how to storyboard

How to Storyboard: The Complete Guide

What is a Storyboard?

Remember when we used to listen to our favorite sci-fi audiobooks, we used to draw our favorite characters based on our imagination. Earlier it used to be just a hobby for some people, but now, sketching out the characters and the scenes from a story is important in video making and it is called storyboarding.

A storyboard is basically a visual representation of a film, video, or animation. It depicts scene by scene how a story will play out. It plays an important part in the preproduction process of any video project and consists of a series of images that show everything that is going to happen in the final piece.

Earlier these storyboards used to be hand-drawn and for that one had to have good sketching skills. However, today, if you do not know how to sketch, you can still make a storyboard and for that people are using storyboard software. The final result resembles a comic book or a graphic novel. 

Why is Storyboarding Important?

The storyboard is very useful in any pre-production process for a film as it clearly conveys how the story will flow with the help of a series of images. There are all the major shots, angles, and actions of a shot covered in a storyboard thus, allowing you to identify potential problems that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Identifying potential problems in the pre-production phase and rectifying them then and there would ultimately save you time and money. 

Here are some of the reasons why we think storyboard is important:

  • Will the concept work or not?– A storyboard can determine whether the concept will work or not. A concept is expressed in a couple of paragraphs and a storyboard helps the clients in validating whether the concept is working or not.  
  • Optimizing the budget– A storyboard helps to envision the look of the final products. Particularly in large-scale projects while using animation software and in cases of complex animations where it takes a lot of time and budget to develop, a storyboard is very useful as it will be a fantastic way for the client to see exactly what you have in your mind. Nothing is better than showing your clients the proposed frames in sequential order.
  • Identifying errors at an early stage– During storyboarding, you can identify most of the errors related to narration and media. Identifying these important errors at an early stage of the production saves a lot of time, effort, and cost.
  • Organizing shots– Any short video is limited by time and hence, it becomes very important to make every shot count. Storyboards are very helpful in organizing the shots and determining the best way to tell the story in an allotted time frame. 

What does a Storyboard Include?

How to Storyboard: The Complete Guide
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

While working on a script, you already know the sequence of your project. Now the next major step is to transform that flow and new idea regarding the project from words into a series of images.

While storyboarding for films, each image on the storyboard needs to include enough information that someone who has never read your script before knows what is going on in the project by only looking at it.

However, to avoid crowding out the relevant details, make sure your storyboard does not contain too much information.

  • Make your storyboard the graphic novelization of your script. Each and every panel of your storyboard should represent a new camera angle or a key moment in the action.
  • While working on a storyboard, make sure to cover all the important details you need on set to craft an exciting story in the editing room. This process also ensures that you do not exceed your budget in video production and special effects
  • While working on big action sequences, good storyboards can be supremely useful for drawing out your shot list. It helps in organizing complicated shoots. 

How to Make a Storyboard in 8 Easy Steps?

Here are the 8 easy steps to create your first storyboard:

Step 1- Break down your screenplay

The first step is to mark the screenplay with the details of every scene like the physical space, staging, action, blocking, etc. Breaking down the script includes highlighting all the key elements involved in a storyboard. This step is also important as it also helps in identifying the budget of your project.  

Step 2- Storyboard templates

You can use a paper and start sketching or you can use a specialist storyboard software for making templates. The most important objects in a storyboard are the characters and they must be in front and center.

Feel free to leave other objects somewhat sketchy as they only need attention when they have any effect on the story. 

Step 3- Scamping

In this step, you turn your script from words to something visual. Scamping should be rough and raw without any specific level of detail. This is done just to make some sense of the narrative.

Some important tips for scamps:

  • Aspect ratio- Choose your aspect ratio carefully as it will decide how you frame your images. Films are shot in the aspect ratio of 16:9, whereas social media videos are shot in 9:16
  • Make it rough- Scamps literally mean rough and raw. Do not get too precise in details
  • Keep it moving- Make sure your script does not feel slow, and there should be no leaps in time or logic. Remove the sections that are irrelevant to the script.
  • Chronological order- Do not break the chronological order in a shot. If your character is in a muddy river in one shot, he will need to have dirty clothes in the next.

Step 4- Editing the storyboard

After finalizing the storyboard, it is time to edit it for more subtle visual cues. Here are a few things to consider while editing the storyboard:

  • Setting the time of the day in a scene
  • Silhouette a character to check whether your scene makes sense or not
  • Do not overdo in staging elements and adding color   
  • Add a lot of variety in your shot types and camera angles 
  • Set up your subject within different layers of a frame to establish a sense of location and also add an element of depth to the images

Step 5- Add camera movement

Bring interest to your finished production by adding a variety of camera movements in a shot. Here are some of the best camera moves that you can incorporate in your shots:

  • Pan– Horizontal movement of the camera from one side to another along the central axis 
  • Zoom– The camera moving too close or away from the subject
  • Tilt– The camera is focused on upward and downward movements while at a stationary position
  • Dolly– Movement of the track-mounted camera towards or away from the subject
  • Pedestal– Ascending or descending movement of the camera in relation to the subject
  • Truck– Horizontal movement of the entire camera along a fixed path

Step 6- Add arrows for depicting motion

Movement is the essence of any video. Add arrows in your storyboard for indicating motion on the screen.

Arrows show us the directions in which the characters are going in a frame. It is the easiest way to depict movement in a shot that otherwise would have taken a million frames. 

Step 7- Labelling

Label all the shots with numbers, starting from 1. If you are using storyboard software, all the shots will be auto-numbered.

The most crucial information that should be included in any label is the type of shot, the camera movement, and a basic description of what is going on in the scene.

Step 8- Organize and share

It’s time to organize your storyboard and share them with your cinematographer, set designer, and other team members. If you are using the software for storyboarding, then you will have the added benefit of granting the permission.

Some people may just need view access while others like clients and executives may want comment access to give their feedback.

I think you now have a fair idea of what storyboarding is and who it is to be done. If you are already a painter, you’ll take no time mastering this art.

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