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Inside the Studio: Storyboarding

For this installment of our Inside the Studio series, we’re chatting with Jose Holder, who works as a storyboard artist for Assassin’s Creed, from the games to the comics!

05/12/201709:00 AM

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Inside the Studio: Storyboarding

05/12/2017 09:00 AM

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When it comes to crafting cinematics and in-game cut-scenes to important character moments, there first needs to be a vision that guides the animation team. This is where the storyboard artists come in. Before each scene is put into development, the storyboard artist creates the visual base on which the final experience will be built.

For this installment of our Inside the Studio series, we’re talked with Jose Holder, a storyboard artist working with the Assassin’s Creed team. Jose kindly sat down with us and spoke about his role in the Assassin’s Creed games and comics to give us a better idea of what goes into his day-to-day work.

What are your roles at Ubisoft?

"I’m the storyboard artist assigned to the Ubisoft Montreal Cinematics Department and I am working on the comic books, where I illustrate the world of Assassin’s Creed: Uprising for Titan Comics in the UK."

ACU Storyboard 1

How did you get started in this line of work?

"While teaching art at Apocalypse Studios, a school I opened to prepare students for the industry, I moonlit as a storyboard artist on television commercials for several local production houses.

Hundreds of spots later, I graduated to storyboarding films, then video games, getting my feet wet with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege for Ubisoft. Years later I returned on Assassin’s Creed Unity and I’ve been hanging out ever since!"

Can you walk us through the basic process of storyboarding a scene?

"I usually work with a script, breaking down my ideas into thumbnails or note form (most often). I work alongside my Cinematics Director to frame the intention of the scene, dialogue considerations and emotional currency, gameplay dynamics, mood, and pacing.

From there I move on to accumulating data for the boards, environments from the in-game world, and build a reference sheet.

That info will also include character designs, weapons, and props, if any. Further meetings with other branches of production, including the writing staff, can be very helpful. Then I’ll either do micro boards, fully rendered ones (for presentations), or animatics (short films) with editing and music. Storyboarding is just one facet of my job description, but it’s the most important."

ACU Storyboard 2

Does this process work any differently if you’re storyboarding a scene for a comic or a video game?

"In video games, a cinematic can be comprised of multiple design elements that affect the cost of completion in the form of gameplay, models, rigging, animation, textures, lighting, and location. Scenes are weighed against their counterparts for complexity and relevance. Once these areas have been planned out, I start drawing.

With comics, illustrators are the architects of the world and its inhabitants, down to the minutest detail. We have greater control over the narrative because we can choose what deserves more prominence on screen, so to speak.

There’s more to study and resolve as a comic book artist because it’s our duty to assemble all the pieces and display them in a sequence that best suits the intention of the writer/creator, our guide to the worlds we create."

Comic Covers

How is your work used by the other teams to make the final product that the players see?

"Great question! The most common use of my skills is the direct translation of script to screen, breaking down dialogue, blocking the scene, camera tracks, acting, mood, and pacing. These storyboards are used as pre-visual devices, to gauge the cost and importance of the shots.

Often I make animatics, short movies from my boards paired with music, in an attempt to define a scene’s duration or emotional value. The complexity of action sequences are the bread and butter for storyboard artists, the main reason we’re hired, and we cover every beat of a fight or chase scene that shares its roots with classic cinema.

Set décor on in-game locations, fully painted story art, character designs, comic book pages (team presentations), and motion capture recreations with actors round out my duties."

Is there a scene you’re most proud of working on for the comics?

"I’m having too much fun on Assassin’s Creed: Uprising to stop and smell the roses. It’s a freight train of fun and the writers Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters are pushing the franchise into new territory with these young upstarts in the Assassin and Templar conflict.

I make it a point of working on the scripts one page at a time, just so I can be as excited as the fans are. Because, really, I’m a fan too!"

Comic Insterts

The Assassin’s Creed community has a lot of passionate artists, do you have any advice for those who want to use their talents in the video game industry?

"Draw what you love. Draw as often as you can. And draw with purpose. Learn the fundamentals before drawing the final product. Take time to learn. Finish what you start.

Share your work with the art community and get constructive feedback. Build a portfolio for your chosen field. Go where the work is. Network, in person and online, but favor the former. Be presentable.

Post. Your. Progress. Everywhere!

And remember, your online presence is an extension of you, your work ethic, dedication, and your personality. Start your own projects and make your dreams a reality. Good luck!"

If you enjoyed this peek inside the studio, make sure you check out our previous interview with the Assassin’s Creed narrative team!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on Assassin’s Creed.

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