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The Art of Storyboarding

storyboard artist sketching

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Storyboarding is an important step in pre-production for a film. It helps to map out the entire film shot by shot, and it allows everyone on the team to have a clear idea of what the final product will look like.

What is Storyboarding?

close up shot on an artist storyboarding

Storyboarding is the process of creating a shot-by-shot visual representation of your film. Traditionally, storyboards are created on paper with a pencil, pen, or marker and have a resemblance to that of comic books or graphic novels.

Oftentimes times, they will feature large arrows and other visual cues about camera and character movement. One of the most important differences between storyboards and comics is that the latter employ all kinds of frame sizes and shapes (panels), whereas storyboards maintain a consistent shape that matches the aspect ratio of the film.

Storyboards are not limited only to sketches but can also be created with illustrations, photographs, or even 3D renders. The goal is to have a clear idea of each scene in the film, and how they will flow together.

History

Our modern storyboard format was developed at Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s. There, they used what they called “story sketches” to depict the actions and scenes for their upcoming animated short films. Soon after, it was adopted by virtually all other animation studios.

The first feature-length film to use storyboards was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Every shot in the film was storyboarded before a single frame of animation was drawn.

Not long after that, live-action motion pictures began using the technique as well, with Gone with the Wind being possibly the first live-action film to be completely storyboarded.

Importance of Storyboarding

Storyboarding is important because it helps to ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page. It can be easy to get lost in the details of each scene, but by having a storyboard, you can see the big picture and make sure that all of the scenes fit together properly.

It also allows you to plan out complicated shots, set pieces, visual effects, and other production elements, which can save a lot of time and money in the long run.

Additionally, storyboarding is a great way to get feedback from your team before production begins. This way, you can make changes early on instead of trying to fix problems on the day in production.

Important but not Required

While storyboarding is strongly recommended and extremely useful in many regards, it isn’t 100% necessary to complete pre-production.

The veteran filmmaker working with a trusted group of collaborators can navigate production without the need for storyboards, mostly due to a verbal shorthand that has been built up by years of collaboration.

One example of this is Steven Spielberg’s work on E.T., which he directed without storyboards. This was a break from his routine, something deliberately chosen to allow himself and the cast and crew to experiment and find their coverage each and every day. “I decided that storyboards might smother the spontaneous reaction that young children might have to a sequence,” Spielberg explained in an interview with American Cinematographer magazine.

With exceptions such as this aside, storyboarding is an invaluable tool for most filmmakers and most films.

Storyboarding your Film

Even if you aren’t comfortable drawing or sketching, you can still storyboard your film. We’ll outline 4 ways that you can start the storyboarding process to advance your film to the next stage.

4 Ways to Get Started Today:

1. Sketch them Yourself

A common misconception about storyboards is that they need to be pretty or detailed in order to be effective. However, this is not the case. A storyboard can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be.

Even using stick figures and basic shapes to represent people and objects is perfectly acceptable. The important thing is that you are able to convey your vision clearly.

2. Hire a Professional

If you have the budget, hiring a professional storyboard artist is a no-brainer. A professional storyboard artist will be able to take your script and turn it into a visually stunning storyboard that will help you visualize your film.

Additionally, professional storyboard artists will be well-versed in the process. While they are not mind readers per se, they will have deep knowledge and understanding of what a director is likely to want to see and how to depict that in a storyboard format.

3. Student Discount (hire a student)

If your budget is limited, you can turn to art students as a less expensive approach to storyboarding. Many students will find the opportunity to try out a new medium fun and challenging.

However, when working with someone new to the art of storyboarding, remember that it will be a learning process for them as well, and you’ll need to approach the endeavor with a great deal of patience.

The most important thing is that you take the time to sit down and map out your film.

4. Use Software

There are a number of software options available that allow you to create storyboards digitally. Most of these options have built-in templates, stock photos, or images, making them a great option if you’re not comfortable drawing, or if you want to add more visual elements to your boards.

Wrapping up

No matter which storyboarding method you choose, the important thing is that you take the time to map out your film. Getting something, anything, down on paper (or screen) will help you to visualize your film and take it one step closer to becoming a reality.

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