Over in the repurposed church that is now the beautiful St. Brigid's Theatre was an enlightening evening with Blue Sky's Mike Daley, story artist, and Deb Stone, manager of talent development. We got to watch the trailer for Rio 2 and hear a little about BlueSky's internship program, Acorn Academy. However, the highlight of the evening was Mike Daley's talk about being a story artist. Through a hilarious and adorable series of boards, Mike illustrates the process of a story artist's "life cycle". First is "The Egg" where the story artist is hatched. After the script or idea is created, the concept is handed to the story artist, who is still an egg, and is "kicked off" to hatch into a little caterpillar story artist to start working. The caterpillar story artist will look for various references stemming from real life and/or movies. After working hard to collect all the references, the little caterpillar story artists takes all the ideas and hides away in a chrysalis to finalize the draft of storyboards. Once the boards are finished, the story artist emerges and either turns into a beautiful butterfly, if the idea is liked and approved, or a ugly moth, if the idea is no good. If the story artist becomes a moth, the moth will give birth to another egg for the whole process to start over again.
While showing some of his storyboards from Ice Age 4, Mike gives some tips vital for being a quick yet effective storyboarder. Most important is the eyeballs and silhouettes have to be clear. Storyboards are seen quickly in succession so in the few seconds that a board is on screen, the character and the composition has to be able to be quickly grasped. As story artists have to churn out hundreds of boards in multiple iterations, it is important that there is economy in the drawings and is efficient. Digital tools have allowed artists to take advantage of the fact that not all drawings have to be done over from a clean sheet of paper but rather can be copied and have only certain elements altered. A step further is to limit yourself in what goes into a storyboard. They do not have to be incredibly and excruciatingly detailed but with simple of blocking in limited values (black, white, and a few grays in between) with a focus on contrast, a whole composition can quickly come together depicting depth and focal point. Thinking about camera work also comes into play. Depending on where the camera is "placed" different types of feelings may be conveyed. A camera closer to a conflict is more intense while further away is clearer and is better used for static shots to set a scene. The camera can be moved closer towards a certain character, from over the shoulder, point of view, or a closeup to see reactions. To determine where the camera should be is to think about who's story is the shot telling. For all of you story artists who are looking to creating a portfolio, Mike's advice is to make it clear. Start off with a written opening description to help setup what will be shown. Layout the boards clearly. A great way to show off a story artist portfolio is to have the boards in a video and be able to pitch through the boards. There is no need to have voice acting and sound and music attached, but rather you want to show a strong grasp of the boards and the story that they are telling.