|The Flash (2014) storyboards by Adrien Van Viersen|
Check out The Flash storyboards by Adrien Van Viersen!
The Flash premier was the most watched show in the history of the CW network. A few weeks back Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim tweeted several storyboards from the upcoming Arrow\Flash crossover episodes titled "Flash vs. Arrow" and "The Brave and the Bold". I tracked down the storyboard artist, Adrien Van Viersen, for The Flash and he agreed to do an exclusive interview for Film Sketchr where he talks about working on the show, his collaboration with director David Nutter and what kind of music he listens to while working.
Adrien Van Viersen is a professional concept and storyboard artist who's worked on major Hollywood projects like The Incredible Hulk (2008), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).
Click on the images to enlarge.
Maurice Mitchell: You've done a lot of TV work, but how did you start working on The Flash?
Adrien Van Viersen: I have a standing relationship with David Nutter. He and I have developed quite a working relationship and a friendship over the last 15 or 16 years. We've been working together since Smallville and I've worked on almost all of the pilots he directed since then. Subsequently, we have a kind of symbiotic relationship and we riff on each other and we know how each other works. It's been great over the last 16 years. So, that's how I got The Flash: He got The Flash, so I got The Flash.
MM: You said you did over 400 boards for The Flash pilot?
AV: I did over 400 boards for this one episode.
MM: What made it necessary to do so many compared to other shows which use a relatively small number of boards?
AV: Well, pilots are different from shows. Entirely different. Budgets of pilots are different from the actual episodes. So, you can't compare the budget on a pilot or the amount of effort and time that goes into a pilot to a show that’s in production. David loves boards. He's a very visual person and he knows exactly what he wants so he tends to shoot his boards. On the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles pilot we didn't quite do 400 but we got pretty close. It was a very involved pilot.
The Flash is the biggest pilot I've ever done and I'm pretty certain it’s the biggest pilot he's ever done. TV is changing so quickly and the expectations of the audience demand so much. We're looking at little movies. Feature quality material on a television screen in a 42 minute period. And in order to do that kind of production, especially a superhero production, you’re going to need a lot of boards.
MM: You worked on both Arrow and The Flash. How would you compare the complexity of working on Arrow vs. The Flash?
AV: The Flash is definitely the most complex. I only did a couple hundred boards for the Arrow pilot. Six or seven scenes or so and they were relatively small. I did all the water stuff on the raft and the island. The rest of the action was done by the stunt team. Arrow doesn’t have superpowers and, consequently, is a very stunt-based show.
They don't board a lot of that stuff. They do stunt-vis or stunt previs. It’s a quick video presentation of the action that they present to the director during prep so they know exactly what they're doing on the day. The action stuff is always very well-planned with either boards or stunt-vis. What makes The Flash more complex is that the stunt team and the VFX team have to work in tandem in order to seamlessly blend The Flash's 'speed force' effects with the live action and boards are an easy way to communicate that effort.
MM: I know that music and sound are very important to you from Big World Sound. What music do you listen to while working? Do you have a favorite playlist?
AV: Yeah, my favorite stuff to work to is pre-war jazz. Today I was listening to Artie Shaw. I also like 50s jazz. The stuff with less vocalizations. I find lyrics and vocals get in the way of my concentration. I can't think straight. Or I'll listen to film score. So, that's the type of thing I like to listen to.
I've been known to listen to music that matches the theme of the board I'm doing if I'm brainstorming a sequence on my own. It depends on the director. Some directors like to give me a shot list and they're meticulous. They know exactly what they want. I'm just there to be a service provider in that regard. And there are others that don't know exactly what they want. They want to react to something. So I'll do a thumbnail sequence for the director to react to and then I'll get changes. Everybody is a little bit different. Sometimes, if I'm doing a thumbnail sequence on my own and I gotta brainstorm without visuals, I'll play a 300 soundtrack or any other soundtrack that's appropriate to the scene. Something that fits the action.
MM: What is it like storyboarding?
AV: Storyboarding is a very solitary job. Its either me in my office or I'm having a meeting with the stunt team and the director. Or I'm with the director. I'm rarely on set. Especially with David Nutter. Most of my storyboard meetings with him are very late at night. The guy is a machine. He’ll call me at 11:30 at night and I'll be at his hotel until one in the morning. So it's a very one-on-one kind of job. I can't speak for all board artists, but I think it's probably the norm.
David and I recently did Game of Thrones and he's shooting that right now. So we did all that via Skype.
Skype works great. Not a lot of directors are comfortable with Skype. Otherwise I'd do a lot more work outside of the borders of Canada. But David and I are comfortable enough with each other that we do that without a problem. I can put thumbnails up to the camera and it's just like being there. But it takes a level of trust in that, I suppose. Working remotely takes a level of trust that not everybody has.
MM: So, when did you first start working with David Nutter?
AV: I got the call for Smallville. If I remember correctly, I was one of a couple of storyboard artists at the time. He'd done quite a bit of work here in Vancouver. He'd done 21 Jump Street and Millennium and X-Files, so when he came here he was very familiar with the crews. I got lucky when his regular guy wasn't available and got the job.
MM: Is there anything you learned while working on comic books or animation that helps you in storyboarding?
AV: Yes and no. All of those things you've mentioned are examples of visual storytelling, so that's the commonality between them. Of course, drawing in comic books I get to draw in a comic book style, and I bring that comic book style to my boards, so I guess there's that commonality. Storyboards are supposed to be clear. The type of comic books I did were a kind of 1950s action adventure style. That classical illustration style lends itself well to this job in terms of clarity. In that regard, comic books and storyboarding have that in common. Otherwise they don't. The major difference between comics and storyboarding is this: in comics, the action is compressed and happens between the panels, whereas in a storyboard, all of the action is on the page.
Storyboarding cartoons is very different from storyboarding live-action. The biggest difference is that in live-action, the camera always moves and in traditional animation the camera doesn't move. Unless it's a computer generated cartoon, the camera stays still and the animation gives the illusion of movement. The other primary difference is, in cartoons, you have to be a good actor. You have to be able to pose out all of the acting, whereas you're not supposed to do any acting at all on a live action storyboard. You don't do anything to imply that you're trying to tell an actor how to act the scene. You leave all the acting out.
Facial expressions you can leave in. For example, if Flash is angry or in pain. Basically, if it’s in the script, I can put it in the board. But if I have a moment in an action scene bracketed with dialogue and drama, I would do a couple of singles and a couple of overs and maybe a wide and that's it. The actors will do whatever they do. I just do the camera setups and leave it. Whereas if it were a cartoon, I'd have to pose out all the gestures and if they did any moving I'd have to move them. For two lines of dialogue in a live action board I might do four drawings and 15 for the same dialogue in animation.
Thanks for the awesome interview Adrien!
See more of Adrien Van Viersen's marvelous portfolio at http://www.adrienvanviersen.com.
Click on the links if you want to see more of Adrien Van Viersen's work or The Flash artwork on my blog.
What do you think of the storyboards? Are you looking forward to this episode of the Flash and Arrow?
Official The Flash Summary
"After a particle accelerator causes a freak storm, CSI Investigator Barry Allen is struck by lightning and falls into a coma. Months later he awakens with the power of super speed, granting him the ability to move through Central City like an unseen guardian angel. Though initially excited by his newfound powers, Barry is shocked to discover he is not the only "meta-human" who was created in the wake of the accelerator explosion -- and not everyone is using their new powers for good. Barry partners with S.T.A.R. Labs and dedicates his life to protect the innocent. For now, only a few close friends and associates know that Barry is literally the fastest man alive, but it won't be long before the world learns what Barry Allen has become...The Flash."
Created by Robert Kanigher, John Broome and Carmine Infantino.
Cinematography by C. Kim Miles, Jeffrey C. Mygatt and Glen Winter
Production Design by Tyler Bishop Harron and Ian D. Thomas
Original airdate: October 7, 2014 (USA)
Official Site: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/the-flash
© Copyright 2014 Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, Warner Bros. Television, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television Distribution. All rights reserved