Friday, June 25, 2010

Wasted Production Board Panels

I motored to a pair of animation studios today; at the first, I encountered a tired group of production board artists on a popular half-hour show who told me:

"I'm not happy that I'm not doing my best work, but I don't have time. I've got like nineteen pages of script for an 11-minute short, and the schedule is cramped, and I know they're going to cut pages after I turn in the boards ..."

"I had fifty-five panels cut from my last board. They seem to think that fourteen pages of dialogue equals fourteen minutes of screen time, but you need to put in the action, the pauses, and let the board breathe. That seems to get lost in the process."

I told the second artist to who I talked that I didn't get -- had never gotten -- why story editors and supervisors don't trim scripts before they hand them off to board artists, many of whom exhaust themselves trying to hit a deadline while at the same time boarding an extra five or six minutes of show that will be cut to length down the line.

Why this is the way the business now often works is a continuing mystery to me. Long ago, I wrote half-hour animation scripts for a living, and the process was straightforward:

1) Steve would write his multi-page wonder and turn it into his story editor.

2) The story editor would give Steve's script to his secretaries, who would read dialogue and descriptive action aloud with stop-watches, jotting down the time it took to read same onto the script's title page. (They had done this for a long while and were good at it.)

3) The story editor would look at the time on the front of the script, then tromp down to Steve's office and say: "Cut four pages out of this ...."

Simple, no?

But apparently this art has been lost on a number of current show-runners, who hang on to every syllable of golden prose and so allow board artists to draw themselves blind with extra work. And then, after that work is completed and the animatic is assembled, cut the boards.

I'm probably just an old-fashioned nit-wit, but this seems wasteful to me.


Anonymous said...

It's probably due to the egotistical director who wants to feel empowered in the editing process as he slices and dices away at the excess board panels.

Brad B said...

Try being a director and see how "easy" it is.

Anonymous said...

Its probably generations of higher ups who are looking for the easier way to do it and actually making it harder, while they trounce all over their worried-to-keep-their-jobs artists who are enticed with no-choice on-call 10% above union scale so they can be at their desks up to 7 days a week awaiting the next "it's gotta be done yesterday" order. One of these days, somebodys gonna go apeshit over the treatment and fly a burning paper airplane into the building. That'll show em.

Anonymous said...

"Try being a director and see how "easy" it is."

You are correct.

However, the best storyboard artists are worth it.

Let's here it for STORYBOARD ARTISTS!!!!!!

Steven S said...

Well said, Brad.

Anonymous said...

"Try being a director and see how "easy" it is."

I've been a director and a good board artist is worth his weight in gold. It makes my job so much easier. I never wanted to pile on excess unnecessary work on someone I valued.

Dorseytunes said...

Are schedules so tight that the director and story board artist can't sit down for a minute and develop a way to do things more efficiently?

I've not worked for an animation studio, but I've worked with deadlines on a corporate level and find communication and development have been key.

Oh great animation gurus, please enlighten me.

BTW...whoever takes the heat from the investors. Kudos to you too!

Anonymous said...

The directors aren't calling these shots. It's the showrunners and writers. Having board artists do tons of extra work keeps them from having to visualize the story and make hard decisions up front. They run the process in TV animation, and that's why the board artists are shat upon.

Anonymous said...

You study people who know how to draw and you learn to draw, you learn how long it takes to draw what, you learn what to draw and what not to draw, you learn to write dialog and act in what you draw, you learn to time the drawings and to direct the drawings, and to manage the people below you who now do more of the drawings, you learn to direct the voices for the drawings and write and produce and create the story arcs for the drawings and then you create and produce the show or movie of the drawings. That's the only way it works, there are no shortcuts, no cheats, no top-down ways of manufacturing what is and always will be a bottom-up process that takes decades to master.

Unfortunately, you often have to suffer the endless stream of dumbshits double parking their live action chops temporarily on your street and at your production's expense, and that's just LA for you.

Anonymous said...

If you have a good board artist it IS easy to be a director and edit down an animatic. Provided three things:

-IF you treat the script for the board artist with the ideas you envision (an hour or so of work that will save you countless hours in the editing room). Most hack directors today don't bother to do this and they get what they deserve.

-IF you yourself can draw. Because then you can provide the odds and ends that you need during the editing process.

Fact of the matter is that most directors today can't draw and they shouldn't be directing a cartoon without that skill. Simple as that.

Myself and a number of other board artists in this town right now doing 23 pages of script in four weeks. I'm not happy about it, but its a non union studio (seems that a lot of the union studios don't have a lot of shows right now). Because of this workload I don't have sympathy for the gripes of the board artists mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

Myself and a number of other board artists in this town right now doing 23 pages of script in four weeks.

I'll see your 23 pages in 20 days . . and raise you my 18 pages in 13 1/4 days.

And you can keep your sympathy.

Anonymous said...

I call.

And my hat is off to you...

Anonymous said...

>23 pages of script

there is nothing animated that needs to be on television that is twenty-three pages of script, 22 minutes, 11 minutes, 7 minutes. a really great animated movie could easily be 50 max. too f'ing much verbal masturbation out there.

Anonymous said...

I just wish over the years they'd let the animatic editors cut the unfunny dialogue in favor of the funny board action. But no... the dialogue is "sacred". Not allowed to touch that. (insert eye roll here)

Robiscus said...

I'm doing 36 pages of script in 20 days(four weeks) and I'm gonna need a complete change of blood when I'm done...

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