Sketchbook Pro for Storyboarding
Storyboarding on Archer
My day job is as a storyboard artist for the TV show Archer. I work with a team of 3 other people, and we have two art directors : Neal Holman and Chad Hurd. It’s a very small team, which I like. A lot of the other sections of the studio are made up of larger teams, but our group is small and we’ve become really tight-knit over the last year.
It varies from episode to episode, but we generally get a script and divide the work up into sections. The two more senior/experienced boarders will take larger chunks, and the rest of us take smaller chunks, usually divided up by acts. It’s generally been Justin Wagner and I splitting an act, and we sit next to each other, so it’s really easy to address any concerns and talk about scenes we have that take place in the same settings so that we’re on the same page with things. We all take turns doing board cleanup, on our own work and each others.
Then I will go through with my sketchbook or some paper or SketchBook Pro using a file with tiny board templates on it (usually 9-12 per sheet) and thumbnail out (as quickly as possible) the whole part I’m working on. This can take a few hours, or the whole day to get through. It varies depending on the complexity of the episode and how many characters are in each scene. The more characters in a scene (and on Archer, there are around 7 main characters, often more depending on any ancillary characters and guest stars) the more complex the scene is and the more time it takes to figure out.
That said, the show is a dialog and joke-driven show, so even scenes with just 2 people can be complex just by volume. I’m working on a scene between Lana and Archer right now that’s just them talking, but it’s around 4 pages of dialog. I feel like my job at that point is not just to convey the acting, but to keep things visually interesting and to find as many camera angles that make sense within our parameters as a limited-animation show to keep it from just being a static medium 2-shot scene with a couple of over-the-shoulder reverses. But sometimes, that’s exactly what’s needed
Once I get a pass that I like, I’ll show it to the other boarders to get feedback, and then I’ll work on refining things, and making the figures clearer and indicating backgrounds more. Often-times, backgrounds and new characters are being designed as we’re boarding, so I check with the art directors to see where things are at or get any notions from them as to what a setting will be like so I can accurately stage things at this point (or sometimes let them know how I’m staging something so they can design with that in mind). My camera moves and character setups can change wildly depending on what the setting ends up being, so keeping things loose but readable is key.