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Stanley Yang
September 25, 2020

The Complete Guide to Making a Storyboard

You are preparing for your production and trying to plan out how to create a proper storyboard. You want to visualize every scene before you put the dollars into shooting it. How do you make a good storyboard that conveys the scenes for your crucial stakeholders?

Some filmmakers skip the step of storyboarding. Others might be doing it completely wrong. It's not easy to draw and format a storyboard properly.

However, creating the best storyboard frames for your shoot doesn't have to be stressful. The secret here is creating a storyboard efficiently. I've compiled these steps should help make the entire process clearer and simpler for you.

What is a Storyboard?

A storyboard is a visual representation of how the film will play out, laid out similar to a comic book format. It will include dialogue, camera directions, and accompanying notes. It composes of a series of scenes laid out in chronological order. It is the roadmap for taking your ideas to the big screen.

The more time you spend on crafting your storyboard, the easier it becomes to shoot the film. If you are meticulous in your planning, the shoot will actually be boring because you've planned for everything.

Generally, a good storyboard should communicate the filmmaker's vision and set out how you want your final piece to flow. It may be for a novel, short film, presentation, or marketing video. Creating detailed storyboard frames should simplify the entire creative process for you. Although making the perfect storyboard for your video shoot may consume a lot of time upfront, ultimately, it saves you even more time and money down the road.

How to Make a Storyboard

Creating a useful storyboard helps your team quickly get a feel for the film and what is needed to produce each scene. To make an effective storyboard, you must ensure that it:

  • Give guidance for the look and the feel for the camera
  • Include dialogue
  • Give sound directions
  • Indicate what page and scene
  • Indicate the camera placement
  • Indicate where the actors will be
  • Use drawings, sketches, or stand-ins to illustrate the scenes

Mark Up the Screenplay

Before you begin planning your whole storyboard, it's vital that you first know what story you plan on telling.

You must consider every little detail for every scene in your storyboard. You must also consider the physical space, blocking, staging, action, wardrobe, etc.

Typically, by the time you begin your storyboard, you have a breakdown and budget ready to go.

Understanding your script helps you to visualize every scene and critical elements that will be shot on film.

Therefore, the first step involves reading the script and visualizing it as you believe your audience would.

A few years back, making a script was commonly done using highlighters and pens on the print-out itself. Also, every scene's markings were summarized on a separate script breakdown sheet. It would then be printed, copied, collated, and distributed among the production staff.

But thanks to technological advancements and the digital world, filmmakers now need only share their breakdowns in the cloud. From here, anyone with access to that profile can make adjustments without the stresses of printing. Preferably, it's always best to use script breakdown software for the most efficient and effective results. All these elements affect what is eventually included in your storyboard.

Set Aspect Ratio

You will be dealing with a lot of framed boxes while storyboarding.

However, what aspect ratio should you use to determine the size of the frame for your camera?

Creating a visual storyboard panel that effectively captures your video relies more on the aspect ratio you use.

Some of the most common aspect ratios that you can use include:

  • 16:9 for TVs and online video
  • 1:1 for square videos, which is great for Facebook or Instagram
  • 1.85:1 for filming comedies and dramas
  • 3:2 for producing 35mm digital SLR video formats
  • 4:3 for non-widescreen TV standards
  • 2.39:1 for extra widescreen videos, and is suitable for action epics

Sketch Out Characters

Once you have determined your storyboard's best aspect ratio, the next step is to draw in your characters. You must also always remember to make your drawings as straightforward as possible.

You can go about this process in the old school way, using a pencil and paper. If you are a talented artist, this is a great option.

Another option involves using a drawing app or sketching program to generate your images—some of the most common storyboard programs and apps you can use to sketch out your characters.

Here are some of our favorite options:

With any storyboard you create, it's always vital to choose people you know will act as your film characters.

Other objects will be needed only when it matters to the narrative of the script. Take, for instance, the details of a car in your story. The vehicle itself will only matter when it is the focus of your shoot.

You can utilize cut-outs from film or magazines for your storyboards as well. It's a quick and dirty way of using visual references on your storyboards.

Pro-tip: If you are not a great artist, you can hire a professional storyboard artist to help you get the job done.

Can't Draw Well? Use Scamping

Scamping is one of the most critical storyboarding tips every filmmaker should know. Think of scamping as a rough draft of a storyboard.

Scamping is unpolished. It is a quick-and-dirty storyboarding method.

Scamping is often to help filmmakers create a more presentable storyboard in the next phase. It allows you to get input from key stakeholders before investing in the real thing.

Illustrate the Backgrounds

This stage of your storyboarding requires a lot more detail since it focuses on the surroundings.

You must also pay special attention to any other objects that will be shown in the story and know the reasons why they are there in the first place.

Not every panel must have an elaborate background. For filmmakers that focus more on their actors and actor movement, simple stick figures and lines will do the trick. Doing this will prepare you for your video shoot just fine.

Remember, it's always vital that you give your stakeholders a sense of space to discern their all objects to that space they are standing in.

You can also take pictures during location scouting as a reference to particular shots in the storyboard.

Use Indicators to Denote Motion.

The use of arrows in a storyboard is another vital aspect to consider, especially regarding indicating motion on your screen.

Movement is crucial for filmmakers. It's the quintessential difference between stills and film.

As such, it's always advisable that you add arrows to the images you are using in your storyboard.

Arrows show the audience where the characters in every image frame are going. Arrows should indicate whether your characters are moving towards the camera, away from it, walking down the street, or somersaulting in the yard.

So, they are fundamental aspects of your storyboard. Arrows basically condense what would take a million frames in a video to just a few sketches.

Use animatics for motion

This is the use of several storyboard images that have been edited together with sound.

They help to illustrate a sequence and a show of motion from the storyboard images.

However, animatics aren't always necessary. Still, it provides a sense of the finished product. Think of the animatic as a more involved preliminary step in the storyboarding process.

How to Make an Animatic

  • Connect storyboard images together
  • Add music tracks, dialogue, and sound effects
  • Show it in sequence

Show Camera Movements

Camera movements show how the cameras will move in each scene.

Specific camera movements should display what kind of camera shot it is.

These key details give instructions on where the camera tracks and the type of shot to get.

With a good storyboard, someone should know at a glance if you are using a wide shot, tracking a moving object, or eye-level.

These are the questions that this section answers. Such vital details must be noted below each storyboard frame.

Use arrows to display the camera movements.

Add Shot Numbers

At this point, you will be required to label all your shots with numbers.

Without labels, neither your crew nor creative collaborators will be able to follow along with your storyboard.

Adding numbers will help people track the different shots throughout the storyboard. If you have one shot across multiple storyboards, you can label it as 1A, 1B, so on and so forth.

If you are using storyboard software, all your frames will be automatically numbered, making your work easier.

Ultimately, every numbered label must be the type of shot, the exact camera movement, and the general description of what is happening in every scene. The goal here is to be as clear and detailed as possible but keep it practical.

Organize and Share Storyboards

By the time you get to this stage, you can now distribute your finished storyboards to the key department members to see what you need to capture.

If you are presenting or pitching your storyboard, this is the stage to do it. Your storyboard is a tool to show your vision to others.

This is the time to gather feedback from your client, director, DPs, 1st ADs, to talk about budget and logistics.

Wrapping up

There you have it, a detailed and elaborate guide on how to make a storyboard. Much like writing a script, you will have to put in some work and time to develop a comprehensive storyboard. The best part of using a storyboard is that it plans and shows your vision to the world. Follow the step-by-step guide above, and you should be set.

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