What are image boards for exactly?

Hey guys, I was just wondering if someone could clarify for me the purpose of image boards (in terms of animation production). Miyazaki seems to use them to explore character/world design, as well as concept art, and general mood of the piece.

In the video I watched from Striving for Animation they used it more (it seems to me) to lock-down the scale and dimensions of the environment.

I guess my main question is: what are we trying to achieve with Image Boards, and when should we move on to the next stage?

I don’t know about anime production, but it seems similar to Visual Development and Production Art in Western Animation.

Visual Development takes place more in feature animation, where they pretty much have free reign over the premise of the story, discovering key story moments, compositions, locations, designs, art styles, new characters, etc.

Production art is when they start designing with a specific goal in mind, such as “what does the bat cave look like in this version of the series?” And “where is everything located?” It’s pretty much the model sheets for environment, props, vehicles, and characters.

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To me image boards are a collection of drawings to capture the feeling/theme of the scenario for a production. They are the film in a sense. With each image you draw you corner your film until it is clear what it is.

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Gotcha, so you’re saying it’s a bit like a combination of a storyboard and concept art? That was kind of the impression I got looking at some image boards by Miyazaki at least.

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From my experience yes. However there’s still a huge divide between TV, Film, and Game production. In both Game and TV production, there is very little work done exploring the “style” of the finished work. That’s not to say no style explorations are done, but it’s more like art done with the intention to explore style. It’s a focused step in the process.

Whereas in western animated film, it’s more like stream of consciousness rambling or exploring with no specific end goal in mind.

Miyazaki has a style of his own and his team knows how to translate that to production art. In games, it’s similar in that the style is usually photorealistic renderings, even if the locales and characters are fantastic. In TV, the style is decided beforehand and by the creator. The style of Tron:Uprising was pretty much decided when they hired Alberto Mielgo, for example. Motor City was destined to look the way it was when they hired Robert Valley. They had the style in mind and hired the people who could make it a reality.

Whereas Disney’s Tarzan, Pixar’s The Incredibles, Lilo and Stitch, were decided in the exploratory phases, in the visdev step. They had people and let them play until they found something they converged on.

It’s about the degree of experimentation allowed, and what aspects they’re allowed to experiment on. In that respect, I separate style from content. Location and clothing being examples of content, and line weight, rendering, use of contrast in light, etc being examples of style.

A great example would be Miyazaki vs Takahata. Mononoke vs Kaguya.