

"One of the great things about Toon Boom’s Storyboard Pro is how you can see your boards play as an animatic real time as you work." — Mark Simon, Animation Director/ Storyboard artist/ Development Consultant

Efficient Sketching and Animatic Win Every Time

How long have you been in this profession?

24 years in live-action and animation, but it only feels like 52 years.

What are your most important accomplishments?

My twin boys, Luke and Reece Directing an animation of a bull crapping out a kid (My Timmy’s Lessons In Nature series) and having it air on Nickelodeon. I’m really proud of that.

What kind of projects do you create storyboards for?

Commercials, TV, Film, live-action and animation, home movies, birthday parties, you name it. I have worked on over 2,800 productions.

History with Storyboard Pro

We’ve been dating for a couple of years. We know each other pretty well by now. Luckily my wife is OK with it. I had been trying all the various storyboard softwares but Storyboard Pro is the only one I liked. I’ve been working with Toon Boom to help make the already great software work more the way we artists work. I also produced a number of their training videos.

Do you create your storyboards using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro only?

No. I use Photoshop for highly rendered color boards or if I need to add blurred elements.

Why did you choose to combine these products?

SBP can’t color behind the lines (I know you think it can with draw behind, but it doesn’t work the way we artists need it to work, so it doesn’t work. There is no way to color over a color with draw behind and there is no way to erase draw behind without erasing the line layer) There is no blurring in SBP.

Please describe your workflow

I always start by reading the script to get a feel for it. Then I go over it with the director. How I take notes depends on how much time I have with a director. If I don’t have a lot of time, I jot down notes and tiny sketches on the script. Otherwise I draw thumbnails directly in Storyboard Pro as the director talks. When we are done, I go away and draw on my own and finish the boards.

When I am directing my own projects, I start breaking down the shots of a script on the script. Then I rough out the action in Storyboard Pro. Then I go back and tighten up the art.

If I have audio, or have time to do a scratch track, I lay in the audio before I start my thumbnails. That helps tremendously.

With commercials, we’re done at this point. For long form projects, we go back check the flow of the story and make sure the humor works.

One of the great things about Toon Boom’s Storyboard Pro is how you can see your boards play as an animatic real time as you work. Seeing and hearing the boards as you work makes you a better board artist. You can see if the action and humor works instantly.

What are your favorite features in Toon Boom Storyboard:

  1. Real time animatics with an audio track. That rocks.
  2. So does drag and drop of the frames. I always hated cutting and pasting and renumbering. What a waste of time.
  3. Ability to erase bitmap imports. I can edit scanned boards
  4. Being able to see my boards in various formats. I like being able to go through boards one at a time and also see them many at a time.
  5. The way it lightly rubs my back while I work late at night. The masseuse feature is not widely known but is one of the most useful.

What Toon Boom Storyboard Pro features allow you to distinguish your storyboards and animatics?

My clients flip out when they see how fast we can sketch on location with our tablet computers. Plus when they can see a rough edit at any point, they never want to work any other way. Plus, the way it helped me build 10 pounds of muscle was a nice benefit.

Did you experience any productivity gains in using Toon Boom Storyboard Pro?

I am much faster, especially on projects where there are changes. Animatics are easily 3 times faster. I also found that by boarding with an audio track makes me a better boarder. No more shots that sit too long. I add more acting so the art matches the audio.
I now have 30 hours in a 24 hour day, so that’s been helpful.

Are you more efficient today compared to your production toolset used previously?

Absolutely. Just the ability to quickly export a PDF file after any change saves a lot of time.

Is it possible to get the same results with other software?

Nothing else comes close. SBP has allowed me to work faster, smarter, produce better boards and now my kids listen to me better and my truck gets better mileage. What other software can say that?

How do you feel about Toon Boom Storyboard Pro?

I feel like we are kindred spirits. We like the same movies and TV shows. We both start working at the same time every day and always stop at the same time each night.

Equipment used:

We use PCs with 21 inch Cintiqs.

About Mark Simon

Mark Simon worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and has been a professional artist for over 30 years. His background includes live action and animation production, print, writing and teaching. Mr. Simon currently own three companies located in Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World, one of his clients. Sell Your TV Concept Now, Inc. helps people to sell their TV ideas by showing them how to develop, package and pitch concepts the way Hollywood wants to see them. Besides pitching and selling his own shows, such as Timmy’s Lessons In Nature, Mark has also worked with national names to help them pitch their inhouse productions, Disney, Nickelodeon, The Golf Channel, HSN and others. Animatics & Storyboards, Inc., is a company which provides storyboards, illustrations, cartoons and comic book illustration to the entertainment and print industries. They are now the largest storyboard supplier in the Southern United States having provided support on over 2,700 productions, ranging from feature films to television series, live action, animation, commercials, industrials, books, magazines, newspapers and more. Their clients include Disney, Universal, Viacom, Sony, HBO, Nickelodeon, Steven Spielberg, Fox, USA Networks, ABC, AT&T, Yamaha, NASA, The American Cancer Society and many, many others.

His other company is A&S Animation, Inc., an animation consultation, development and production house. They specialize in character animation. A&S Animation, Inc. has produced animated shorts which have won over 70 international awards. They also animated Disney’s iconic character, Tinker Bell, for the hugely successful Disney Cruise Line. The series of animated shorts, Timmy’s Lessons In Nature, which Mark Simon developed, directed and produced, won Grand Prize in Nickelodeon’s first-ever Nicktoons Film Festival.

Mr. Simon is also the author of ten entertainment industry texts. Producing Independent 2D Character Animation showcases every step of production of an independent hand-drawn animation. This book features the production of one of our popular Timmy’s Lessons In Nature shorts. The text also contains research necessary for any animator and includes invaluable interviews with industry greats. His text Storyboards: Motion In Art, a text used around the world to train storyboard artists and the recent Facial Expressions, is the best-selling photo reference guide for artists.

Each month readers may also see Mr. Simon’s articles in Animation Magazine and on Animation World Network (www.AWN.com). Prior to producing animation, Mark was an art director in live action film and TV in Los Angeles, CA and Orlando, FL. While in Los Angeles, He designed many feature films, music videos and commercials. He then became the second art director at the new Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, FL in 1989. He has also done Second Unit directing for Nickelodeon and on Steven Spielberg’s seaQuest DSV as well as working as a Special Effects Supervisor for NBC and Fox networks.

Mr. Simon has taught at the Digital Animation and Visual Effects School located at Universal Studios, and previously at the University of Central Florida. He currently lectures around the world at major conferences, conventions and schools.