Storyboards have been around in one way or another for thousands of years. Early man painted their hunting on cave walls. Egyptians perfected this kind of visual storytelling with hieroglyphics that tell pharaohs’ entire life stories.
But this isn’t what most of us think about when we hear the word “storyboard,”. A storyboard is a tool that people use so that others can see how something is going to be.
The storyboard as we know it today was created by an animator at Disney Studios. Instead of using comic-book style panels for his work, he drew each picture on an individual sheet of paper and then pinned them all up side-by-side. This allowed multiple people to see them and make suggestions at the same time – perfect for brainstorming sessions and pitches to executives. The format became popular and spilled over from animation to live action, where directors frequently storyboard big action scenes before shooting them to give executives a sense of how they will look.
Creating Your Own Storyboards
Making a storyboard is very easy. There are lots of templates out there for creating a storyboard but you can also design your own very easily. You can download a Storyboard planning template here
A Storyboard is like a comic book. Individual pages have multiple panels, each capturing a specific moment of the story. Your storyboard should follow that general look, with a “window” for you to draw the action and a space for you to write in some dialogue.
The simplest and easiest way to draw a storyboard is to use a pencil so you can erase mistakes and create rough images for what’s going to happen in each panel. Many people use computer programs to create storyboards. You can also take photos and use them.
Your drawings do not need to be very detailed or look realistic. The point is to clearly convey information, so panels with stick figures and simple shapes where everyone understands what is happening are better than detailed drawings of people that don’t make sense.
Learn the language
In order to make your panels clear, it’s important to have a good understanding of camera shots and film language so that people can imagine how the final, moving version would look. Most of these are straightforward.
Close-up (CU) – The camera will be close to the subject. Close-up drawings might focus on a single person’s face, a glass on a table or something similar.
Medium shot (MS) – The camera is an average distance away. It may show the persons face and chest or two people sitting at a table.
Long shot (LS) – The camera is a distance away from the subject. This shot could be a landscape with someone walking in the distance.
Fade (fade in, fade out) – In a fade out, the subject of the shot slowly fades away until the image is completely black. For a fade in, a black image brightens until we can see what’s going on.
Dissolve – Similar to fades, but instead of going to and from black, one image fades and slowly becomes an entirely different one.
Pan or tilt – A pan is a movement from left to right or right to left. A tilt moves the camera up or down.
Tracking – A tracking shot is one where the camera itself doesn’t turn, but it moves to keep up with the action. You may sometimes see this type of shot at a sporting event such as running.
POV (point of view) – This is a shot where you are seeing something from a character’s perspective. You are seeing what they see.
Reaction – This shot could be used in an interview when you have an image of someone simply listening to another person speak.
Zoom – The camera will be moving closer to the subject throughout the shot.
Angles (high, low, level) – Level camera angles are the most common because they are even with the subject. A high angle can be used to make subjects look weak, small, or unimportant; low angles do the opposite.
Important points to remember when writing your storyboard
Clarity, which means telling just enough to make sure that your audience can follow the action and understand your intention. Pans, tilts, tracking shots, and zooms are important things to point out because they affect how people interpret the frame. Also consider identifying reaction shots, fades and dissolves between frames.
When we’re watching characters, your storyboards need to tell us what direction they’re going in if it’s not clear. This is especially important when you’re storyboarding a big action sequence, but even simple scenes can be confusing if the audience doesn’t know which way is up.
It is important to include at least some geography in each panel so that the audience doesn’t get lost. Make sure you have some kind of point of reference that lets us know where we are even if it’s as simple as an exit sign.
If drawing isn’t your strong point try labeling buildings, cars or people. It will let your audience know where they are and who’s in the panel.
How storyboards are used in film.
The film below demonstrates how a storyboard was used in the production of “Toy story”.