Dreamworks Animation Storyboard Rules

Independent Guest Author
Independent Guest Author
Content Writer
4 min reading·

Dreamwork storyboard rules

DreamWorks Animation SKG is an American film studio that produces feature and short animated films. In total, the company has released more than 20 full-length famous cartoons, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train a Dragon.

The studio was officially founded on October 12, 1994, after Katzenberg left The Walt Disney Company. In 1995, the DreamWorks SKG division was founded, which develops computer and video games - DreamWorks Interactive.

DreamWorks has an excellent reputation in the animation industry. They have several films behind them and continue to produce high-quality animation. DreamWorks is known for producing some of the best animated films. They have a  team of world-class animators, and they keep creating amazing content year after year. In their legendary logo you can notice the absence of text or inscriptions, which reflects DreamWorks' philosophy of making movies without words - they want viewers to be able to understand what is going on without a prior dialogue explaining it. The meaning of this logo can be interpreted as the best comes from the imagination.


And I would like to point out that DreamWorks is able to maintain the perfect balance, when children have something to laugh at and adults find food for thought. DreamWorks focuses more on humor, and the viewer finds it fun and interesting no matter how detailed the fur of one of the animals, or how much the location resembles the one that was inspired. Positive emotions are in the forefront and this is always in demand, especially given the events of the last year.

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The ability to animate a drawing - whether with comics or animation - is a beautiful thing. If we can make a child believe that an animal can talk and act like a human, that’s amazing. When the viewer’s emotions awaken, no words can express the feelings that the artist has at that moment.

The artist Ben Caldwell shares the rules of drawing storyboards in his blog that are taught at DreamWorks. Storyboarding is one of those aspects of filmmaking that takes your film from the damp and dark corners of your imagination and makes it happen here and now. His tips are great if you find that your boards are flat and lack the energy, tone, or composition you imagine.


Do not draw flat flat surfaces on your storyboards - this is very boring. Always imagine three-dimensional space: this will make it easier for you to build a dynamic scene, and in your storyboards literally appears the «depth» of the frame.

Place your heroes on the «grid». Characters should not float in the air - if you use strokes to indicate the surface on which the character stands, it will be easier to observe the laws of perspective.

DreamWorks advises Caldwell to avoid "tight rope" floors and to "think in 3-point perspective" as much as he can. It’s just more dynamic because the image has three vanishing points.

Fill in the front, middle and back planes - with their help you can build a «depth» of frame.

If you have several characters, mark each character with letters or numbers. This will help you during editing. Sometimes there is confusion on the footage with characters and objects, and if you keep the schematics with the original objects in front of your eyes, the design will be easier to implement. Also, DreamWorks recommends grouping up people to make choosing cuts easier.


Do not use parallel lines too often. Having objects parallel to the frame makes the frame uninteresting. Try to move the background to add depth.

Do not try to fill the whole frame space - let there be free space for the character to breathe. Be careful how you pick up characters, don’t squeeze them just to get them to the frame. This goes down to simple basics drawing. Just as in the case of video, the empty space is as important as the filled space.

Each frame over the shoulder should help the characters to speak dialogue. ‘Dirty’ shots make the scene more intimate, make it feel even hostile, making dialogue more important.

Characters should not look directly into the frame. Instead, their eyes should turn to the right or to the left corner. The direct view of the character into the camera can make viewers feel uncomfortable. DreamWorks wants their characters to be as inviting as possible. That’s why most of the characters stand in a square and look at your left or right ear.

Use various angles. Camera angles tell viewers a lot about how they should relate to the character and they can give the viewer information about the character. The angle above shows that the character is weak and afraid, the angle below shows the character as strong and influential.

Motivate your scene - use symbols to transmit special effects, sounds, head, and trunk rotations. As in editing, your storyboards should show the motivation for the cuts.

Check out Ben Caldwell's blog for more of DreamWorks' notes on his storyboards, as well as other great cartoons, forewords, and various art.

If you want to learn more about storyboard, read our blog and start working with MakeStoryboard!

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