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The importance of storyboarding with artist Cong Nguyen

Cong Nguyen, storyboard artist, talks to us about his work with both short and feature film, as well as advertising and animation, plus the work of his fellow artists he appreciates the most.


Can you tell us why it’s important to storyboard before going into a shoot?

Storyboard is both a direction and communication tool. To the director, producer and sometimes even writer, the storyboard helps them envision the film, and make early cuts and changes; after all, not every film production has the luxury to shoot and reshoot freely. Into production, the storyboard is then used to communicate the director’s vision to other departments – a blueprint of the film, if you will – to help the process flow smoothly.

If you’re involved in a feature, can you explain the process involved in working with the crew and putting the storyboard together?

From my personal experience, there is not that much difference between a storyboard for short and a feature. Generally, I’d receive the script and often a shot list. I’d then quickly sketch out rough boards, just to get the composition and general direction of the shots out and seek feedback from the director. After that I’ll clean those boards up a bit, with the characters’ action as the main focus, and again send for feedback. This process is repeated until the board is complete.

While it seems complicated with so many steps, the point here is to get everyone involved early on, when changes can be made easily, and as a result saves a lot of time (and money) on revisions later down the line. If it were a short film with not too many shots, I’ll go through all the shots in one go in each step; but if it’s a feature, since the number of shots is so big, it is more efficient to do it in batches – for example, I’d send the first 10-20 rough shots for feedback, and in the meantime carry on with the next, and so on, to avoid wasting time between emails

I’m quite old, so I think of storyboarding as a hand drawn craft – what technology do you use to produce the work?

If you meant a program that generates images at the touch of a button, then no, there is no such convenience (though I wish there is). I still have to do everything by hand, albeit in Adobe Photoshop or Storyboard Pro and with a drawing monitor, instead of good old pencil and paper. Of course, there are many obvious advantages in digital drawing – I can move things around, make minor adjustments easily, instead of having to erase and redraw the whole thing; shading and colouring is also quicker. More specialised programs such as Storyboard Pro also have built-on tools to handle other related task to storyboard such as making animatic.

Tell us a little bit about your career to date.

I started freelancing full-time since December 2017 – before that I’d only taken projects here and there mainly for experience while studying. It was very slow for the first three months, but thankfully things picked up rather quickly. It’s really interesting seeing what is out there. Every project is different; just storyboarding alone has quite a variety – some projects only need a quick rough board for production, while others require detailed boards to deliver the mood and look for pitch documents or funding campaign.

How did you get into storyboarding?

While on the BA course at Worcester University, I got to learn about all the roles involved in animation production, and storyboarding was what I enjoyed the most – it’s where my love for drawing and storytelling came together. I then went on to do an MA at Arts University Bournemouth where I had a chance to study further, not only as a craft, but also its importance in pre-production.

Whose work do you particularly admire when it comes to storyboarding?

It’s hard to pin down one. I like to study a broad range of artists, from animation veterans such as Glen Keane (worked on many Disney classics such as Pocahontas) to contemporary artists who work mainly in music videos and commercials – one such as Michaelia Wu, a London-based artist working in fashion film, who also graduated from AUB one year before me.

Can you tell us about any projects you have coming up?

I’m constantly in transition from one project to another, mostly because a lot of my work at the moment is in short films and commercials, typically with high turnaround. I’ve just wrapped up a big project providing concept arts for a war feature, and the director has already asked me to work with him again on an up-coming mini-series. I’m also looking forward to a TV show which aired on CW channel which I produced animated illustrations for last year, and which has been renewed for a second season in 2019.


To see more of Cong's work, or to contact him, visit his website.

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