A storyboard is a visual representation of your creative ideas. It is basically a low-fi version of what the finished video will look like, rendered on paper. There are no set rules for creating storyboards, and you’ll probably want to find a style that best suits your needs. Using a storyboard is one of the best ways to let other people know what’s going on in your head and how to convert that into a video. It can also be used as a schedule for shooting (if your production has a set or on-location shoots), so knowing some basic guidelines can be useful.
Communication is key to a great production. Use storyboards to visualize your ideas and plan an efficient shoot.
What to draw
A storyboard is note paper with panels where you draw your concepts. You might be able to buy storyboard note paper or make your own. Try to use paper that is the same aspect ratio as the finished video.
Storyboards are typically used on set for two basic purposes. The first is to guide a setup crew through composing the details of the scene for shooting. This includes aspects like dressing the set, placing props, arranging cameras, and even where to position the microphones. A storyboard can speed up the time it takes to pull the shoot together. Secondly, a storyboard serves as a blueprint for shooting. If you have your concepts drawn out, you can often move through scenes and shots more quickly and efficiently than if you try to do it on the fly.
When planning out your storyboards, think about what a crew will actually need to see. It’s helpful to keep your storyboards simple. Consider noting several items for your crew (or whoever is going to help you setup your shoot) including 1) the setting or location; 2) how many people will be in the shot; 3) props; 4) camera angle(s); and 5) what kind of shots or camera movements will be used. You may want to add dialogue to the storyboard so that everyone can see when shots start and end. One way to do this is to put the dialogue notes at the top of the page or next to each storyboard panel.
- Draw angles and composition (Video in English)
- Storyboard Central: a blog on storyboarding and related topics
See it in action
Storyboards can be useful when shooting one continuous set of actionsVideos that use one continuous shot are currently popular, and they require detailed storyboarding. This unique music video, by the band Brunettes Shoot Blondes, was shot with fourteen devices in one continuous shot. Can you imagine what their storyboard looked like?
Storyboarding can be helpful when the action takes place in one locationEven when set in a singular room, storyboards can help plan out the flow of your video and determine when supplemental elements, like the animated drawings utilized in this video, could be added. (Video in English)
But what if I’m not good at drawing?
Don’t panic: you don’t have to be da Vinci to draw a storyboard. Just about anyone can draw stick figures, so if you’re not confident in your drawing skills, start there. Try to include enough information so that your vision can be communicated to other people. Some creators have found success taking pictures with their mobile devices instead of drawing, or, simply writing out a shot list.
If you prefer to put pencil on paper, it can be helpful to draw shapes that represent items you want to include and indicate the locations of people and props. Consider using tricks like drawing people’s faces large or small to indicate how far away the camera should be from the action. It’s usually a good idea to note what actions the camera will take, such as “pan left” or “zoom out.” Unless you’re creating a storyboard for television or film -- which typically adhere to specific standards -- just use notes that suit you.
Note the instructions
“Notations” (or notes) are the codes, instructions, or extra information that make shooting a video quicker. Sometimes it isn’t necessary to have any notes on a storyboard, especially if you’re shooting a small-scale production. But if you’re using a crew, you might think about writing them. Useful notes typically include the shot-codes used to position cameras, cues from the dialogue, and instructions for set layout. Try out different techniques: some creators put dialogue at the top of the page, create two columns on each storyboard panel and put notes on one side, or even add them directly to the picture. Use the methods that work best for you.
Remember, the main point of a storyboard is to communicate a visual style and to provide a shooting blueprint. Fancy or very artistic drawing isn’t necessary, and you can usually get away with simple stick drawings and notes. In the end, choose a style that suits you and that can be used effectively.
Are you including relevant details for shooting?
Focus on being efficient. Storyboards can be the blueprint for shooting. Consider including practical details about the set and simple drawings of what the finished scenes should look like. Add notes if you need them and make sure that people understand your notation style.
Are you able to communicate your creative concept?
Everyone involved on the day of the shoot should have a copy of the storyboard. More importantly, everyone needs to be able to look at your storyboard and use it with minimal instructions. So once you have created a personal style, it’s a good idea to explain how to interpret it. How long did it take for your crew to interpret your storyboards? Ask them if there’s anything else that you could add next time.