VFX Blog Post 2 – Storyboard

For my storyboard I started by looking at different professional standards such as this Japanese storyboard (Fig. 1) from Spirited Away which formats the different shots in a top down fashion with the scene/shot number on the left and various descriptive notes on the right (Yonghow, 2012). 

Figure 1. Spirited Away Storyboard

When looking at American and European storyboards I found that the majority of examples such as this one from (Fig. 2), have two or more rows of images with information under each. I found that this was harder to follow as my eyes would often drift to the images on different rows whereas in the Spirited Away (Fig. 1) example it has a simple top down reading flow which feels a lot clearer.

Figure 2. Dreamworks storyboard

Using the Japanese method of storyboarding, I copied the general format and adapted it for my own use. After drawing the rough shots in Photoshop experimenting with composition I went back over the sketches and did very rough shading to help give the images depth and potentially helps with planning lighting (Fig. 3 to 6).

In the notes sections of my storyboard I have basic shot directions such as how the camera is going to move and a short description of the shot. As part of the notes I’ve included a column for VFX (Visual effects) and SFX (Sound effects) with brief descriptions of the effect/how it’s going to be used.

Figure 3.
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Figure 6.


Initially I decided to make my environment quite simple as is reflected in the storyboard with large square pillars. Originally I was thinking of having a large cityscape with a magical setting but I decided to have the fight in a forest of stone pillars, as creating a realistic cityscape where I would have to consider window reflections and street life would be much more difficult and time consuming.

I was initially inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) which has a large fight scene in a forest of stone, through further research I found that the forest of stone in the cartoon may be inspired by a real location in China (See Fig. 7) (Vernon, 2019).

Figure 7: Zhangjiajie National Park


Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) Directed by Giancarlo Volpe. Written by Aaron Ehasz [TV Programme]. Nickelodeon, 21 May.

The Straits Times (2015). DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition – Pitching storyboards. Available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwHCe4LlJ94 [Accessed 02/12/2020].

Vernon K. (2019) China’s Amazing Stone Pillars Inspired the ‘Avatar’ Scenery. Available online: https://www.thevintagenews.com/2019/04/11/chinas-stone-pillars/ [Accessed 03/11/2020].

Yonghow (2012). The art of Spirited Away – Storyboard Book Review. Available online: http://halcyonrealms.com/books/the-art-of-spirited-away-storyboard-book-review/  [Accessed 30/10/2020].

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