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  • Writer's pictureRavi Swami

Rabbit, Rabbit...

This blog post is a little late since the new CGI 3 part mini-series of Richard Adam's "Watership Down" aired over Christmas 2018 - a Netflix / BBC co-production, it was promoted as a highlight of the season.

This was a longish stint on what's called "development storyboarding" ie a "Beat Board" - key story points that ignored exchanges between characters and focussed on action / location changes etc - had reached the third episode by the time a small crew had been assembled to start the second stage of storyboarding, breaking down the beat board that Michael Schlingmann had been working on single-handedly for the better part of a year previously, as part of pre-production.

While many of the "second pass" storyboards went on to approval and into production, in general the storyboards were produced quickly in order to cut together an animatic and so get a feel for the narrative - once this stage had been reached a third pass might be approved for fine-tuning, re-working scenes or shots that didn't work or that imposed too many pressures on the production pipeline - this is a key part of the process since the production drew in resources from several studios overseas and therefore narrative had to be locked down in terms of shots to be animated, assets to be built etc.

The production started in a tiny studio hidden behind Charing Cross Road and moved shortly afterwards to a large studio in what used to be Central St Martins School of Art in Holborn.

As with "Moominvalley" later on, this was an interested learning curve and a change of gear from the usual tight turnarounds demanded by commercials that can tend to be non-linear in narrative terms and where storytelling is reduced to vignettes cut together.

With CGI it helps to keep in mind limitations of schedule and resources and a good paradigm that was applied by the director (whose background was in stop-motion) was direction for TV drama : keep the number of cameras to a minimum (more cameras mean more shots to render), establish a floor plan to determine where characters are in a shot, especially since there were a lot of "talking head" shots and it's difficult to differentiate one rabbit from another, certainly at this early stage where character designs were still being developed and where each character was going to have distinguishing characteristics.

I worked on 2 episodes out of three in tandem with the other board artists before moving on to other things in 2015 and so it was interesting to see the final result, and also to see if shots I had boarded had survived the edit, which in this case, had moved several scenes around as compared to the script draft we were working to.

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