Steve Heneveld - Board Artist 

 Nickelodeon  Animation Studios 

Brad Yarhouse with additional notes from Susan Bonner 4.24.13

Visiting Artist Notes, Feb. 21 2013, Location: Kendall College of Art and Design

Steve has worked on several shows including Penguins of Madagascar and Monsters versus Aliens

What is the Entry Level Position at Nick? 

Story Board Revisionist is someone whose job it is to make changes to the boards based on feedback (notes) received from the director, supervising director    Changes can range from minor such as shrink it 20% or put it in TV safe, to whole sequences that need to be added fresh.  A Storyboard Revisionist is like being a sprinter, they need the changes right now.

Some storyboard artist are sloppy, but get away with it by being humorous.  The revisionist may have to add backgrounds, better character construction to define the board better. An example would be a character who is drawn reaching behind his back for laughs, but the physical construction of the CG model does not allow for the character to bend it's arms behind it's back.

Being a Storyboard Artist is like running a marathon.  You get six weeks to do an entire set of boards. The six weeks breaks down into 3 weeks for initial boards, then the boards are pitched. Afterwards you have 3 weeks to get the changes requested done.  Artists are responsible for pacing themselves and creating their own deadlines. If material is turned in late, you loose your job.  There are no holidays.  Deadlines don't move.

Other Jobs related to storyboard artists:

Live Action Storyboard Artist

Potentially work freelance with a rep. 


Take the drawings and combine them with the sound to create the animatics.


Process of getting a job as a storyboard artist:

 1. Move Plan on moving to L.A. 

2. Testing  Send in a portfolio to a creative studio. They may send you a test. Finding

 the proper fit at a studio is a difficult proposition.  They spend months at Nickelodeon reviewing potential candidates then, ended up hiring someone from Canada.

Studios don't pay for testing. So, if you are testing, you still have to make money.  Usually, when the call to let you know you did not get the job they have a P.A. (production assistant) call who knows nothing about your circumstances. - So, they cannot answer any questions about "why" you were turned down.  Your portfolio may come back looking like it went through a paper shredder.  

You get a week, and give it your best. You could be competing with at least 10 people at the time doing a test. It can be up to 6 weeks before you hear back because of the process.  Tip: dropping materials off in person may give you the opportunity to talk to someone and make a more lasting impression.

Even when you get a job as a full-time storyboard artist, you will be testing for other shows. Which means, that when you are testing as a new artist, you are competing against professionals.

What's included generally in a test: Model sheet, character poses, script (maybe a 1 1/2 pages which is a lot) they give you a blank panel.  They don't care if you do the test on paper but all productions are on Cintiq's.

  • Read the script over.
  • Learn to draw the characters before beginning. Have a little confidence. Keep it on character, within the context.
  • Be creative, do something that they have not seen before. Take it to another level.  They will remember you. 
  • For Monster Versus Alien he did around 200 drawings. 

3. Freelancing (for Steve) Several years of freelancing, without his wife working full-time,it would have been very difficult. 

4. Connections.  Check job postings on  http://storyboardsecrets.com/blog/ 

They really are looking for people, not just fake posting. But, get to know people, the folks you meet or work with (eventually) may end up a show director or creator, you just never know. 

5. Classes.  Continue to expand your capabilities. 

Find people you like (Steve liked some ones blog who worked at Dreamworks) You are paying for classes, make sure and participate in them.  Staying at home can put you in a rut. Someone with knowledge can help you move out of a rut. 

6. Preparing your Portfolio.  Always keep working on your portfolio, adding new

 material.  tip: Don't try to generate on-the-fly new material based on a posting, it's hard to make material that is good when you are rushed. It can be a four to one ratio between developing custom portfolios and getting a call back for a test. 

7.  Imitate excellence.  See what is out there. Copy other artists work.

(not to show anyone) Copy the work so you can see how the art is constructed. Break it down into shapes.  Try doing what they do, try different poses.

8. Interview.  Don't overdress. T-Shirt and Jeans is the staple. Usually, people are very nice. 

9. Entry Job. They let you know to test for full positions on other shows.

10. Also... Check out this KCAD blog post by Steve: http://www.kcad.edu/blog/do-you-know-where-youre-going/


Team Organization On Monsters Versus Aliens:

3 Directors per Show

3 Board artists per Director

1 Revisionist per Director


The day in the life of a storyboard artist at Nickelodeon


1. Script Read.  All the head guys are there from the various departments. (CGI, Design, Storyboard, The director, The Executive Producers) The script is read through. A bit of combat occurs between the CG and the storyboard artist. For example, pots may not be modeled inside, so the artist cannot show the inside. Those issues are gone through in the read.


2. Thumbnail. Three weeks till you pitch. (the scary part) When you leave the script read, you start out with thumbnails. Loose, very quick. Maybe only you can understand.  


3. Boarding. You typically have 19 pages of script, which averages out to 2 pages a day. The worst situation is when you get something that reads in the script "They Fight." That one line of type can be three days work.


4. Pitching.  You click through your drawings one at a time in front of the director, producer, etc.  You are trying to sell the script and the drawings. You want them to laugh. It's a performance –you do voices. They expect a certain professionalism.  They expect you to do the bare minimum and then they rip you apart.  It takes a thick skin. Someone will take notes for you. 

            As soon as they change one thing in your storyboard, it all falls a part. Like pulling on a thread, it unravels causing a cascade of changes.  For example, a hand gun versus a bazooka. This affects all the boards, how he holds it, where he hides it on his body. Where he stands, the composition and layout, etc.  Pitches last about 15 minutes.  One episode is 11 minutes.  Going past 15 it starts to drag for everyone.  The worst they can do is say "why did you do that?"  (Usually, because they told you to do it, even when it wasn't funny) 

            You need to follow all the rules of storyboarding (180 rule, TV safe, etc.)  There are also restrictions such as "no lower eyelids or no closing the eyes" because the character hasn't been rigged with lower eyelids.  Also Standards and Practices has to be taken into account and it can be weird what is allowed or not.

5. Finishes. Three weeks to finalize and complete. Final boards can run from the bottom end of 900 drawings for an episode to 1300-1600 for an episode. Steve tends towards the upper number.  The number used to be 300 drawings.

 6. Revisions.  On Monsters Vrs. Aliens, they added 3 weeks of revision so that artists get a chance to "cool down" after running a Marathon of 6 weeks of creating the original boards.

 7. Animatics.  Three rounds. Storyboard, Revision, and Shipping Animatic.


Drawing Jobs found on a Animated Television show (Monsters Versus Aliens):

    1. Character Designer.  Needed once and a while. Not often.
    2. Props. New props need to be designed before boarding begins. Anything from plunger to ray gun and it needs to fit in the style of the show.
    3. Art Director
    4. Board Artists
    5. Revisionist
    6. Directors
    7. Supervising Director

CGI jobs here in the states (Monsters Versus Aliens):

    1. Modeling Assets
    2.  CG Directors (occasionally they animate)
    3.  Effects Animation 


    • Storyboarding is the one job that cannot be shipped overseas.
    • Storyboard art is a balance of draftsman qualities Vs. Loose, funny drawings.  Some artist look like they rolled out of bed and did everything five minutes before deadline. They can get away with it if it is funny. On the other hand, drawing solidly constructed art especially in a CG show, helps. When the artist takes time to do a background and keep the art on model it helps the CG artist to match the storyboard.  Loose drawing may get a laugh and a pass, but they end up being revised to add backgrounds, clean it up.  Steve leans toward good construction.
    • Work fresh and loose. Unless you are working for a FOX network show where the style is tight and staged.
    • There are only so many new props or characters allowed per episode, and the production people hoard them to use for special occasions. So, you can't just add a new prop or character without it being considered and approved.
    • As a television boarder, you need to know how things move generally, there is no time to do animal studies. You have to make it or have a stock of ideas.
    • Keep references. Do studies in your spare time. Like how to draw noses. Review other peoples storyboards to learn tricks for how to draw particular characters.
    • Practice perspective. Very important as a storyboard artist.
    • No arrows, use key frames to represent the movement because it goes overseas, there can be no question what is happening.


Tools and Techniques.


When he changes a background he creates a new file, all of the shots are in that file. Then, he runs actions to clean up the files. He exports the individual shots.
He gets a FBX file for the backgrounds that can be rotated in 3D (only Quick Time 7 can do this) One of the advantages to working on a 3D show.



Bridge for pitching: using arrow keys.

Nick uses Photoshop - no Toon Boom

Cartoon Network uses Toon Boom



Macs - Production people and CG People on PCs 

Cintiq at home and one at Nick that's a little older