Start Storyboarding Successfully

The magic five P’s of success are repeated as follows: Proper planning prevents poor performance.

If you adhere to the above mantra storyboards will soon become your key production manuscript. A vital tool for the well-prepared, storyboards provide a key reference point throughout the production process, helping everything run smoothly when the cameras are ready to roll.

Possible to create without a penny spent, storyboards are useful for creatives, businesses and brands alike.

Read on to discover the what, why, when, how and more – helping you to start creating storyboards for shoot-day success.

What are storyboards?

Storyboards are a sequence of pictures, usually drawings, that represent the shots your planned visual content will contain, shown in order of appearance. They are created early in the production process as a means of visual representation and idea development, allowing the creative to turn their ideas into illustrations. They are then shared with relevant crew members, such as the director and production designer, and adjusted for shoot day accordingly.

Though a non-essential part of the production process – some may opt for only a shot list, or omit both altogether – neglect them at your own risk, as they present many benefits for productions big and small.

Why use them?

The greatest benefit of storyboarding is being able to see a vision come to life before you invest money and time in the finished product – a vision which can then be shared with the rest of the team, ensuring everyone has the same understanding and is working towards a common purpose.

As they are created in appearance order, storyboards also allow you to identify issues with the story, particularly visual issues, that were not previously obvious. These can then be fixed before time and budget has been invested on set.

What should it include?

Your storyboard should contain all the key narrative information, the characters and the props that drive the story forward. More superficial elements can be omitted, such as set decoration or background characters that do not contain a purpose relevant to progressing the story. For non-fiction, the ethos is the same, contain the core parts that help deliver your message.

The key is to visually tell your story, as film is a moving image medium and people interpret images faster than they do words, it is with this approach you will achieve greater success.

Be prepared to murder your darlings. If a shot is not essential, cut it.

How do I create one?

All you need to create a storyboard is a pen and paper. A landscape piece of paper works well with two rows featuring three boxes – these boxes represent your frames. Try and match the dimensions of your boxes with the aspect ratio you anticipate using. Then you are free to begin!

You can find storyboard templates to print for free online. One place is here, and another place is here.

You can also take a digital approach, using Photoshop or similar software, with a stylus and tablet. Or utilise online services such as Canva where you can drag in photos to pre-made areas. Try it for free here.

When can I use them?

You don’t need to be shooting the next blockbuster to warrant using a storyboard, use them for any shoot under any budget. They are a shooting aid, so if you feel they will make your production process smoother then you should exploit them.

Whilst created early in production they can be useful any time later on, i.e. to look at on set as a reminder of the overall vision. Or when new circumstances on the day present previously unseen opportunities you can refer to the original to see where there is latitude for adjustment.

Do I need to be a talented artist?

No, you don’t. Storyboards can be created by those of all abilities, as long as you can convey the key information. With this being the case, drawing ‘stick men’ will suffice, as long as it helps you through the visualisation process.

Paying a professional artist is a popular option however. The added benefit of using a professional is ensuring a greater level of clarity that will more closely resemble the final footage. This will make for a better reference point throughout the creative process.

Using a professional will also provide you with more visually appealing artwork which can be used as collateral in the marketing process. Share these images with your audience before, during or after production for eager onlookers to engage with and generate buzz.

Whether opting to undertake a modest effort yourself, or choosing to employ a professional, the aim remains the same – to illustrate the key visual information that drives the story forward.

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