Storyboards are the very first visual representations of your script. It’s a very important part of the pre-production process because it clearly conveys how the story will flow. It also allows you to see potential problems that would not go unnoticed, and project your production pipeline in a more efficient way, ultimately saving your time and money. A storyboard forces you to visualize the shots you’ll need, the order in which they’ll appear, and how the visuals will interact with the script. It’s much easier to hash out the details during the pre-production stage.
Another one of the challenges in media production is communication. And with a storyboard, you can show a client and team exactly what you have in mind, and facilitate their feedback by providing visuals.
It’s an essential tool for making sure everyone involved is on the same page.
Today we are going to focus on Storyboards creation, the principles behind, common mistakes, and how to avoid them.
A brief history lesson
It is rumored that the first Storyboard was created in Walt Disney Studios for “Three Little Pigs” back in 1933 by the screenwriter Webb Smith. He used to draw scenes on separate sheets of paper and pin them up on a bulletin board to tell a story in sequence. This shaped the very first version of storyboarding.
Within a few years, the idea spread to other studios as well. It has been used ever since not only in the animation industry, but in film, advertisement, and pretty much any media production imaginable.
How to Make a Storyboard: Key Principles
For this article, we had the pleasure to interview Scott Bartley, co-founder of Bartley & Dick. Scott shared his experience of using storyboards both in commercials and animation.
What would you say are the main principles for building a storyboard?
“Start by asking questions. Who is my audience? What is the most important thing I’m going to communicate to them? Then outline the content and look at it. Ask yourself, can I simplify this? If you can, do. If not, then think about what is going to be the most visually appealing.
And when the storyboard is complete, review it again and ask yourself “Will this resonate with my audience”. “Is this interesting?”, “Am I excited about this solution?” Scrutinizing your work is key.” – shares Scott.
We can point out two main approaches to storyboard building:
1) Writing a script or
2) Doing the storyboards straight after the concept was created
Back in the days of Three Little Pigs, directors and screenwriters would start to storyboard their ideas right after they came with the concept or a basic story. And turn them into actions without writing a script first. Choosing the best approach towards storyboarding depends on the project’s needs. Smaller productions with fewer team members might find it easier to skip the scriptwriting stage and go on directly with storyboarding. Yet, taking into account the vast possibilities that animation software has opened, it would be more prudent not to leave a huge gap for interpretations. It might end up wasting the project’s resources.
In case you go with the scriptwriting, the storyboard will be sort of an extension to it. The main goal of the storyboard is to create the fullest representation possible of the finished video at the earliest stage of work and so to save time for alterations.
One of the important points to keep in mind while creating a storyboard is that it should be rough sketches. Leave the details to the illustrators. The most probable scenario is that you will need to make changes not once or even twice. And thus, spending time on the details when you alter your storyboards, again and again, can result in a missed deadline.
Now let´s talk about storyboarding techniques
Of course, you can always start with the old paper & pencil duo to draw the initial sketches. But while it might work for a 30-second promo, bigger productions require a wee bit more sophisticated tools. For example, Scott´s go-to tool for storyboard creation is “A sketchpad. All good ideas should start with a sketch. … And we don’t (use any storyboard software to share our work with our clients), but we should.”
There are a couple of storyboard apps available today. And finding one that suits your production needs, has enough features to create, adjusts, and shares your storyboard, would definitely speed up the pre-production stage. Krock offers an easy-to-use Storyboard project step, with the ability to readjust the frames with synced order, comment on lighting, camera moves, sound, and, of course, action.
Have a look at a brief overview of Krock´s Storyboard feature:
You can also export the whole Storyboard as a PDF, which comes in very handy when preparing a presentation:
Sharing your Storyboard in Krock with all the stakeholders, even if they do not belong to your Workspace is also made easy by Viewer´s access link.
Brainstorm before drawing your storyboards
Any creative process needs a warm-up and some inspiration. Storyboarding is no different. And every storyboard artist will tell you that there are parts of the job they loath to do and those that get them the most excited.
“The most exciting (part of the job for me): a fresh sheet of paper and a difficult communication challenge. That point where anything is possible, and it’s about to start. … (And) most boring: making endless revisions after the client’s legal department has reviewed.” – shares Scott.
As for inspiration sources: “We are constantly searching the web for award-winning work in multiple categories (advertising, film, motion, animation, etc) and from multiple countries around the world. Good communication transcends geography. We find inspiration and fresh perspectives everywhere.”
Turn to Classics
Turning into classics is always a good idea. One of the Storyboard artist´s Pandora boxes is definitely the archive of the Directors Guild of America.
Here you can find the Storyboards of the scenes from the classic movies from the 1930s to the 2000s. From Fleeing Atlanta Scene of “Gone with the Wind” to “Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix”. Here is a little peek:
CGI dinosaurs came alive for the first time in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park with an assist from storyboard artist David Lowery.
Ridley Scott’s Gladiator burst through the panels and suggest the intensity the director will ultimately deliver to the action.
Hopefully, you´ll get out of reading this article with some good insights on how to storyboard, and some inspiration and determination to optimize your storyboarding process. And in case you are serious about the optimization, making your team´s life easier, and production cycle smoother – try out Krock today for free or book a demo call, and our team will gladly tell you all about our agile Storyboard online tool along with all the other amazing features we have in store.