An Interview with Story boarding Artist Atul Chouthmal

“We share the same vision….i am just waiting to paint them on celluloid”…..This is what Atul has to say about what is common between Frank Miller, Satyajit Ray and Himself when talking about Films! We met Atul for understanding pipeline of Preproduction and Storyboarding trend in INDIA.  Atul Chouthmal is Storyboard artist, Associate Director, Associate Art Director, Writer and Concept Artist working on Indian Films, Commercials, Concepts and illustrations shares his experience and tell us about going on trend of storyboarding in Indian Animation and Film Industry.

                                               atul with director kabeer kaushik    With Director Rohit Jugraj   

                                                                 With Director Kabeer Kaushik                                        With Director Rohit Jugraj  

Atul has work for more than dozen Indian Feature Films- HANUMAN (2D ANIMATION)-Mr. V.G.Samant, Silvertoon), James(Rohit Jugraj), Naach(Ramgopal verma), Seher(Kabeer Kaushik-choice films), Manthan(AMRUTA FILMS), Being Cyrus(Homi  Adajania-Miracle Cinevision), 1.40 Ki Last Local(Sanjay Khanduri), Love story 2050(Harry Baweja),Krazzy 4, The Whispers(English Movie by Rajeev Veerani), Superstar(Rohit Jugraj), Chamku(Kabeer Koshik), Kites(Anurag Basu), Veer(Anil Sharma), Help(Rajeev Veerani), ROCKSTAR(Imtiyaz Ali),MAXIMUM(Kabeer Kaushik) RA-ONE(Anubhav Sinha). He did number of ad films with red chillies, Rising Suns, Chromepictures, Qed Films like Pepsi TV-faraha kh, Santro, Hero honda Passion, kalaniketan, Action Floatters, Tata Samandar, Punjab Bank, Jolly Drink, Santro, zapak.com, Dish TV, Hyndai accent, Birla sun life insurance, Nokia N82, Kenstar water purifier, Lux, Minto, Sansui, Sprite etc.  Atul is also Assistant Art Director for Films Sandhya, Chura Liya Hai Tumne, Naach, Paisa Vasool, Golmaal 1st etc. and he is associate to Director Kabeer Kaushik and Director Rohit Jugraj  He also writes films and graphic novels for his newly formed production House,  Atul Chouthmal Films (ACF).


Work Profile

After working on so many films and projects today Atul can be seen as milestone Artist for Storyboarding in Indian Animation and Film Industry, he has achieved success at very early age. As soon as he finished Graduation in Fine Art from Gvt. School of Art, Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada UniversityAurangabad, Maharashtra, India, he was one of the lucky one to be chosen for Preproduction work of Hanuman Film (2D Animation Film from Silver toon Studios) and from then onwards Atul moved to Mumbai and doing one after another one big budget Films, Commercials, and Song Storyboarding. He is multi-talented artist, who is not only working as storyboard Artist but is also as Assistant Director, Assistant Art Director, visualiser and Concept Artist for number of projects. His strong skills of communication, drawing and visualisation have helped him to achieve success in his work. His emphasis is that it’s very important for any artist to quickly understand and grasp subject matter, do research work and then participate in discussions. 

How you find Indian Industry adopting Concept Art and Storyboarding as major Pre-Production work?

Storyboarding is now getting popular among Production Houses due to its flexibility in discussion, jolting ideas and concrete concept visualisation. Now a day’s Indian films are very experimental and with growing technologies and increasing budget of the film’s cast, crew and production, it has become important to adopt process of Storyboarding specially for CG Films, Commercials and even short-films. As storyboarding provide easy way to visualize and understand flow of Story, Cinematography, Lighting,  Time Duration, Coordination with whole team, Indian Industry has started using concept of storyboarding for different projects. The days have gone when directors, producers and other members were only depend on screenplay script and discussions on the set. Because storyboarding also present visuals, it become easy for anyone to understand and execute shots and scenes easily. Other advantage is that now any time changes and updates can be done. Storyboarding also help actors and team members to execute shots in very less time with high accuracy, resulting saving of time, energy and money and of curse who don’t want to work systematic and comfortably and that’s why here storyboard make everyone’s job easy!

with Shahrukh Khan

Atul discussing Storyboard with Shahrukh khan (Atul is Storyboarding Artist forRA-One Film and working with Shahrukh khan, In-fact Shahrukh khan himself is giving lots of input for Film) 

What is difference between Storyboard of a Song, Film  and Commercial ?

Storyboarding for Films

A film storyboard is essentially a large comic of the film or some section of the film produced beforehand to help film directors, cinematographers and television commercial advertising clients visualize the scenes and find potential problems before they occur. Often storyboards include arrows or instructions that indicate movement. I have done storyboarding for complete Film, some part of  the Film scenes and some times only for a song. Here it depends on concept building and subject demand. 

Storyboarding for Animation Films

Storyboards are an integral part of any animation planning. It helps the director figure out the narration of the animation and the fine-tuning of the story. These are illustrated frames of each scene, showing the sequence of events in a comic book format. These storyboards are eventually animated to get a better idea of how the motion picture will turn out.

Storyboarding for commercials

Storyboards for a commercial can make it extremely easy for inexperienced people to create clips and ad films. The usage of storyboards for a commercial is widely accepted to be a very intrinsic part of ad making. Regardless of which famous ad company you refer to, you will find that they use elaborate and detailed storyboards for commercials to actually bring it to life and make it successful. There are primarily two ways that these storyboards would help you. The first would is simply that it would give you something to refer to in moments where you find yourself stumped about something. This is a very important benefit of storyboards for a commercial because it gives you a sound footing in your endeavor. Along with this, the second very crucial benefit of storyboards for a commercial is that they would allow your whole team to be on the same wavelength.

Apart from these storyboarding is used widely for composition and Live action films, Game designing, Web designing etc. 

What is on-location shoot storyboard?

Storyboarding artist is involved in all meetings of production team since conceptualization and till the end of production. Sometime storyboard artist need to be on shooting locations for explaining or handling any type of query regarding storyboard to team and actors. Talking about this, Atul told us that sometimes, time is very less so concept and storyboarding is done onset only, that’s called On-Location Storyboarding. Storyboard artist need to accompany director and team members on locations and sets so that he can create visuals according to location and correlate it with story.

With Salman Khan

What kind of material you use for making storyboards?

In process of making storyboard i use simple sketchpad and pencil for creating thumbnails, blocks, characters, BG’s etc and then transfer its drawing to Proper blocks of storyboard papers. Sometimes for giving much finishing to storyboarding blocks i also use digital software’s for painting and coloring.

What kinds of elements are included in storyboarding?

Storyboarding is an important stage in pre-production. In fact, storyboarding is probably the most important part of this initial creative stage. A script will indicate both staging and action. It describes the content of the scene, the characters in the scene, the dialogue, and overall ambience of a scene. Storyboarding takes those elements and to them you add the audience's point of view. Storyboarding allows you to plan each shot and each sequence in some detail. This stage is vital to work out camera angles and how to accomplish certain effects shots.

Veer storyboard

Storyboard From Film VEER

   Veer storyboard

VEER Location Shot According to Storyboard 

 Location set of Veer Film according to storyboard

What is the process of making Storyboard?

Talking about process of storyboarding Atul told us that it is duty of the storyboard Artist to visualise each scene from the point of view of the concern; he must work out the position of the character angle because same is going to be projected on the screen. Knowledge of camera angels and cinematography help to visualize and present what actually is expected from artist. Storyboarding includes drawing of character and its movements, camera lenses and movements, dialogues, scene and shot numbers and arrow marks for camera movements.

 veer storyboard

For creating Storyboarding i am depends on director and concept artist for creating visuals. Sometime artist also take help of Toys, Image references for explaining and narrating story, for example I used Horse toy for creating movements in VEER Film storyboard, A kind of spider men toy for Redchillies coming up film Ra-One during discussions.

veer storyboard

  veer storyboard

What kind of practice is followed for display, review and feedback of a storyboard?

Well these days we follow  practice of putting  storyboards up on a wall which is basically practice from PIXAR. This is comfortable way of following storyboard on shooting locations.This is the best way to get the feel for the course’s flow and how well it is, or is not, designed. Keeping them on the wall is also a constant reminder of the project, keeping you looking at it, and will call out to your director and team members to take a look and provide feedback.For small projects putting them all together as comic book and then showing for feedback is also handy practice depend on location, situation and number of people following it.

Can you share with us some of your storyboard shots?

Yes why not, just have look below shots as how a storyboard shot is depicted on screen in Films. Here Camera Angle is very important from audience point of view.

Case Study- Shot from film The Whisperers (Story Boarding and Actual film shot)     


Case Study- Shot from film The Whisperers (Story Boarding and Actual film shot)          

Case Study- Shot from film The Whisperers (Story Boarding and Actual film shot) 

These days digital media is also having impact on storyboarding medium where due to lack of time artist are using software’s? How convenient it is for artists?

The storyboard artists basically use drawing for storyboarding but today storyboarding is done digitally also where changes and updates can be done frequently. Software’s like storyboard Lite, Frameforge 3D Studio, Storyboard Artists and Storyboard Quick etc is used for digital storyboarding and instead of pencils tablets are used. These kind of software’s provide facility of easy camera defining, dialog editing, time story slide arrangements, coloring and same can be converted and played as   Animatics or Digital book for different purpose but using software’s practice is limited to companies who provide these facilities to artist or  an artist is having his own resources.

You are working with shahrukh khan as storyboard artist for RA-One, Share you views?

I had already signed the contract with Red Chillies and had worked on the film. However, they hired a Hollywood artist who had worked on films like Spiderman. He had a different vision and SRK sir was keen on me as he wanted someone from Mumbai. He thought that someone from the city would know the roads well. And all this happened even before I met SRK. I was called at Yash Raj Studios where he met me. He then took me to Filmcity in his car where we discussed the work. He had already doodled many sketches and he was very clear on how he wanted to go about the storyboard. I used to have creative sessions with him before every schedule and then with Anubhav Sinha. The work has really turned out good. We used a Spiderman toy to make everyone understand the shot. More than 50 per cent of the crew were foreigners and the storyboard went a long way in explaining things to them. It was an amazing experience working with SRK.

I was Interviewed by Mumbai Mirror, who highlighted regarding RA-One concept building. You can read my interview here.

Mumbai mirror articles

 Source clip: Mumbai Mirror 


What you think are key skills for becoming a Storyboard Artist?

Essential knowledge and key skills to be a storyboard artist:

  1. One must have the basic understanding of the film theory.
  2. One must have the basic knowledge of film camera and lenses.
  3. He/she should be a good storyteller and visualiser.
  4. Should have knowledge of digital media and image manipulation software’s.
  5. He should be able to interpret, visualise and implement ideas according to concept artist, cinematography and director.
  6. Excellent drawing and communication skills are must.

Atul,  Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us and ALL THE BEST for your career as Director, we wish to see you painting celluloid soon.

Smita Pandey
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All images and videos are copyright of Atul Chouthmal and respective film owners and here displayed for sharing information, do not copy or use content for commercial purpose