Tips on Effective Storyboarding

2 min


Whether you’re working on an indie, commercial, animation, or any other form of film, you need to communicate your ideas in an effective and clear manner. Having a script is one thing, but it doesn’t convey camera angles, lighting, and all the other aspects that encompass a high quality product. Storyboards are an effective way to show action sequences, how to properly time dialogue in a scene, and how the camera should move through a particular shot.


In the beginning of a work, storyboards help to communicate the concept and later on, they are crucial to edit and polish the final product. Effective storyboards will also include technical notes as well. A well-designed and implemented storyboard will ensure that everyone, from the screenwriter to the director, producers, and editors are all on the same page and that can help to avoid costly misunderstandings.


Different kinds of storyboards


There is no particular right or wrong way to design and create storyboards. Some are simple, basic sketches done on plain paper while others can constitute advanced illustrations on harder backdrops. Technology has also allowed producers and directors to use computer programs to create their own storyboards. The level of quality and detail that you want to put into your storyboards is entirely up to you. The amount of time that you have for production can also be a factor in the level of detail you can put into the storyboards. If you’re looking to sell your movie concept, though, you would do well to add as much detail, color, and frames as you can into your storyboard.


There are three basic levels of detail used in storyboarding. Low detail, medium detail, and high detail and they basically are what they sound like.


Before sketching blindly in the dark …


Before you sit down and begin sketching your storyboard, you may have the idea in your head, but you should put this idea to paper first, either in the form of a script or a creative brief. This helps you lay out the storyboards. Here you will want to list your key action points and sequences, as well as the climax of the story. This will help you determine how many frames you will need for your storyboard. Examples of key action points are chase scenes, emotional expressions, and even explosions. These are almost always included in storyboards.


When you’re ready to sketch …
Finally, when you’re ready to sketch your storyboards, you’ll want to use a basic outline at first. Don’t make the common mistake of trying to add color and contrast to small sections before filling in the entire view. What can happen is that you end up with a distorted image or scene. You add color and contrast once the outline is complete, and if you have the time.


Then you should bring in someone for a second opinion, someone who may or may not know the story line well who can offer valuable feedback on whether you expressed your story in enough detail, whether certain boards are necessary, or if there are gaps that need to be fleshed out. If the person asks a number of questions about certain scenes or boards, then you may need to clarify with some detail what is going on. For instance, some basic sketches in which a character is being chased could be misconstrued or misinterpreted.


Add notes


When you’re done with the storyboard, you may want to add some notes to each scene to describe what’s going on, some dialogue, or voice-over notes that are pertinent to the scene. This will help with the overall presentation of the storyboard and help sell your ideas, as well as the camera work that will need to be done, and special effects if necessary.


Effective storyboarding begins not with the level of quality, but with an understanding of the plot, the action, and scene organization and it ends with a clear and concise presentation through notes and organization. Keep your storyboards neat and organized and you’ll find that other people involved in the project will be on board with your ideas more often than not.


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Rick Davis


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