Staging and Design – Storyboard Commentary Video

Today's storyboarding commentary video talks about staging and composition; planning out your drawings to leave room for characters and actions. Also, designing props and background elements that aid in your storytelling.

The video window above looks small, but if you click on the full-screen button (at the bottom right of the video), it'll look nice and BIG!

A little bit of planning can make a big difference. This scene was staged with the second panel in mind. Knowing that Mary-Frances was going to enter the scene and admire Bessie’s pile of work, we left plenty of room in that first panel.


One of the best bits of advice I ever received was, “stage a scene based on the widest action.”  It’s usually not necessary to zoom in super close on the characters…it’s nice to leave some breathing room. This allows for nice negative shapes around the characters, and allows you to draw the key players and props with easily-readable silhouettes.

Storyboard staging and composition
Every character is drawn with a specific expression that reveals their character, and (as we’ll see later) advances the story.
Yesterday I went through the comments again on the last few posts and answered a ton of questions that were asked there. So if you left a comment before, you may wanna check back on those posts (see links below) to find your answer. If its not there yet, it’ll be coming soon.
Other posts in this Storyboarding Commentary series:


Bob Flynn said...

Concise, meaningful storytelling means you need to cover all your bases in the design and storyboard stage. These boards (and tutorials) show how much thought truly goes into it.

Anonymous said...

Love what you said about designs contributing to the story. So true but sometimes forgotten. As Bob said, these tutorials really show how much thought goes into boarding and each shot of an animated show.

1 Question: Are there any times where is is smarter to us movement (animation) than staging, pose, design composition & other static tools in a shot or scene?

Sherm said...

Bob -- as I was putting together this commentary, I was struck by how much planning goes into each scene and shot. It could actually look like an unmanageable amount of things to keep track of, but all I can say is that when you start doing a lot of storyboards on a regular basis, all that planning becomes second nature and integral in the process. Just like using the gear shift on a manual transmission car soon becomes something you don't have to think about very much.

Hi Frank -- the examples from this storyboard relate to a setup that is pretty much static... there isn't very much going on at all movement-wise. Staging becomes very important when there is very little movement, but at the same time if there's a lot of movement, then staging can be even more important to make sure that the movement works.

So, yes -- I'm sure there are many times when movement is more important than staging, but the two always worked together in one way or another. Is there a specific example or seen that you're thinking about? None of the things I'm talking about in the commentary are prescriptive rules... the bottom line is always about communicating and achieving emotional impact that you're aiming for.

Severin said...

Thanks again for a lovely post!

Any tips on how to pre-plan staging in a scene? For instance, do you work out a scene in thumbnails before you go into the board?

david said...

thanks for posting these! i make up for my poor boarding skills with los of fun acting and posed out animation, hahahaa!

Sherm said...

Hi Severin -- Scene planning is a huge topic all by itself! It's definitely something I'd like to cover, but since that would be a multiple-post tutorial, that would have to be a little further down the road. Please keep those suggestions coming -- as long as you guys are interested in this stuff, I'll keep posting it.

David -- Your acting and posing are some of the best I've ever seen, and that goes an awful long way in a storyboard. One of my favorite movies is Stranger Than Paradise... in almost every scene, director Jim Jarmusch locks that camera down and just lets the actors play out the scene without any cuts. All of that direction relied on the great staging and great acting alone!

Steve Umbleby said...

Hey Sherm - great information on staging and the importance of negative space in the composition! I also really appreciate that you are pointing out all of the little things that often get overlooked by people explaining storyboards (like where you put the scene number, how to indicate that the dialogue is coming from someone speaking off screen, etc.). That is stuff that I always wanted explained better but felt too stupid to ask. As always, your blog proves to be a wishing well of awesome-ness. I hope you are considering putting these videos together onto a DVD and maybe including with your book :) Thanks for the post Sherm!

Sherm said...

Hi Steve -- I really appreciate that you mention all of those little things that pop up in the storyboarding commentary videos. This is the first time I've made videos based on material that I created earlier, so the result is completely different than I expected.

There are so many zillions of little tiny details and choices that go into every drawing and storyboard, so I'm glad that you find it helpful that I stopped to talk about all of those different things :-)

I really appreciate your continued feedback and all the really great questions -- that's what's going to keep this series alive!

Anonymous said...

Sherm~ I really liked how the planning of a scene overall was integrated as a sub-topic in todays' video. How often does a situation arise where a change is made after a board has been completed and an entire composition must be reconsidered (Perhaps the addition of a prop or other action... and if so, are there common fixes that exist within the art of story-boarding that is commonly used to adjust said fixes? Thanks Sherm... these are really great.

Louie del Carmen said...

Seeing all this work makes me really miss the show. Thank you for the credit Sherm but all this storyboard mastery is all you.

One thing I do want to point out as well is that it really helps when you get a great script and this episode in particular was one of the best ones. Good scripts have a knack for "storyboarding themselves" as we put it.

Once you add the level of a good board, the quality exponentially becomes better as the talented people who time and animate work off of the great momentum built in pre-production.

Ivan Dixon said...

Thanks for doing these great storyboarding tutorials, Sherm. Keep them up please!