I am relatively sure that many of you are not spending enough time making video with the help of a storyboard. For some, this seems either intimidating or an excessive amount of work, or both. Proper use of storyboarding will save you time while shooting and perhaps even during editing. When you look at storyboard examples you will see that they can be easy to create with minimal effort. Some good storyboard examples that use stick figures (very simple type of drawing made of lines and dots) will help you to understand that storyboarding is worth the time.
A storyboard is an organizational tool for pre-visualizing. Before you shoot any video, you probably have a visualization in your mind’s eye. Storyboarding helps you to convey this to others and also enables you to see how your imagination translates to paper (or a tablet). A storyboard is essentially a collection of large comic strips, also known as panels. A single panel is an individual frame or drawing, within the multiple-panel sequence of a comic strip. The sequential nature of the pictures and the predominance of pictures over words are two traits that help define a comic. These storytelling panels have much in common with other media. Film, animation and comics were established as art forms in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Storyboards in the form of comics have been around for a very long time. Early precursors of comic, as they are known today, include Trajan’s Column (a Roman triumphal column, which commemorates the Roman emperor Trajan’s victories in wars.)
Storyboards have long been storytelling tools and they can be easy to create as a revisualization tool for video production, so why are some of you reluctant to draw them? Perhaps you are shy about your artistic skills. Well this isn’t about art, most storyboard examples simply show the framing of each shot. Panels are an excellent way to compose a shot without a camera. This is where you use the rule of thirds and choose a wide, medium or closeup shot. Panels can be used to plan depth of field.
On location, storyboards help direct the talent as to where they should place themselves properly to appear in the video frame as pre-visualized. Make several copies to distribute to everyone involved in the shoot prior to arriving on location and possibly bring more copies to review on location.
Storyboards are just a guideline. It is OK to veer away from the storyboard once you are shooting. Storyboards are simply a guide – not a rule. You will find that these comic strips will help you to separate the creative process of pre-visualization from the complex (and sometimes stressful) and technical part of the process of making video.
For those of you who are using storyboards regularly, thanks for your patience in reading this. The next time you are near other video producers, tell them just how useful storyboards have been to you.
Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.