How To Use the Art of Storyboarding

When attempting to convey the narrative flow of a script or concept, you might want to not only sell the idea that you have in mind but also help the client visualize how the idea is communicated to the audience. The best way to achieve this is through the use of a storyboard.

 A storyboard is like a comic book, with illustrated panels depicting the scenes that are unfolding in the script. A storyboard is very helpful in translating the written script into a visual medium because it gives the reader a way to “see” what is being described. A storyboard panel shows the way a shot is to be composed, giving a clear idea of how close or far an object or actor will appear in relation to others and it also reflects how it relates to the next shot. The panel will also show what portions of the script coincide with the visuals, what sound effects or musical scoring are heard, and give an overall feel of how the script will be told.

In addition, a storyboard gives the intended viewer a means to properly critique on the script. Being able to see the flow of the script better, the viewer is able to cite which shots need to be changed and which portions of the script might be weak and need to be rewritten. If ever, try restructuring the pacing or order of certain scenes to achieve a better narrative.

  • NOTE: When making a storyboard, you are not required to have incredible artistic skills. Keep in mind that a storyboard is intended to suggest the manner of narrative flow in a visual way and is not meant to be seen as final artwork the way a comic strip or a graphic design is seen. Stick figures and shapes are enough to suggest how your script is meant to flow, as long as they are labeled clearly enough to be identified.
  • Start with the script. Lay down the script in front of you and try to visualize how you want the narrative to be told. Take note of the key scenes in your script because those scenes must be given enough focus in the final product. Break down the script to an outline and note if there are any portions of the script that will not have dialogue.
  • Create your thumbnails. A thumbnail is a smaller sketched version of your storyboard. While a single sheet of bond paper can have six panels of a storyboard, a whole thumb-nailed storyboard should be able to fit in the bond paper itself, depending on the length of what you are actually storyboarding. A thumbnail is important in getting a visual feel of how the narrative should be told. Thumbnails will also give you a glimpse of what scenes may have so much dialogue that a wider variety of shots might be needed to keep it from becoming boring.
  • Visual tips! Keep in mind that when composing your scenes, there are films making techniques that can be very useful to achieve dramatic storytelling. An establishing shot, typically one showing where the scene is taking place, is a good way to build the over-all emotional feel of your story. Spatial relationships must be observed to retain an internal consistency of “who is where” among your characters and the set. Consider as well when transition devices such as dissolves, slides or the very basic cut are needed to move between shots. Also consider if medium or close shots are better in conveying what you want to say.

    Once you are satisfied with the overall flow, you are ready to create the actual storyboard. Again, keep in mind that storyboards are meant to be a tentative glimpse to how a narrative is told. It is normal for even the final storyboard to still have changes and editing made to it.

  • Create your storyboard. Whether you are creating your storyboard by hand (illustrating them directly onto paper) or using a storyboard software (examples include StoryBoard Quick and Celtx) at its most basic, a storyboard should have an illustrated panel depicting a single shot and the narrative and dialogue that would be present in that particular shot. If there seems to be far too much text under a single panel (which would mean the shot would be a long shot with lots of talking), consider breaking that panel into two or more panels so the audience sees more things happening during the same sequence.

    Also consider if the shots would work better with movement. Film making makes use of dolly, the track and the pan shots to give what would normally be a static scene more life. Movement can also be used to direct the viewers’ attention without having to break the shot with a cut.

Storyboarding is commonly used in film making. But don’t think you can’t use it to help visualize and convey things better when pitching ideas for a slide show, a commercial or even just a video presentation for a wedding. Creativity is your only limit.


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