Category Archives: Storyboards

Eric Machmer: Illuminated Dancer (contextualized logo)

This quick image may contextualize the ecstatic dancing figure used as our logo. Background story: an old general who had been in charge of organizing events behind a city’s walls dances to distract children gathered around a fire as defenses fail. In such a situation there may have been unaffiliated, retreating, or front-line enemy troops more dangerous to stranded residents than the opposing army. Innocent persons unable to escape — street children, handicapped, elderly — might gather together in a public setting with an elderly official. As debris rains around them they would be protected in no-man’s land by persons such as this dancer.

Check out what is not on the little guy’s right foot, but his head — this was sculpted near Kunming China 1,500 years ago! Imagine him also in a peaceful setting dancing around a hearth, entertaining kids and village folk who have stayed up late to hear his stories.

“Happy Dancer” is the most ‘important’ sculpture ever created by a human being (in my humble opinion)…it is not violent, does not celebrate a state, nationality, or ruler — neither is it conspicuous ornate decoration or even utilitarian…it is human and fun. I LOVE this sculpture. It was created by a Fellow Spirit, a comrade-in-arms, an ancient artist whose name has been lost but whose attitude resonates.

“Happy Dancer” may be seen in a nondescript corner of a display case among shelves of statuettes in the Yunnan Provincial Museum, Kunming China. Some day it’s value will be celebrated. It is the Mona Lisa of sculpture.

(Well, maybe not THE most important, but, one of the most important…allllthough,
if forced to choooooose!! –I LOVE IT!!)

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

“Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Angela Monet

“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes,
we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”
Albert Einstein

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

“There are short-cuts to happiness and dancing is one of them.”
Viki Baum

“If I can’t dance – I don’t want to be part of your revolution”
Emma Goldman

Eric Machmer: Commercial Work: Keebler Picnic & the 1st Female Cheerios Bees!

Concept designer Feng Zhu uses a $150 Wacom tablet rather than a $2,500 Cintiq. I found this — first, hard to believe — then (for students and artists in developing countries) revolutionary.
These frames were created last weekend to test a tablet workflow. Now I prefer working on a bright large iMac with a tablet…my Cintiq is used in an elevated contraption above a treadmill (see post below). Hopefully story artists in less developed countries will learn to draw on inexpensive tablets.  It has been liberating to realize we can work anywhere.

When starting most digital artists think: “Shesh this tablet sucks! God please I need a Cintiq!” Once comfortable with Cintiq workflows we remain conditioned to tolerate Wacom’s massive eighty five pound twenty-five hundred dollar desk anchor. Don’t buy a Cintiq — it won’t help. Practice, pay off your credit cards, and travel — with a laptop and tablet.

Update: yes, these bug-eyed bees creep me out. Fortunately HNC will be around for a while…first attempt, long-term project.

During a recent visit my toddler nieces ate Cheerios straight from the box like velociraptors — with no side-effects from sugar (second ingredient). These fun, commercial, personal side-projects help me relax when I freak about today’s economy — hopefully Keebler will have a vegan line and artificial milk with sugar free cereal will be commonplace — in the meantime….

The hero of this blog Dr. Seuss advertised mosquito repellant. Standard Oil kept him alive during the Depression. When Theodore Geisel finally published children’s books late in life he was still known by fellow illustrators as “the Flick guy.”

For more commercial work by Theodore Geisel see UC San Diego’s thorough online archive:
Relevant conversations among artists on Twitter as the economy became part of our public discourse (first conversation initiated by Ward Jenkins @Wardomatic, second by Molly Crabapple @mollycrabapple):

saw that someone left a comment on that Life of a Freelancer link: “you can always say ‘no'” – umm, not if you’re trying to pay the bills.I find artists that claim not to care about money usually have parents who pay for that attitude. And not if you’re trying to keep your two kids from starving & not if you’re trying to keep from getting evicted from your rented home, etc. Exactly. It’s not always possible to pick & choose, especially during a recession. The flip-side is there is an opportunity cost in working with asshole clients…the worst part about shit work is it takes away time from giving 110% to good clients. 1 of 2: There are a lot of people doing great creative work that give advice like turn down a client that offers a rotten deal 2 of 2: most people handing out advice on being a creative pro are NOT 100% freelancers-they have a job that pays the bills
—- Another: At the start of my career, I was often accused of spending more time promoting myself than I did focusing on my art. While it might have been 50/50, or 60/40, or 40/60, this was probably true. I did ALOT of art. But also a LOT of business. And never slept. Now, that I have a crew of amazing people that deals with my schlepping, hauling, calling, invoicing and emailing, I’m 90% art time. Conclusion? Devoting yourself to your art is a fucking luxury, and no one should ever criticize a young artist for being a scrappy hustler. Cause the business stuff- someone has to do it. Before you’re making enough bank to support an assistant or gallery, that person will be you. Me and @KimBoekbinder have talked about how the lie fed to artists is the same at that fed to chicks… that if you’re good and pretty and nice enough, some man or gallery will sweep you off your feet …and if they don’t come, well it’s positively vulgar to get out of your tower yourself, you whore It’s something I think about alot now- how much having cash and a crew frees me to do crazy, ambitious dream projects. The stuff I got criticized for doing when I was starting out still gets done. But it’s considered less vulgar to pay someone else to do it. Considering hustling and business stuff vulgar is just another way of saying people who want to transcend their station are vulgar.

Terry Gilliam: How to Use Storyboards for Film

Sometimes I was just enjoying drawing these things and they risked becoming illustrations rather than storyboards. But some scenes, say of the statue of the head with a horse in ‘Munchausen,’ that came out of drawing something. I actually started drawing an equestrian statue and thought, “oh, this looks better without the head on.” And then once you have the idea that the heads off the statue, “let’s have the head on the floor. And it’s got to be a big head, and people are living in the head.” So that’s something that came out of a drawing. 
The storyboard becomes my insurance policy — if I ever run out of ideas, I go back to the storyboard “just do that, and, I’ll have a film.” 

Oftentimes we put a billboard up on the set with the storyboard so that people on the crew can come by and say “Ah, that’s what’s going on.” And that’s what helps, again, showing people what we’re doing that day.

It’s often the easiest way to communicate with people. It’s accessible to everybody, and, anyone can come by and enter into dialogue with it. The more I can put out there for people to see, the better I am able to communicate. 

The way I work with a set-designer, I have a lot of paintings and I bring in photographs, and things I’ve spotted on location, and accumulate a lot of material, and then start drawing…. 
Well, I really want to encourage a kind of fantasy, a kind of magic. I love the term magic realism, whoever invented it – I do actually like it because it says certain things. It’s about expanding how you see the world. I think we live in an age where we’re just hammered, hammered to think this is what the world is. Television’s saying, everything’s saying ‘That’s the world.’ And it’s not the world. The world is a million possible things.
—Terry Gilliam: Salman Rushdie talks with Terry Gilliam

Exceptional Storyboarding Tutorial by Louie del Carmen (and ‘Incremental Save’ Script for Photoshop and Bridge Workflow)

(previz from Louie del Carmen’s tutorial)

Digital artists are generous: community forums for sharing tips in our evolving medium have become small industries. Whether for Flash, Photoshop, or Maya — or whatever the next program will be — all of us are ultimately self-taught; each of us has our own techniques and workflows — those who share, nurture our community and profit from feedback in turn.

Story Artists are generous but with such a complex workflow it can be difficult to ask the right questions. Boards included in “Art of” books accompanying the release of films often only highlight polished “Hallmark” shots; novice storyboards are notoriously overwrought. (For an informative discussion on production vs polished boards watch this video.)

Louie del Carmen’s comprehensive storyboarding tutorial changes the discussion. From script to sequence viewers are lead through production quality boarding in a straightforward, accessible manner. If you have been scouring the internet for tips this tutorial is a treasure.

Louie’s tutorial will pay for itself within minutes if you are not yet using Adobe Bridge. $25 is a gift…wish more Story Artists were as generous as:


Here’s a Photoshop script which works well with a Bridge workflow. The cool thing is it makes accidentally over-writing sequential files difficult: as you continue working from a single authoring file activating this script saves filenames in increments of 10. (At the very least it will speed up your workflow by eliminating the need to hand edit filenames.)

Paste the code below into a new file in ExtendScript Toolkit (part of Photoshop’s installation found here: Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities/ExtendScript Toolkit CS4 or /Applications/Utilities/Adobe Utilities-CS5/ExtendScript Toolkit CS5), save it as a jsx-file into Photoshop’s Presets/Scripts-folder.

After restarting Photoshop the Script should be available under File > Scripts and can be assigned a Keyboard Shortcut, recorded into an Action, used in a Configurator-Panel, or started from the ExtendScript Toolkit itself.

Default installations of Photoshop leave the Keyboard Shortcut ctrl+command+shit+S unassigned. By assigning this or another shortcut key you can then map a button on your Cintique to activate the script.

// saves psd copies in rising four digit numbers appended to the authoring file’s name;
#target photoshop
if (app.documents.length > 0) {
// get properties;
var thedoc = app.activeDocument;
var docName =;
var basename = docName.match(/(.*)\.[^\.]+$/)[1];
var docPath = thedoc.path;
// psd options;
psdOpts = new PhotoshopSaveOptions();
psdOpts.embedColorProfile = true;
psdOpts.alphaChannels = false;
// change this to true if you want all the layers in the copy;
psdOpts.layers = true;     
psdOpts.spotColors = true;
// get neighboring  psdf iles;
var theFiles = retrievePSDFiles (Folder (docPath));
// collect numbers;
var theNumbers = new Array;
for (var m = 0; m < theFiles.length; m++) {
     if (theFiles[m].name.match(basename+”_”+”[0-9]{1,4}”+”.psd”)) {
          var thisNumber = Number(theFiles[m].name.slice(0, theFiles[m].name.length – 4).match(/\d{1,4}$/));
// get largest number;
if (theNumbers.length > 0) {
     var number = Number(theLargestNumber(theNumbers));
     var theNumber = bufferNumberWithZeros(number + 10, 4)
else {
     var theNumber = “0010”
// save copy;
thedoc.saveAs((new File(docPath+’/’+basename+”_”+theNumber+”.psd”)),psdOpts,true);
////// buffer number with zeros //////
function bufferNumberWithZeros (number, places) {
     var theNumberString = String(number);
     for (var o = 0; o < (places – String(number).length); o++) {
          theNumberString = String(“0” + theNumberString)
     return theNumberString
////// get from subfolders //////
function retrievePSDFiles (theFolder, theFiles) {
     if (!theFiles) {var theFiles = []};
     var theContent = theFolder.getFiles();
     for (var n = 0; n < theContent.length; n++) {
          var theObject = theContent[n];
          if ( == “Folder”) {
               theFiles = retrievePSDFiles(theObject, theFiles)
          if ( == “.psd”) {
               theFiles = theFiles.concat(theObject)
     return theFiles
////// function to get the biggest number;
function theLargestNumber (numbersArray) {
     var x = new Array;
     x = x.concat(numbersArray);
     while (x.length > 1) {
          if (x[0] >= x[x.length-1]) {
               var a = x.pop()
          else {
               var a = x.shift()
     return x

Feedback welcome: Twitter: @oceanbluesky

Ted Mathot, Scott Morse, Bill Presing and Derek Thompson at CTN

(sketch by Rembrandt)
Derek Thompson: The willingness of a story artist to dispose of their work, of their thinking, is almost equally important as their ability to draw, really, really well. […] That’s where process comes into play. Most artists that I know enjoy looking at rough, unfinished work. For any of you who think we’re doing inked finished typed boards — that’s not what it is. It’s dirty, it’s roll up your sleeves — it’s wet works in the plumbing, it’s really gritty, type of work. “Get in late, get out early.”
Ted Mathot: I generally do all my posing last, so, I’ll go in and I’ll try to nail down each shot. And get my progression of shots going first. So I’ll have one drawing for each shot — then I’ll go back in and start plussing. 
Bill Pressing: I try to do a minimum of three boards for a shot. Cause a lot of times you can do whatever you’re thinking of doing in three. [Thompson: “A beginning, middle, end — an A, B, C — where you’re in, in the shot, what the middle substance is, then how you exit the shot.]
Scott Morse: It’s neat to see how the rule of three works. I’m kind of a nerd about patterns these days, fractal geometry — I love finding patterns in things. Obviously in film there’s a three act structure — because it works, not because it is a “rule” that we stick to because, you know….” “Be prepared to do it, then have it thrown out.” A lot of people ask, “What kind of style do you look for?” — and it’s like, “ok, that’s a big red flag that you just threw it in my face,” ’cause a style isn’t gonna come across in storyboarding. Your drawing style needs to be — not a style. It needs to be a thinking style. You need to be able to work, play, well with others.  [Mathot: You need to be adaptable in that you can draw like other artists around you. But you also have to be able to adapt to the other directors, because they all have styles too, and you need to be able to work with that.] 

Started on Twitter by Emma Coats (@lawnrocket): #framegame

The funnest game EVER was invented Thursday afternoon September 23, 2010 by @lawnrocket!!  If you are a story artist or just interested in storyboarding check out Twitter hashtag #framegame every Friday ( ).  Anyone can join in — either sketching or guessing.

My first entry in #framegame; final scene in my fav cartoon.
(23rd September 2010 the start of #framegame in storyboarding history!)
Update: All 24 minutes and 49 seconds of Lorax goodness can be seen in its entirety thanks to Google Video, here: 

Eric Machmer: Storyboard Scene from “The Secret History of the Mongols”

In the 12th century text “Secret History of the Mongols,” commissioned by Genghis Khan, a scene is described in which a warrior hit in the neck by an arrow is brought back to camp by a fellow solider. Mongols often used poisoned arrows, so, it was customary to suck the blood from arrow wounds — in this case the second person supports the first while sucking and then spitting out his blood. This scene must have been startling enough to have been included in the History.
[storyboards are  fast greyscale sketches; as a key shot this one has a few more details]