For those who don't know I'm a board artist at Disney TVA on Big City Greens! Here's a link to some of my work!
These boards/stills are from two of the episodes I've worked on so far! People Watching and Trailer Trouble. Another one of the episodes I've worked on is also out but it was the first one I'd worked on and my boards are ugly and I'm too lazy to dig for them rn hahaha. But I've since improved and am happy with the ones I've done for these two episodes
I'm almost positive I have a few watchers here that might be interested in boarding for TV animation someday so here's some tips and stuff I've learned having been on the show for little over a year now! Keep in mind that this is for BOARD DRIVEN SHOWS (not script) and things vary from show to show!The Process/Pipeline!
- This is something I wished was taught in art school. Going into the job I had no idea how pipleline worked. Not that you necessarily HAVE to since you're only doing one job but it makes it a lot easier on the rest of the crew if you know how things work (since board artists are some of the first artists to touch an episode.
- First, the writers and showrunners get together and brainstorm episode ideas. Once they have a solid idea, one writer will take it on and start writing an outline. An outline is exactly what it sounds like, it outlines the plot of the episode in 3 acts. They usually end up being about 3-5 pages of writing.
- Once an outline is greenlit, the writers, showrunners, and director and board artists on the specific episode get together for what's called "a handout". This is the first day of a 5 week turnaround working on an episode for the board artists. We all sit down together in the writers' room and discuss the outline to see if there's any last minute changes that we think would benefit the story. The writers and showrunners will also any of the questions the board artists have about the outline.
- After handout, the board team, typically composed of 2 people, will get together and get started on the board! We have one week to do roughs for the first half of the episode. It's up to each board team to figure out how to go about this. We all work differently! I know some teams that split the outline up in two from the beginning and just work separately all the way through, some that do thumbnails together etc. (NOTE: on a board driven show, the board artists make the jokes and come up with the script). My board partner Caldwell and I sit together and come up with jokes and some dialogue together while doing thumbnails at the same time. If we have a sort of "character of the day" we also design them together. That's right! Board artists on board driven shows often do the first pass of character designs! After we finish laying the groundwork, we decides who boards what part then we just rough it out!
- When the week is up, we pitch the first half of the episode to our director and showrunners. This gives them an opportunity to see how the episode is playing out and give us notes on how to make it funnier or fix any issues. Sometimes, you'll get very few changes and notes. But other times, you may end up just having to redo almost the entire thing. This meeting is called a check-in.
- The next week we do the same exact thing with the second half of the episode.
- After the second check-in, we take all the notes our superiors give us and address them the following week. This week can be really chill or SUPER STRESSFUL depending on how many notes you get.
- At the end of said week, we have a pinup, which is like a check-in but you're pitching the entire episode. We get notes to address again (hopefully not as many this time around) then we begin cleanup!
- Cleanup is takes 2 weeks. We make all our boards nice and pretty and address any last minute notes. Cleanup wraps up the 5 week turnaround and you're done with your board on Friday! The next Monday, you begin your next episode with a handout.
- Two weeks after finishing a board, you do a BIG PITCH! Meaning you pitch to the entirety of your board to the crew as well as the big executives. Executives will give us notes on the episode and bring up concerns about stuff we're not allowed to show on air (this tends to be were a lot of lgbt rep gets nerfed lol but on the opposite end they let us know if we're showing anything that might be considered culturally insensitive).
- These notes are given to and addressed by the director on the episode. A director's job is to address executive notes. Sometimes if an exec doesn't like an episode, the director ends up having to re-board a majority of the episode on their own or with some storyboard revisionists. They are also in charge of making the animatic with one of the editors.
- Simultaneously, storyboard revisionists are either helping out the director with changes, or cleaning up board artists' boards and perfecting them before the animatic is shipped overseas. They do more of the technical stuff like redrawing characters if they're not on model, fixing/adding in backgrounds, improving perspective, making clearer poses and staging etc.
- Once the animatic is "done", the voice actors record! Then there's an animatic screening (usually on the same day as big executive pitches). The executives then give MORE notes then the director works on it one more time until it's truly done.
- At this point it's been about 2 months since the board artists got their handout. Now the designers start on the episode! The character designer will take any designs the board artists did and make them a million times better while also designing any other needed characters and drawing special poses that would be hard for overseas animators to interpret. Background designers reference the boards and draw over them, creating the beautiful backgrounds you see on air. Prop designers design everything else! They draw, you guessed it, props but also special effects!
- After the designers are finished, their work is passed on to the colorists and background painters. BG painters paint the backgrounds and colorists color the characters, props and special effects.
- Like board artists, all the designers and colorists are going in every week to meet with the showrunners and their art directors to get notes on their work that they'll have to address as well.
- After the animatic, backgrounds, designs and recordings are all done, everything is shipped overseas to be animated! This takes months per episode because animation takes forever. A lot of people don't know this but many shows are still done traditionally with a pen and paper. They're just scanned and colored in the computer.
- Once animation is done, it's sent back. Each show is given money for retakes so if something comes back looking wonky, they can send it back for fixes. But it's not much money so some animation errors end up making it on air. This is why sometimes on shows like Steven Universe, drastic size differences can't be addressed.
- Editors then fix the timing on anything that's feeling too slow or too fast and add in sound/music.
- FINALLY. After about 9-10 months the episode it DONE and ready to air whenever the network wants to air it.
- This is just the basic outline of how everything works. I didn't even mention what the technical directors and the timing directors and composers all have to do. Animation is a hard and long process.
- This tumblr post is also VERY helpful makingtoons.tumblr.com/post/17…
Some Stuff I've Learned Along the Way
- To get a storyboarding job, you'll often have to do a storyboard test. They vary from show to show but they're essentially to just see if your writing style/drawing style is a good fit for the show.
- If you want to be a storyboard artist on a board driven show, drawing is important but writing always comes first. You could be the best technical board artist in the world but if you can't also write you're going to have hard time.
- Clarity is key. Staging things so that everything can be seen is important. If you can avoid things overlapping, do that. Always keep your silhouettes in mind. If you were to black out all the characters, and can still tell what each character is doing, that's how you know you've done a good job. For television, I've also found that keeping your horizon line low does wonders for clarity and staging
- Draw clean! All through college my story professors told me my work was too clean I didn't draw rough enough. While drawing rough works in feature animation, in TV, it absolutely doesn't. If you looked at my boards, you'll notice that the final product is essentially the same as my boards. This is because overseas animators use your boards as keys and basically trace over your drawings. There's definitely some wonky looking animation that comes back because I didn't draw the characters clean/clear enough. Drawing clean also makes it much easier on the revisionists.
- You gotta draw FAST. While five weeks may seem like a lot of time to board 6 minutes worth the animation, it's not. Because you're not JUST drawing. You're doing revisions, addressing notes, changing entire scenes (sometimes sequences).
- Being versatile is a very valuable skill. Versatile in the the way you draw, they way you work and the way you write. If you're able to draw/write in any style, once the show you're on finishes, you'll have a better chance finding a show you fit in. You never know what kind of show you'll be on next or how they operate so being able to adapt and work well with other people, you'll have no problems!
- This is not so much a boarding tip as it is an industry tip. Hiatuses are a thing. I'm not talking hiatuses on TV where there's a gap in the show airing. I'm talking hiatuses where you're essentially off of work without pay for anywhere between a week to half a year. Hiatuses usually happen in between seasons or just whenever showrunners feel like there should be a break in production. My first hiatus was 6 weeks long and I'm currently still on my 9 week hiatus. This is a long time without pay. So it's always good to have other options open like temporarily working on another show or doing freelance.
Hopefully this stuff kinda helps! I'll add more stuff if I think of it. Just wanted to do this because there's so few resources about this industry and I wished I'd known about this when I was a student.