Storyboarding and modeling combo


I had a question about an unusual combination of training that I have and was wondering if people can share their opinion.

Do storyboard artists for the animation industry always have to come from a character animation background, or can they come from a modeling/character design background instead? I love both storytelling and character design/modeling, but I have very little experience in character performance and movement.

My main training now is in 3d asset creation and concept art for games. At my school storyboarding is only taught to the people who studiy character animation. I transferred from a college where I studied art, psychology, and English (general studies before I found out about cg careers). So I feel like I would be good at storytelling and character psychology. I just don’t have the animation background through. The reason I chose to study game asset creation was because I liked telling stories by the way things looked rather than the way they behaved. Kind of like all the symbolism and imagery you learn about in English classes.
Sometimes I wish that the industry were not so specialized. When I asked to audit the story class (mostly for future reference so that I’m not only a modeler), I was told that it was a bad idea since I should be focusing only on modeling.

I was curious what other people think. Should we try to incorporate a personal touch into our learning, or should we do only what what is practical and will make our demo reel look professional, expert, and specialized?

note: i am aware that some concept artists also do storyboards, but I thought pursuing concept art was too competitive for me at the moment.


Most storyboard artists don’t start in animation; they start as storyboard artists. Many of the big studios have talent development programs for storyboard artists, and other people start by boarding for commercials or indie films. Moving from animation to story is certainly not unheard (and is almost certainly more common than going from modeling to story) but it’s not the norm.

Now, I don’t think that means story training is wasted on a game environment artist. If you can clearly tell an interesting story with a game level, you’re definitely going to stand out from the crowd of a thousand generic sci-fi hallways. Also, there are enough tiny indie studios out there that’s it’s not totally inconceivable that you could find a place where you’d get the chance to both board and build levels.

Another note, if you enjoy doing concept art, you should absolutely keep doing that alongside the modeling. Being able to draw and paint well is definitely an asset for an environment artist, even if your concept art isn’t quite on the level where you could get a full time concept-art job. It’s not rare to see job listings from small to mid-sized studios explicitly ask for examples of 2d work in environment artists’ portfolios.

I’m guessing here, but it sounds like your school is very much focused on getting you the skills you need for an entry-level job to the exclusion of giving you the broad skill base that will help you develop over the course of your career. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (there are certainly many, many schools that go too far in the other direction, my alma matter included), but it might mean you need to push and ignore some advice in order to get the best possible education. I guess basically what it boils down to is that you should absolutely explore and expierment some, but if you find your modeling abilities are lagging compared to your more singular classmates, you should focus back in and don’t use “But I can do X other thing” as an excuse.


thanks for your reply, Meloncov. Much appreciated.

I think I’ll specialize mostly in character modeling, but make some time to reconcile my personal story interests into my work when possible.

I hope that the specialized work world understands that not all employees’ skill comes only from their demo reel and specialized training. An employee could potentially be amazing at something but may never have been given the chance to show it yet, due to the fact that their training might not have emphasized that specific skill. But I guess you’re right in saying
that the demo reel is the number one priority and employers won’t just give training to anyone.


So you know, you’ll have a lot more chances for storytelling if you focus on environments instead of characters (as well as an easier time finding work). At most studios, characters get worked out down to the minor details during the concept art stage, so the modeler is largely just executing that design. On the other hand, environment concept art tends to be a lot sparser, so the modeler gets more chance to add his or her own details.

Also, don’t expect an employer to care about any skills you don’t show in the reel. These skills will help you grow once you’re in a company, and hopefully head towards a role with more creative decision making, but they’re probably not going to directly help you get a job.


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