Tips for Effective Storyboarding

Storyboarding_Main_Image
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much could I get for a strip of eight?

Whether you’re working on an interactive project, commercial TV spot, animation, or indie film – storyboards are an effective way to quickly tell a story, show an animation sequence, or describe a user experience. Storyboards are particularly effective at visually communicating action, timing of dialogue and voice-over, and camera movement in a scene. Early on in the production process, they are necessary to tell the story and communicate the concept. Later on, they serve as a guide to produce the final work – and they often include technical notes and markup. Detailed storyboards make sure everyone is on the same page and can often prevent major pitfalls that affect production and cost.

In this article you will learn how to create storyboards and present them. At the bottom of the post you’ll find free storyboard templates available for download.

GETTING STARTED

There are a variety of ways to storyboard utilizing different materials, illustration techniques, and levels of detail. Whether you want to sketch your boards by hand or use digital software – that part is up to you. However, the level of detail in your sketches is an important factor. Depending on the timeframe of the production, you should gauge how much detail to put into each board. Often times simple sketches work great and do a good job of communicating the story in a short timeframe. Yet everyone loves beautifully detailed boards and they are sometimes helpful when selling a concept.

  • LOW DETAIL: Simple basic sketching – good for quickly getting your ideas out.
  • MEDIUM DETAIL: More detailed sketching – great for showing more of the scene.
  • HIGH DETAIL: Polished drawing / painting – excellent for conveying the tone and mood of the scene.

Storyboarding_Samples

STEP 1 – PLANNING

Before you start sketching away – it’s a good idea to have a script or creative brief to help plan out the boards. Create a list of key action points and climaxes in the story or animation, so you can begin to plot out how many frames you will need to create. Key action points are parts of the story that stand out as turning points that affect the storyline. (Ex: chase scenes, character interactions, explosions, emotional expressions, etc).

Script_Image

STEP 2 – SKETCHING

Next download our storyboard template (here) and print out as many copies as you may need.

Using a pencil or pen begin to sketch out each board in low detail with rough lines. Focus on the foreground objects / characters that play a role in telling the story, don’t waste a lot of time filling in the background if it doesn’t impact the core storyline. After you have all the boards sketched in low-detail you can go back through and clean up your lines, add shading, and backgrounds if you have time.

Ironman_Sketch

STEP 3 – PREVIEW

At this point it’s a good idea to share your preliminary boards with someone to get feedback. Allowing someone else to review them helps identify if your boards flow and make sense. If you’re missing something or need to revise the concept, it doesn’t take much effort at this point to rework the boards. (Tip: Lay them all out or tape them to a wall so you can see them all in a row to look at the whole sequence).

Boards_Review

STEP 4 – DIGITIZING

Next scan in your sketches with a flat-bed scanner at 150dpi. Import your digitized sketches into the storyboard template PSD. Arrange each sketch in a grouped folder in order to keep everything organized. (Tip: A good way to make your sketches pop off the page is to run “Levels” on each drawing – darkening the blacks and intensifying the whites. This will blow-out any smudges or erase marks and make your lines bold and defined).

Levels_Demo

STEP 5 – NOTATION

At the bottom of each board you should include notes that help describe what’s happening in the frame. These notes can be a description of the action, dialogue or voice-over copy, time code estimates, or camera movements. These notes can help describe what the viewer can’t see and help tie the boards together.

Notes_Sample

STEP 6 – PRESENTATION

Now that your boards are ready to present the easiest way to share them in a universal format is merging them into a PDF. Save each board out as a JPG then merge them into a single PDF in Acrobat Pro. Now you can share your boards with whoever needs to review them. (Tip: Walk your audience through the boards in person or over the phone. This will allow you to add more description, immediately answer questions, collaborate on the spot, and get everyone on the same page).

Combine_PDF

AVOIDING PITFALLS

Storyboards can save you from suffering major production back-tracking when used properly. Some of these pitfalls include: broken storylines, out-of-sequence animations, mis-matched dialogue, and playback timing issues. Failing to identify issues like these early on can dramatically increase the budget of your production and affect its overall financial success. To avoid these potential disasters, spend time developing then reviewing detailed storyboards so you can identify issues ahead of time and create a solid plan.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to walk your team and your client through the storyboards.  Storyboards can be interpreted in many different ways and is important to make sure that everyone shares the same vision.  Just emailing a document is a recipe for disaster.

WRAPPING UP

The art of storyboarding is a powerful tool to help communicate ideas. They can create a dialogue with your team so you can develop a compelling and cohesive story. When used properly they can streamline production, get everyone on the same page, avoid pitfalls, and keep things on track.

Practice often and good luck.

DOWNLOAD TEMPLATES
- Single Frame Template (PSD) – Download Here

- Multi Frame Template (PSD) – Download Here