Prepare To Board covers the entire pre production process, specifically the role of the storyboarding process and its importance in the production of a successful animated feature or short. Successful in this context means, works for an audience, telling a story. This book is very much concerned with narrative based structure, and how to frame and pace an effective storyboard.
Nancy Beiman has worked on countless animated projects for both Disney and Warner Bros and is also a teacher at Sheridan College. It covers all the aspects that a good storyboard artist requires and shows an indepth analysis of the role without ever becoming dull or indecipherable. Jargon is kept to a minimum and explained where necessary.
The book is comprised of three sections. The first gives a basic overview of the various aspects of the creation of a film, from early concepts and thumbnails through to production of characters and a rough storyboard. The second section focuses more on technique and the actual detail required. It covers beat boards, how to plan sequences within a story and how to board action and dialogue scenes. The final section covers presentation and how to pitch the final storyboard to clients. It also covers putting together an animatic of the final board. Finally in the end it provides a wealth of further information and other books on the subject.
The book follows the process in chronological order and if you follow the book through it guides you through the entire process in a succinct and entertaining way. However it would also be possible to look up key aspects ithout reading the whole book through. There is plenty of visual reference for all the points it makes, most of it taken from actual animated productions, and also plenty of real accounts of how stories came together on famous Disney productions and Chuck Jones shorts. These examples help to make the rules make sense and it is all communicated in a jargon free easy to understand style, that could be understood by someone entirely new to animation as easily as it could be to those in the know. The wealth of insider knowledge and knowhow on display is impressive as the book outlines well the key points to aim for and equally which things to avoid. The book is obviously subjective to a degree but nevertheless it does show a process that has been tried and tested and is in use in the industry, as such is worth taking into account for that fact alone.
The book does highlight the need for experimentation and originality, whilst defining what is likely and not so likely to work on screen, or in a pitch.
The tone of the book is very humourous and helps to make it an easy entertaining read, that kept my attention and never became dull. There are many anecdotal stories that are interesting but they all relate to a real point the book is making.
It also covers not just storyboarding but also character design and how this should be considered in relation to the storyboard. Although anyone interested in this aspect of the process will find themselves better served by other books devoted entirely to that subject. It does however empathise the importance of pre production and its effect on the overall result. It also illuminates the importance of the story board artist within animation. The storyboard does not just tell the story, but reflects and combines all other aspects of the production, the art direction, the character design, the background, the tone, even the camera angle and the editing is all dictated by the storyboard.
It must be empathised though that it only really concentrates on the process from the narrative feature/short point of view. This is to be expected as this is where the writers field of experience lies. However anyone interested in non narrative filmaking or other processes may only find the process as outlined in this book of limited value, this book does not set out to cover that aspect of filming though.
However for anyone attempting a narrative based film, either short or long, be they a student or graduate film-maker, Prepare To Board is essential reading.