View Full Version : How much and how long for a storyboard?

01 January 2005, 09:11 PM
Just wandered over from the Cinema 4D forum to float a couple of questions about storyboarding.

I'm an illustrator who mainly does magazine and advertising work, using Cinema 4D, sometimes painter and more recently both together.

I've been hired by a small UK film company to do some concept visuals for a 'relatively' low budget horror movie (honestly can't give any details or show any pix yet as I am sworn to secrecy) UK crew with US money. So far they are exceptionally happy with what I've done and have been paying me in installments (so i know they're kosher). So far I've been doing large (3500 pixels wide HDTV format) 3D renderings that are then overpainted in Corel Painter to give them a very Graphic Novel type feel. I'm commissioned to do 4 images of the main scenes, a series of 4 images (sort of mini storyboard) for the key opening scene, and a couple of additional illustrations. These are all being put together into the form of a 'brochure' (can't think of a better description) for the pitch to the money-men (they'll also be filmed on a rostrum for a dvd that'll be used in the pitch).

My problem now is that they are so happy with my work so far that they have asked me to do the storyboard for the entire film - if they get the money.

I have no idea how much work is involved or what kind of ballpark figure I should have in mind if they get the go-ahead.

Can anyone tell me how many frames am I looking at having to produce for a (I guess) 90 minute film? How long does this kind of thing usually take? What level of finish is required (the small number of storyboard examples I've seen look to be quite sketchy but they may expect something more complex).

Also any good books you can recomend?

Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated.
I promise to post images as soon as I am allowed.

01 January 2005, 02:42 AM
This particular group of threads is new/experimental, and this post is giving it a stretch, as apparently no one here either works in the area or is comfortable suggesting rates for that sort of pre-viz work. For want of an answer, I would suggest doing a search on pay rates, storyboarding, etc. at CGTalk but also checking with other sources.

I would also point you in the direction of the US union, the Animation Guild. In the past, they've printed pay scale info for most job categories. I might caution you, however, because you're near the area of pre-viz, which may or may not be a category with a lot of specifics yet.

Some of the links here may not be right, but google them: (
The ( Animation Guild: ( ( (Pam Thompson, etc.) ( has some good folks

There should probably be a few others. Pay scale and details may be found in books, and until you feel you can command a rate of your choice, you may be more comfortable with published rates. Richard Sigler is an animation attorney who has negotiated for animators on long term contracts, but who may answer a few questions for free when you call to ask him his rate, and who you may want to use in the future. He speaks to Siggraph sometimes. Pammi Thompson probably would have less to say, but she might know hat pre-viz artists should get.

I feel that nearly every film made at this time should be pre-vizzed in CG to test its viability for gaming, IMAX, etc. as well as vfx, so I hope if you get your information elsewhere, that you can let us know what you find out.

In your post, you say they may expect more than sketchy storyboards, which is not great news. You may want to google "animation pre-viz" to see what's available on DVD and in books or even "google answers" those terms. I got 5,000 hits, and it seems to be making its way onto a lot of curr vit's and company profiles. It sounds like you are going to try to render everything with C4D before you trace over it in some graphics style?

LightWave and Max also are used quite a bit for pre-viz, so you might expand your sphere to include those artists.

As for the number and length of shots and scenes, guesstimate 50 sets for the 90 minute movie. Allow three days for the geometry and textures, one for animation posing; six to eight months? I'm sure there are guys who can do almost anything in less than two. If God doesn't like your movie, everything will fall apart right away anyway. Can't sketch animatics be made on post-it notes for the same 90 page script in a week or two? Welcome to the wonderful world of pre-viz is all I can say, and I hope you get the bid.

01 January 2005, 10:21 AM
Thanks for the reply Scott, wsn't sure if it was appropriate to post here but thought I'd give it a try as my first port of call. Thanks for the advice - I've bookmarked those links and will check em out as soon as I get to a point where I am no longer panicking about deadlines.

To be honest I haven't been so overwhelmed with the scope of a job since the millennium, when the entire world was out partying I was doing 18 hour days modelling and rendering 1000 seperate illustrations for a Lego manual :(

Gotta get back to work, must paint like a madman to keep on schedule....

01 January 2005, 08:36 PM
Hey there. I'm a professional storyboard artist and I can tell you that for a film, you can expect to draw anywhere from 25-40 frames per day, depending on the detail involved. Another factor is how long you have to finish the project. I've worked on films where the director wants (or the budget requires) all the boards to be done within a few weeks. If you're lucky, you can spread the work out over a few months. Either way, you've got to work fast and not get too hung up on details!

Check out some of my work, if you'd like. Go to

Good luck.

01 January 2005, 11:57 PM
agree w charruga, possibly best money you can get for a rushjob, but you have to be that fast, that is at least 15frames daily.doing it for ad previz, just for the money, ppl won't really expect immensely detailed work, but somrething decent...i have done really crappy story boards that ppl loved,have done really good story boards that ppl hated

01 January 2005, 10:31 AM
Thanks guys, begining to feel less confident about the project now :) I haven't had to churn out X number of drawings a day since Art College. I checked out your website and your storyboards were really helpful at giving me a sense of the amount of detail required (I tend to overwork stuff if left to my own devices)
charruga - Can I ask a couple of questions?

You occaisionally extend a foreground object beyond the frame, is this a 'storyboarding convention' to signify something - like zooming in? And you often include arrows to show the direction of movement even when it's clear from your drawing what's intended, is this a requirement, or a device you've developed when working with particular directors?

Must get back to work....

01 January 2005, 03:40 PM
90 minutes generally comes down to 90 pages of script. Each page equalling about 1 minute of film. So if your gonna storyboard this film out, depending on the complexity of some shots, which would of course require more boards. Generally your looking at creating triple times the number of minutes in pictures of storyboards. So around 300 box pictures, with 3 box's on a page. Maybe even more... depending on how crazy and insane the director is. I would probably spend a day working on 3 pages of storyboards, inked out or whatever, the final step would be coloring.

If your a good artist, they should pay you a MINIMUM of 5000$ US for storyboarding it out, depending on how good you are and how fast you can get it done. Maximum pay for something like this would probably come up to 15 000 $ US.

01 January 2005, 04:56 PM
Thanks entityghost, very useful info. 9 pix a day = 33 days @ 2651 minimum. Which is more than I'd make if I were doing regular illustration work. I reckon if I spend a week practising I should be back up to speed by the time I get the call.

A few more questions for the forum. I've ordered Don Bluth's Art of Storyboard from amazon, any other books people might like to recommend?

How much contact and discussion between you and the director during the storyboard process? Do you have to meet often or can it all be sorted by email? I live at the other end of the country from the director and don't fancy trekking up and down to meetings every few days.

01 January 2005, 12:50 AM
I'm guessing that that's $5,000 for 33 days of 9-drawing days, which incidentally is what animators I think used to call a passable rate of speed for Disney quality.

But what I'd still like to know, and I am inferring you'll be dropping CG from your workflow, is what the "pre-viz" CG rate should be for 90 minutes, where the likelihood is that a few artists will be hired to handle what might otherwise be a six month job. I've heard of commercials being pre-vizzed to fit actors to CAD-designed sets, etc. but not how pricey they were.

The fifty set guesstimate may be excessive, but where CG is typically being used, that sort of variety seems typical. 400 frames, since camera set-up's are not that big a deal in CG, probably shouldn't even be mentioned. A minimum of 200 man-days split four ways is still going to be at least 60 days, since team dynamics can be tricky, probably higher. So, probably three times as long, minimum $60,000, with the upper end $180,000, though I've never seen a Disney film pre-viz, so I can't imagine whether that's fair.

02 February 2005, 03:41 AM
In regards to how much you can expect to be paid for storyboard work, my experience has been: commercials $650/day, film $2,000-$3,500/week (though there's a lot of low- budget work out there that can only mangage to pony up about $1000/week). I'd say the MINIMUM output you should have on a commercial is 25 storyboards completed per day, and anywhere from 30-50 boards completed for a film (I've did one job where I had to do literally 80 boards in one day, though situations like that are very rare).

You occaisionally extend a foreground object beyond the frame, is this a 'storyboarding convention' to signify something - like zooming in? And you often include arrows to show the direction of movement even when it's clear from your drawing what's intended, is this a requirement, or a device you've developed when working with particular directors?

Style-wise, breaking the images through the frame doesn't necessarily imply any kind of zoom or other effect, it's just a style-thing that I picked up from my comic book background. If there's to be a zoom, definitely use directional arrows. And even though sometimes the movement in the frames is obvious, you should usually use a directional arrow to avoid confusion (the boards will be seen by everyone from the director to the actors, so there shouldn't be any room for interpretation).

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