Burn Notice – Season Finale Storyboards

Here are some storyboards I was asked to do for season 5’s finale of Burn Notice. I was on a feature at Dreamworks at the time so I was able to offer a couple hours a night after work as well as weekends.

The workload was ridiculous and these were done directly with no preliminary sketches (clearly).

To see all of the boards click here:

Storyboarding – Traditional vs Digital Media

Storyboards used to be and in many cases still are done using traditional media- paper, pencils, ink pens and markers. These things are easy to carry around and are inexpensive to purchase. They are both basic and fundamental. These basic supplies should be in the kit of any storyboard artist.

They are essential for situations where an artist is needed in an emergency situation, on location. One example was on a film called Five Days of War, directed my Renny Harlin. I was on location with the crew in a small town called Tsalka, in the Republic of Georgia. There was a huge exodus scene involving hundreds of local extras, thousands of blanks, pyrotechnics, animals, two Georgian attack helicopters and a camera helicopter.  The pilots were Georgian military and didn’t speak English. Renny was running into language barriers and had to be sure the pilot understood how he wanted the scene shot.

I got the call where I was working in a trailer back at base camp. I ran about 4 village blocks, trudging through thick muddy roads to the shooting location and was told what I needed to sketch. I drew up a few shots in a Moleskine notebook which was quickly handed off to Renny. Drawing is a universal language, if you can draw, you can communicate with anyone who can see.  Below are a couple of the on-the-fly boards, done in a matter of minutes for the Georgian helicopter pilot.

[Five Days of War storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

For the most part these days, I do work digitally though. There’s no shame to be had in it. Using technology to better your product, provide a better and more useful tool for your client and to work more efficiently is only wise.

Storyboarding or any form of commercial artwork is not fine art. It is impossible to cheat. You do whatever you need to to get your client, be it a director or whomever, something that will help them and ideally make them look as awesome and creative as you can. Using computers to create and manipulate images is an extremely efficient and effective tool. With computers, working digitally, an artist can reuse images already created, easily combine elements into new images, repair and adjust sketches, all in ways not possible when working on actual paper. Again, the aim is to get your client what he needs as fast and accurate as possible. Your job is to convey his idea, to duplicate it so that others can sync up with and work toward making his vision a reality.

[Five Days of War storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

Adobe Photoshop is a great program. I probably don’t even need to mention it. The program I use for all of my commercial, digital artwork is Corel Painter 11. It does have problems, glitches and needs to have plenty of kinks worked out but what makes it worth it is Painter’s brush engine. The brushes in Painter are awesome and often times, work created in Painter can be difficult to tell apart from work created in traditional media. Many clients still don’t like a very “digital” look. This is another situation where Painter comes in handy. You can work digitally and a client who doesn’t like a digital look will be happy with what you turn in.

[The Darkest Hour storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

Using draw on-screen tablets such as the Wacom Cintiq or tablet computers such as the Axiotron Modbook is also a very natural feeling way to go. Back in the Republic of Georgia, pretty much all of my work was done on a Modbook.

You can see more storyboards and illustration here.

Ideally, being proficient with traditional media is the way to go. Having that tool in your belt, explore going about the same thing using digital tools. See what works best. But ultimately, regardless of how you get there- tell your stories as best you can pull the viewer in and don’t let him go. Draw and draw a lot. Have fun!

Storyboards – The Original and Most Cost-effective Previs

“Previs” is a newer term used in the entertainment industry and is simply a short way of saying “Pre-Visualization”. In an industry which loves its little shortcut names this one is understandable.

Previs is simply a way to visualize how a film could look before spending all the money to make shoot it. Pretty general term, yeah? Nope- not today. These days, previs refers to one type of pre-visualization: 3D animated versions of shots and sequences using, obviously, computer generated 3D models of characters, props and locations, all “shot” with virtual cameras within a computer.

The effect of well done can often look quite amazing, but if the needed amount of work isn’t put in they can easily look rather corny as well. Either way,  it is an excellent way of pre-visualizing a film.

Previs is not easy to do. It requires a lot of time, talented 3D guys and therefor money. Previs teams will often employ storyboard artists to storyboard out the scenes they are going to build in 3D.

I do have a point to make, something I want to point out. Storyboards ARE Previs. If you want to pre visualize a film, the quickest and most cost effective way to do this is not by employing a team of guys with computers, waiting for a month or two for a somewhat crudely animated scene. The most cost effective way to get it done is to hire an artist with a pencil!



[The Darkest Hour storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

If you have the time and money, you should consider getting yourself a Previs team to render out your most important and hard to describe scenes and shots to get difficult shots figured out before getting out the fancy cameras, dressing your expensive sets and making up your talent. If you want a crisp, clear, relatively cheap and quick visual version of your film or key scenes- storyboard it!


[Five Days of War storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

To see some of our storyboards click here.

What Are Storyboards?

What are Storyboards?

Originally used primarily in animation, the storyboard used to be called a story sketch. The first storyboard artists were called story sketch artists. The name story sketch artist should tell you all you need to know about what they did. They sketched out stories or told stories using sketches. The word “board” came about because these small, sequential sketches created by these story telling artists were often mounted on a large board or sometimes a wall so that they could be viewed in order and could do their job collectively in telling a story. These “story boards” were viewed by others involved in the overall task of creating the final product, be it an animated or live action film. They helped the entire crew get in sync with one another and work together toward that final vision.


[Storyboards by Shari Wickstrom]

Imagine you were preparing to film your own movie and were working with many different talented and creative people to make it all happen. You have a lot of money invested and need to get it right. You have an action scene to film which involves a “red sports car”. Everyone in your crew who reads that in the script are going to imagine something different, even though they will all imagine what would be correctly described as a red sports car. Some will see Mustangs, others Ferraris. The car is described as “flipping violently” as its final, dramatic scene comes to a crashing end. Some guys will imagine it tumbling end over end, others will picture it rolling over its sides. Some might even see it hurling through the air like a frisbee. And, per the script- none of them are wrong!

This is where the Director of the film comes in. Primarily, his job is to be the the guy with the most ideal envisioning of the story. It’s his (or hers) imagined version of the story which is going to be translated to film. How does he insure that the rest of his crew works toward his vision? Do the producers just gamble on the idea that his verbal explanation will be enough? He does use good hand gestures when he talks… no. Imagine the stunt with the red sports car. The stunt coordinator goes ahead and rigs the car for the flipping shot and while it is technically still right, it’s not at all what the director envisioned- so, basically it’s wrong. Do you just settle for such mistakes when Hollywood money is at stake? Just bring out another Ferrari and load a new roll of film? Re-rig everything and burn another tens of thousands of dollars? Or, do you come up with a more simple and far more cost effective solution- storyboard out the scene long before you shoot.

[Twelve Rounds storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

Directors use storyboards regularly these days, not just in animation, but for live action film, television, music videos and television advertising. Storyboards aren’t just used for production purposes as described above, they are also used as a relatively inexpensive means of showing a client, say someone with a product they want you to shoot a commercial for, what the final commercial will look like. When dealing with the amounts of money it costs to make these things, when writing checks with such big numbers, it’s good to have a clear idea of what you’re getting. As a film maker, you’re dealing with a visual media- simply telling your client what you’re planning to do isn’t going to be enough. If you want to sell him, you have to show him.


[The Darkest Hour storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

Storyboards are usually drawn by talented artists. Some people try to cut corners and save even more money by using snapshots but these tend to look amateur and can limit  what you can show. You’re locked into what you can photograph and don’t have the flexibility that and artist with a pencil will provide.

While storyboards are a form of illustration, they don’t always need to look beautiful. An illustrator working on a single illustration needs that one piece to hold its own and blow some minds. In storyboarding it’s a little different. Each image itself is less meaningful and ideally isn’t meant to stand on it’s own. Collectively, a well thought out sequence of images, viewed together in correct order which tell a story- this grouping of smaller works is the storyboard artist’s illustration.

[Storyboards by Shari Wickstrom]

Each small illustration or “panel” (more of an older animation term) or “frame” (more modern term used in film) is like a brick. On its own it isn’t so fantastic, just a brick. Grouped together with care and creativity and you end up with a cathedral or a Great Wall of China.

[The Darkest Hour storyboards by Jonathan Gesinski]

A well thought out sequence is more important than each frame being drawn incredibly beautifully. Often times the client will just need a raw, basic and rather crude layout of a sequence sketched up. Everyone knows at this point that the red car is going to be a Ferrari so in your super sketchy storyboard frames it just might just need to be clear that it’s a car, period.

Other times though, it may be very important to have that car look amazing. Maybe the boards are intended to dazzle the investors, romance the studio heads and help produce more excitement and therefor money for the budget. This can be the case. The ideal storyboard is one which tells a story clearly and which also conveys a sense of the aesthetic which the final, filmed product intends to have.

[Storyboards by Shari Wickstrom]

The storyboard is often the first visualization of a finished film or video. It can be described as being similar to a comic book or comic strip but unlike those, it is not the end product but rather, it is an envisioning of the final product- a roadmap to it.

Doodles co is a very small and tight group of storyboard artists and illustrators who work out of the Los Angeles area but whom also tend to travel for work. We have been working in the film and advertising industries for many years. You can view our résumés and samples of our storyboard and illustration work here.



iPad Sketches

These sketches were done at a local coffee shop. Just folks hanging around. Done using the Procreate app for iPad.


iPad sketches

Here are a few sketches done on the iPad.

This sketch was me trying out different brushes in Sketchbook Pro’s iPad application. I did this at a nearby coffee shop while sitting outside.

Sketchbook Pro

These were done at different times. The chubby fellow with the mobile phone was at a Coffee Bean down the road. I sketched him as he talked to his friend while I was waiting for mine.

Sketchbook Pro

This gal is a friend of a friend who I sketched at a house warming party.

Sketchbook Pro

This one was the result of more experimenting with different brushes.

Sketchbook Pro

This one was a quick scribble in of a face trying to get a decent pencil look going.

Sketchbook Pro

More messing with pencil type brush looks.

Sketchbook Pro

This one again, took place at a coffee joint up the street. This old feller sits out there from time to time and plays chess with whoever wants to play. I sketched him for close to 30 minutes.

Brushes App

This guy was one of my first sketches on the iPad, just a quick test drive.

Sketchbook Pro