'Working with SRK and Salman was a dream come true'
Atul Chouthmal who has worked with top Bollywood actors tells us about his life and career as a storyboard artist.
A storyboard artist's work -- to illustrate films scenes before they are actually shot -- often makes a director's job easier. This is implemented in Hollywood projects, says Atul.
Atul has been associated with ad films and Bollywood projects like Hanuman, Krazzy 4, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, Love Story 2050, Rockstar and Ra.One. Recently Ra.One bagged the National Award for VFX-special effects, and Atul's storyboard is considered to be instrumental part of the process. A Fine Arts graduate from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad, Atul tells us about his life and career as a storyboard artist.
How do storyboards help in the making of a movie?
The main job of a storyboard artist is to translate screenplays and sequences into a series of illustrations, like in a comic book. These illustrations have two major functions; first, they help directors to clarify exactly what they want. Two, it makes it easier to sort out requirements like make-up, clothes and also computer generated images for special effects.
Storyboards are mainly required in films with a lot of action -- complex chases, fights and battles scenes. These need to be visualised and conceptualised carefully, then the shoots are planned accordingly. The need for storyboard artists is also gradually increasing.
Image: Storyboard illustrations made by Atul; Inset: Atul Chouthmal
'A storyboard artist needs good design skills to interpret other people's ideas visually'
So is a storyboard much like a comic book?
In many ways comic books resemble cinema. Both tell us stories in a visual form, linking framed images in a sequence. Comic book forms can help movie directors develop complex scenes with ease and proper planning. And being the director's right hand in conceptualising these sequences is the specialist task of the storyboard artist.
How does the storyboarding process begin?
Storyboard artists start working early in the production process. They meet directors and discuss the atmosphere and conditions of scenes to be storyboarded. During this meeting, the storyboard artist must analyse the requirements of the director. It is the duty of the storyboard artist to visualise each scene from the point of view of the camera; he must work out the positions of the characters and the angles.
What is the medium used?
Many are still comfortable using a paper and a pencil rather than a computer as they have better control over the movement and flow of the pencil. There are various storyboard software packages also available in the market like the Storyboard Lite, Frameforge 3D Studio and Storyboard Artists & Storyboard Quick. These softwares are usually used for the advances in the computer games and also animation techniques.
A storyboard artist needs good design skills to interpret other people's ideas visually.
'No special courses have been so far designed for Storyboarding'
Any special training needed?
This career uses creative talent and directional knowledge of artists. No special courses have been so far designed for Storyboarding. Most storyboard artists are graduates of Fine Arts, Graphics or Illustration courses. However, animation courses do teach storyboarding skills. A strong portfolio is important.
What are the key skills and knowledge needed to be a good storyboard artist?
You need excellent drawing skills. Try to develop the ability to tell stories and interpret other people's ideas visually. You must be able to think cinematically and visualise three-dimensional spaces. A basic understanding of film theory and basic knowledge of film cameras and the lenses is very helpful.
Thorough knowledge of image manipulation packages as well as a familiarity with relevant health and safety legislations and procedures are all very important.
'Deadlines are tight'
How did you start out and get a break?
When working as an assistant art director I met Rohit Jugraj (director) and he gave me a chance to do storyboarding for one of his films. My journey as a storyboard artist started from there.
Any obstacles during the process?
What we have made on paper may be a little different than what the team or director has visualised so convincing everybody can be a task! Also, deadlines are tight.
You have worked with Shah Rukh and Salman Khan -- your experience?
Since childhood I have been watching their movies and it means a lot when they personally appreciate and acknowledge your work. It was like a dream come true.