I both empathize and sympathize with the time pressures our clients are under every day. They spend more hours in meetings, and experience more re-work phases during the creative development process with their clients than ever before. Once our clients finally get creative approval they are left with insufficient opportunity to thoroughly contemplate the nuances of concepts they are developing. Then, as we must work out estimates with producers and PM’s, by the time they get budget approval to order storyboard, animatic or print comp illustration from us, the schedule is compromised. Understandably, creatives want to brief us as quickly as possible so that we can get started. It’s therefore not surprising when, at the beginning of brief calls, clients say, “Do we really need to take you through this? It’s pretty self-explanatory.” The photo-concept (script) boards agencies prepare for feel and mood in support of the brief are great, but those documents do not speak with human tone and emotion. Without hearing the hard facts from the creatives and then engaging them in an interactive discussion to clarify their vision, we start work with no clear direction. And so, enthused, prepared to listen, analyze, and contribute as I always am, I encourage a full, detailed review.
The creative process is an organic one, born of instinct. The practice of conducting a brief, however, is a deliberate, linear skill. At the intersection of these two phenomena is a methodology I designed to help us help our clients advance the selling of their concepts. I call it The Complete Brief©. It is the guide my reps and I have successfully used when taking instructions on jobs. A proven tool for us and our clients to collaboratively facilitate efficient deep dives into briefing the illustration of ad concepts to be presented (and/or tested), it helps us move our clients from the “ideation” stage of creative development into “prototyping” their ideas.
The Complete Brief© (for storyboards – easily adapted to other forms of illustration):
1 – Frame Count – There is sometimes a discrepancy between how many storyboard or animatic frames the art director feels are needed to adequately tell a story and how many the budget will allow. Knowing the number of frames we have to work with at the outset helps us resolve which frames convey a concept in the most impactful way.
2 – The Idea – A short general description of the overall concept, noting setting and basic action – comedy, drama, etc.
For example, “It’s a spot about bicycles made from bamboo, and the magic of “riding bamboo.” We open on The Serengeti – early morning – wide vista – dramatic. The camera spots an aardvark in the distance walking toward an unidentifiable object leaning on a tree. There is a series of quick cuts between the perplexed looking aardvark and various indiscernible parts of the object. We push in closer to reveal it’s a bike against the tree, made of bamboo! After medium shots of the bike, we cut wide to see the aardvark ride off on the bamboo bike.”
3 – Location / Environment – A description of the location/s, covering these details:
a – Where are we?
Exteriors – Surroundings (city or rural), architectural style, landscape, foliage, etc.
Interiors – Decorative style, furniture, cabinetry, etc. – color & tone.
b – Time of day –
c – Season –
d – Lighting –
Tone – Bold and high contrast, or flat and soft; high chroma and colorful, or monochromatic and desaturated.
Temperature – Cool or warm.
4 – Characters – A description of the cast, human or otherwise, ages, overall looks / types, specific wardrobe for each (style, color, etc.), and if wardrobes change due to passage of time / days.
5 – Frame by frame review – Using the script and video descriptions, if written, discuss:
a – The basic action in each scene.
b – Who says what (if there is dialog)?
c – The specific moment of action each frame must capture.
d – The camera point of view: Where the camera is placed in the environment.
e – The camera angle: High, low, eye level, wide angle, etc.
f – The focal point: The most important area of visual emphasis in the scene.
6 – Does it track? – Check that the frames demonstrate how the film will visually flow from one scene to the next.
7 – Illustration Style (if not determined before the brief) – How are the intended film style and technique best illustrated in two-dimensional artwork?
By following The Complete Brief© we have eliminated the counter-productive thoughts that cause illustrators to second guess drawing decisions they make. Illustrators regularly report that having this kind doubt as they draw negatively effects the storytelling aesthetic they intend to create with impactful looking frames. The more information we give artists, the less time and effort they expend wondering WHAT they need to draw, and the more energy they invest in HOW to best illustrate the advertising idea at hand.
Armed with the comprehensive package of information from The Complete Brief© our illustrators are able to create the most meaningful artwork possible. Ultimately, that translates into us delivering highly effective images that can assist our clients in getting their concepts approved for production.
These are examples of the process working: