- The conversation on storyboard use goes way back – before the internet. If you check out the 1969 book by John Halas, Techniques of Film Animation, there’s a Q&A session wherein a number of animation greats were asked several questions, and the answers are given by question.
Here’s one question about storyboards and the answers given:
To what extent to you think a storyboard should be developed prior to production?
- GENE DEITCH: I believe in complete scene and shot breakdown in story-board or a thumbnail board form before production begins. I use a thumbnail storyboard as a sort of bar-sheet, indicating all effects, dialogue and music cues, scene transitions, etc. Great savings in cost, and an overall perspective of the film in advance are to be gained.
JOY BATCHELOR : As fully as possible without detriment to the following phases of production.
STEHPEN BOSUSTOW: If time and money allow, the storyboard should include as many details as possible, particularly if it is to be assigned to a large production unit. However, if only a few people are to be working on the picture, the storyboard can be quite sketchy, with the details being developed during production by the key people who have an overall feeling for and knowledge of the story.
ADRIAN WOOLERY: The storyboard is the first step, after the idea. Every problem must be solved and the story completely resolved on the board prior to consideration of any production.
JOHN HUBLEY: It has been my experience that the more detailed a story-board and the more carefully it is designed to reflect the appearance of the finished production, the more successful the film.
GEOFFREY SUMNER: The storyboard, or breakdown of the film, has as many different forms as there are ways of putting actions in relation to one another.
The classic storyboard is the set of working drawings of the sequence of a film used in large studios on the Disney model where numbers of subsidiary workers must conform to a total pattern they can almost never see.
It is used in conjunction with model sheets. It could be called the “model sheet” of the sequence of the film.
It is strictly for use within a studio and should not be shown to dangerous people like sponsors.
An earlier stage is the treatment, which can be specifically directed at sponsors. If the basic idea of the film is simple, the treatment need be no more than half a dozen drawings and a brief synopsis to convey a ten minute film.
A storyboard must necessarily be constructed after the music has been done. The musician and the director can work together from a stage following the treatment. From the finished recorded track the storyboard is made.
For years prior to even meeting Hubley, I had remembered his response to this question. It impressed me. His storyboard development was pretty intense. The scripts generally were done visually and tacked to the wall.
I don’t remember ever seeing text up there. John would present the board to key people, and he would give an indication of dialogue verbally. We all knew this would ultimately be ad-libbed by actors.
With the Carousel feature, sections were boarded but then developed in greater length through improvised sessions. The boards then grew out of the edited tracks. The voices often came first, here.
I suspect this is probably also true of the films like Cockaboody, Windy Day and Moonbird which were dependent on the children’s verbal play at the microphone. Something like The Hole or Voyage To Next were boarded visually, then recorded improv sessions which were adapted in newer boards.
Of course it has to be remembered that the two features done within this studio, Everybody Rides The Carousel and Of Stars and Men, both started out as text. Both were heavy-duty books that were adapted for film. In the case of Of Stars and Men, the author, mathematician Harlow Shapely had major involvement in the film’s script and narrated it as well. The concepts for both films were fully worked out before anyone started boarding. So essentially a script – of sorts – existed. Since CBS financed Everybody Rides The Carousel, you know they had to approve a script.
I, of course, only remember the board.