Every good film needs a storyboard. Whether it’s a sixty-second video or a feature length film, a storyboard is an essential part of the pre-production process.
What is a Storyboard?
Storyboards are illustrations that represent the individual shots in a film. They allow you to develop an understanding of your story-world before heading into production.
There are no set guidelines for creating a good storyboard, however, the essential aspect is the communication of ideas and concepts. This means that you don’t have to be a skilled artist, you just need to be able to communicate fundamental ideas.
Who creates a Storyboard?
This practice should be used as a tool to help realise and develop an idea. On a large budget production, the director will usually sit down with a storyboard artist to help articulate their vision.
Depending on the shoot, the Director of Photography and Production Designer will have an input in the storyboard process. However, this is something anybody can practice and use for their films.
The panel or frame represents the aspect ratio for the film. your sizes should match up to the format you’re shooting in. The two most common formats are 16:9 and 2.39:1.
It’s common practice to leave space for text underneath. By using both image and language, you can communicate key ideas in much more detail.
The storyboard artist should think in a similar mindset to a Cinematographer. They should be conscious of the effect of shot sizes, lighting and framing. All these things and more can be communicated through the use of a storyboard. It may help to label the shots using the relevant terms. (Such as establishing shots, close-ups, mid-shots, exterior/interior, dolly shot, etc.)
Arrows are a frequent and effectively used tool. Everybody uses arrows differently to convey different things, therefore they must be clear from an objective standpoint. They can be used to indicate movement, transitions and direction.
You can also use arrows to indicate a type of shot. They can show a change in perspective and give a clear idea of the desired camera movement. Here are a few examples of how they can be applied to a storyboard:
It’s better the over-explain than to keep it simple. The more you can communicate through the storyboard, the more accurately the film will be executed during production.
Storyboards are usually based off a script. Although, if your film is primarily visual, the storyboard can act as the script. By communicating concepts in as much detail as possible, you’ll be able to make sure the rest of the crew is on the same page.
Here is an example of how we used storyboards to visualise the Dear Mansa Musa film. Despite the drawings being far from perfect, we were able to get a better understanding of what shots were needed. We also discovered a few things that didn’t work in the narrative from this process.
These images were then put together in an animatic sequence. If you want to take your concepts further, an animatic is a great way to figure out the overall pacing and flow of the film.
Overall, by placing more thought and detail into the pre-production of a film, the better your outcome will be. To see some storyboard examples from well-known films, click here.