What Is a Storyboard? Understanding the Basics

In visual storytelling, one tool stands out as an asset for filmmakers, animators, and video producers alike – the storyboard. So, what is a storyboard?

A storyboard is a visual representation of a narrative, designed to plan and map out the sequence of events in a film, animation, or any visual project. It makes video more effective and there is no doubt about the power of video.

According to a report by MotionCue, 96% of marketers said that video marketing showed a positive ROI.

The storyboard serves as a crucial blueprint for the entire production process, enabling creative teams to visualize, organize, and refine their ideas.

Read more: A Breakdown of Our Animated-Video Production Process

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of storyboarding.


Types of storyboards


1. Traditional storyboards

Traditional storyboards are the classic form of visualizing a story. They consist of a series of hand-drawn or digitally illustrated frames that represent individual scenes or shots.

Each frame is accompanied by brief descriptions, dialogue, and camera directions to convey the intended narrative.


2. Digital storyboards

With advancements in technology, digital storyboards have gained popularity. These are created using specialized software or graphic design tools.

Digital storyboards offer more flexibility and the ability to incorporate multimedia elements, making them highly adaptable for various types of visual storytelling.

Here is an example of digital storyboarding:


Let’s watch the video made out of this storyboard. Our video animation company made it for a client.

Like what you see? If you want a similar video, get in touch! Our team specializes in such videos.

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3. Storyboard animatics

Storyboard animatics take the concept a step further by adding rudimentary motion and timing.

They are particularly useful in animation and film pre-production, as they allow creators to get a sense of pacing and flow before committing to full production.


How to create a great storyboard

Creating a great storyboard is essential for effective visual storytelling.

Here are some steps to help you craft a compelling storyboard:


1. Understand your story

Before diving into the visual aspects, have a clear understanding of your story’s narrative arc, characters, and key moments. A deep comprehension of your story is the foundation of a successful storyboard.


2. Break it down

Identify the key scenes or shots that are crucial for conveying your story. These are the building blocks of your storyboard.


3. Sketch your frames

Create sketches or illustrations for each scene or shot. These do not need to be elaborate, but they should capture the essence of the moment. Ensure that your drawings are clear and easily interpretable.


4. Add annotations

For each frame, include brief descriptions, dialogue, camera angles, and any other relevant notes. These annotations provide context and direction for the production team.

For example, how would you storyboard a rotating room? Inception showed us how.

Storyboard by Gabriel Hardman


And here’s how it looked like in the final version of the film.


5. Arrange sequentially

Organize your frames in the order they will appear in the final product. This helps in maintaining a logical and coherent flow of the narrative.


6. Review and revise

Storyboarding is an iterative process. Continuously review and refine your storyboard, making adjustments as necessary to improve the storytelling.

Read more: Video Storyboarding 101 – A Guide for Novices


Why is storyboarding essential for video production

Storyboarding plays an important role in video production for several reasons:


1. Visualization

It transforms abstract ideas into tangible visuals. This allows the creative team to see the story come to life before production begins, helping to avoid costly mistakes and revisions later on.

Let’s see what the storyboard for the famous train battle in Spider-Man 2 looks like.

Storyboard by Chris Buchinsky


And now let’s watch how the scene in the film turned out to be.


2. Communication

A storyboard acts as a common language among the production team. It ensures that everyone involved in the project has a shared understanding of the creative vision, reducing miscommunication and misunderstandings.


3. Time and cost savings

By planning and refining the visual elements in advance, storyboarding can significantly reduce the time and resources required during production.

It helps in making more accurate budget estimates and preventing costly on-set changes.


4. Creative direction

Storyboarding enables directors to experiment with different angles, shots, and visual styles. This creative exploration helps in honing the artistic direction of the project.


Examples of storyboards

Let’s look at a few examples of storyboards in action:


1. Film: The Shining (1980)

Stanley Kubrick’s iconic horror film The Shining is known for its meticulous storyboarding.

Kubrick worked closely with artist Saul Bass to create detailed storyboards that guided the film’s eerie atmosphere and iconic scenes.


2. Animation: Toy Story (1995)

Pixar’s Toy Story utilized storyboards extensively to plan out the film’s groundbreaking animation. The storyboards helped the team visualize character movements, camera angles, and the overall narrative flow.


3. Advertising: Apple’s 1984 Commercial

Apple’s famous 1984 commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, had a compelling storyboard that laid out the dystopian theme and dramatic moments, contributing to its impact as a groundbreaking ad.


4. Graphic Novel: Maus by Art Spiegelman

While primarily a graphic novel, Maus by Art Spiegelman can be seen as a unique form of storyboard. It masterfully uses visual storytelling to recount the author’s father’s experiences during the Holocaust.

Read more: Animated Video Production: Online Tools vs Professional Services


7. Storyboarding tools and software

Storyboarding has evolved over the years, thanks to the availability of various tools and software that cater to different preferences and needs.

Here are some of the most popular storyboarding tools and software options:


1. Traditional tools (pen and paper)

The simplest and most traditional method involves using pen and paper to sketch out storyboards.

Pros: It’s easy to use, portable, and doesn’t require technical skills.

Cons: Limited editing capabilities, lack of digital collaboration, and difficulties with revisions.

The Tom & Jerry storyboard is a great example of a storyboard created with pen and paper.


2. Storyboarding software

Specialized software designed for creating digital storyboards.

Examples: Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, Storyboard That, FrameForge, ShotPro, and StoryFlow.

Pros: Offers a wide range of features, including digital drawing tools, pre-made templates, and collaboration features. Many software options integrate with other production tools.

Cons: May have a learning curve for beginners, and some software can be expensive.


3. Graphic design software

General graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or CorelDRAW can be used for storyboarding.

Pros: Familiarity with these programs, high-quality illustrations, and extensive design capabilities.

Cons: Requires graphic design expertise, potentially time-consuming, and may lack specific storyboard features.

Summer Camp Storyboard


4. Tablets and stylus

Using graphic tablets (e.g., Wacom) and styluses for digital sketching.

Pros: Provides a natural drawing experience, similar to pen and paper, with the convenience of digital storage and editing.

Cons: Requires an initial investment in hardware, and the learning curve for using tablets may be steep for some.


5. 3D modeling and animation software

For complex or 3D animations, software like Blender, Maya, or 3ds Max can be used to create storyboards.

Pros: Allows for precise 3D visualizations and camera movements, useful for complex scenes.

Cons: Requires 3D modeling and animation expertise, can be time-intensive, and may not be necessary for all projects.


6. Online collaboration platforms

Cloud-based collaboration tools that enable teams to work together on storyboards in real time.

Examples: Frame.io, Miro, Google Workspace.

Pros: Facilitates remote collaboration, comments, and feedback in real-time, version control, and easy sharing.

Cons: Cost of subscription, dependence on internet connectivity, and potential privacy concerns.


7. Smartphone apps

Mobile applications designed for creating quick and simple storyboards on smartphones or tablets.

Examples: Storyboard Composer, ShotPro, Cinemek Storyboard Composer HD.

Pros: Portable and user-friendly, ideal for on-the-go or small-scale projects.

Cons: Limited features compared to desktop software, may not be suitable for complex storyboards.

When choosing a tool or software for storyboarding, consider factors such as your budget, the complexity of your project, your team’s familiarity with the tool, and the need for collaboration.

It’s often helpful to experiment with different options to find the one that best suits your specific project requirements.

Regardless of the tool or software you choose, effective storyboarding remains a vital part of the pre-production process, helping you bring your creative vision to life.


That’s a wrap

In conclusion, a storyboard is a vital tool in the world of visual storytelling, enabling creators to plan, communicate, and execute their creative visions effectively.

Whether you’re working on a film, animation, or any visual project, mastering the art of storyboarding can make a significant difference in the quality and success of your production.

So, next time you embark on a creative journey, remember that a great storyboard is your roadmap to success.

In case you want someone to make a video for you. Get in touch! Our team of professionals would love to help in bringing your ideas to life.

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Posted by Samra Tiwana

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