Creating an animatic storyboard

Taking the storyboard to the next level with audio and action


You are embarking on a multimedia project. You have the script or an outline of the story. You have a rough idea what will it will look like, but you need to communicate your concept to everyone involved.

An animatic is an economical way to rough out the audio, the motion and flow, as well as the visual layout of the sets.

The animatic plays in real time and requires less imagination from the viewer. It shows how the action occurs, we can hear the words spoken, we hear sounds, we may hear the proposed music "bed track", or a "scratch track", a piece of music similar to the final music that is yet to be produced or purchased.

The animations do not need to be tightly rendered. The drawings set a mood and need only the key details. The faces and expressions are the critical areas.

Audio is the star in animatics; it propels your story and paints a story in the mind; it should be complete but can be done quickly.

Corners are cut in an animatic. The part of a famous actor might be read by your roommate; a character walking across the frame may not move arms or legs. Animatics can be loose and playful like a child telling a story with action figures, or, with a larger budget, an animatic can be rather polished with voice actors and some real animated characters.

Animatics are important insurance that the project in your imagination will be acceptable to the client, before expensive production is started.

These are some examples:

Mark Simon shows off his animatics, done with Toon Boom.

Bloop Animation has a script-storyboard-animatic series:

When animatic is taken to a finished state it is akin to a graphic novel. This account of Colby Buzzell's war experience in Iraq is disturbing, and very well done, using only still drawings and edited-in motion.

Pixar shows how storyboards are made; the first step before you make an animatic.


The exercise:

Create your storyboard assets, and the sound track, and edit them into a 30-second animatic with a motion graphics editor.

Rough out your storyboard with the dialogue and stage directions to guide your creation of the animatic assets.

Create the audio with the best free talent available. Capture sound effects and find music if needed. Edit this together in an audio editor. The sound track is timed accurately. A 30-second spot will be 30 seconds long.

As you refer to your rough storyboard, create the parts for the animatic. If the camera will pan across a landscape you will extend the landscape extra wide to allow for the pan. Characters will be drawn separate from their backgrounds so they can be moved about. You might draw separate arms and legs, maybe a mouth open and closed; things you can swap or move to simulate activity. These motion effects are often very basic, but they give enough hint of movement to get the idea across.

Scan or photograph your sketches and use Premiere or After Effects to match the visuals and soundtrack.

Create a final H.264 Vimeo 1080p 29.97fps movie file of your animatic.