Friday, May 25, 2007

Venture Brothers Storyboard Test

Just over 2 months ago, I decided to leave one job for another (which allowed me to avoid a recent NYC animation disaster) and take the design position on season 3 of The Venture Brothers. I also decided to take the storyboard test since I've always wanted to 'board for the show. I'm happy to show the results of my test below (followed by commentary).

OK. So those of you who love The Venture Brothers will recognize this sequence of scenes from last season, and that it's also one of the toughest sequences to 'board of just about anything they do in the show. At least it seemed that way to me when I sat down to do it, a suspicion later confirmed by Chris, who pointed out that that's the point of the test. I hadn't done any 'boards for a while, and the last one was when I took the last VB SB Test (see PG1 and PG2) leading up to season 2. I spent a week on that test, then quickly spent an extra day taking the design test, and later on got the design position. I love to design on the show, but have always wanted the challenge of doing the 'boards.

I knew I had to "wow" Chris and Stephen or it wouldn't fly, so I really concentrated on the shots, to make the angles and sequences as dramatic as the script demanded. I spent way too much time on it, over 40 hours, but a lot of that was just getting warmed up. I was really proud of the test when it was completed and I think it shows that I've come a long way since the last one (at least to me). I happily turned in the script and waited. After a few weeks went by without any mention of it, I soon realized I did in fact, not "wow" them. However, I knew it was a long shot anyway, having seen some of the truly fantastic, beautiful boards done for the show, and at the very least was hoping to get a critique by two very talented and experienced 'board artists.

I got my wish this week when Chris and Stephen pulled out the test to talk to me about it. The main feedback was positive. Chris said he really liked the test and the angles I chose, which was my main goal. Also, they took the time to go over the secondary goals that I had forgotten along the way. I didn't realize that good ol' construction drawing is an absolute priority when storyboarding. For me, it was easy to forget as I was blocking out the compositions and making sure all characters were where they're supposed to be, and then dashing on the character details before moving on to the next panel. It turns out that it's more important to have proper construction than detail. They stated emphatically that Korea can get all the details right, but will fall on the boards almost 100% for the construction of the characters. So, Chris pointed out there were a lot of areas that were "mushy", where I didn't prove a commanding knowledge of constructing the characters. Not that I can't, but that in places it wasn't there as proof. I had to agree. He also mentioned a few places where I broke some cinematic rules like unintentional jump-cuts, etc., but that it wasn't more than the usual 'board artists would do on the show, and that we'd probably get around that during a thumbnail phase (which wasn't done for the test).

So, surprisingly the critique ended with Chris' assessment that he liked my 'board test enough to give me a shot on 'boards, but at the same time, there seemed to be a learning curve that it would take for me to get to the proper speed, groove, etc., that the schedule and demands of the show wouldn't allow. I did take a long time on the test, so I had to admit that the same thought had occurred to me. So then to my amazement, he mentioned that from time to time some 'board artists would get behind and have scenes or groups of scenes split out for another artist to complete, and that he'd like for me to help in this capacity if I was up for it! Something like a few scenes with a month deadline that I could do at nights and on the weekends. And from there he could see if I could get up to speed, etc. And, it's my hopes that in doing so, I can gain enough trust in that category to finally qualify for the position on season 4. Sounds perfect to me!