You have your idea. You’ve written your script, lined up your talent, secured locations and hired your crew. You’re ready to shoot your video.
Not so fast.
Do you know what shots you need? Have you selected your camera angles? Do you know who or what will be in each shot? You may have this all in your head, for now. If you want your video shoot to run efficiently and ensure you capture everything you need, it’s time you considered making a storyboard.
We’ve all heard the excuses.
I know exactly what I want to shoot.
I can’t draw.
The script has everything I need
Why bother with this extra step? Here are a few great reasons.
acts as a checklist to make sure you get all the coverage you need,
helps solidify your ideas,
can help generate ideas new ideas, and
lets you visualize how each shot flows into the next.
I get it. It’s your vision and I know you can see it clearly. When was the last time you forgot that one great idea? Mine occurred just before I started writing this. I didn’t write it down, so I know it’s lost forever.
You have your script, but the visualization of the final video is still in your head. What happens when you sit down to edit your masterpiece and discover you forgot to shoot that all-important closeup?
Thinking back, someone asked you a question, a minor technical glitch came up, or you desperately needed another coffee. Whoosh, the close-up flew out of your head. The vision was all yours so there was no one to remind you to get the shot. Now it’s too late to reshoot, so now you’re stuck trying to piece together something that may never work the way you pictured it.
Taking time to create a storyboard can be helpful if you are uncomfortable winging it when you shoot. Not only will it help guide your shoot, but you can work out your ideas before you waste time and money doing it on set.
A storyboard also helps share your vision with the cast and crew. By putting your ideas down visually, your crew can help you get exactly what you need to realize your masterpiece. Who knows, they may have some awesome ideas, too.
Storyboarding can help with all these issues. Yes, even if you can’t draw.
What Exactly is a Storyboard?
A storyboard is a shot by shot visual representation of your script or project outline. This brings up an important point. A storyboard is NOT your script. Your script should be the basis from which you create your storyboard.
There are only two basic parts of a storyboard—images and descriptions—working in tandem to represent each shot planned for your video.
The image shape should match the aspect ratio for your project. If you are doing a widescreen video, you’ll want a box with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio. For Instagram and other social media projects, a square box works best. Because this image represents what the viewers see, you’ll do yourself a favor to visualize each shot in the same aspect ratio as the final project.
Your slide, or shots, should follow the script. This arrangement will allow you to visualize how consecutive shots work together and transition from one to the other.
Now it’s time to draw. Okay, drawing isn’t really required, especially with the vast resources available online. If you choose to draw, you don’t need to be an artist. Stick figures or simple shapes can be used in place of people, animals, and other objects to get your ideas across. Clip art, photos and other images work as well.
Since each image represents a shot, there are a few things you should consider including in the description. Referencing the part of the script covered by each shot will ensure you have enough shots for the entire script. You don’t need to include the entire section of the script, so only the first few words should be sufficient.
You should include how the shot is framed. The most common framing types are close-up, long shot, medium shot, or screenshot. (A relatively new addition to framing types that is becoming common). It may not be easy for everyone to judge the expected framing based on the image.
Location, time of day, and important action or movement, not discernible from the image are important to include. If you cannot decide if a close-up or long shot would work best, include a note to shoot both options.
Your storyboard should be a guide, not the gold master of your video. Preparing shot options at this stage will help you remember to capture a variety of shots to give you more options in editing.
What’s the Best Way to Create a Storyboard
Now you know how to create a storyboard, I bet you’re wondering what’s the best way to make your own.
Anyone comfortable drawing may choose the paper route. A quick Google search for “storyboard templates” will bring up a plethora of sites with free downloads. Most templates will have four to six squares per page with lines for descriptions and notes.
If you’d prefer to use clip art or images to construct your storyboard, a technological option is the way to go. There are many sites that will help you build a storyboard, both free and subscription-based. But, there may be other options already installed on your computer.
You could use a word processing program to draw a box, arrange some images and type your descriptions. But, getting the boxes and images to align can be frustrating and time-consuming.
I prefer a presentation application such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote. You will create one slide for each shot. The slides are easily configured to your preferred aspect ratio. You will also have a bit more space to work than small boxes squeezed on a single piece of paper. The shot description, framing, and other notes can be added to each slide’s presentation notes. These programs have easy access to basic clip art and can import common image types. You can scale, crop and layer the images to build the scene you’ve pictured.
To share with your crew and talent, you can print your full storyboard. You can print one shot (or slide) per page along with presentation notes, but I prefer the handouts printing options. Selecting three slides per page allows you to include the presentation notes next to each slide, any more and this option may not be available.
It’s up to you
You’ve learned that a storyboard will help clarify your ideas, plan your shoot and ensure you get every shot you need to produce the perfect video. You have an understanding of what details to include and several methods for constructing your own storyboard. Best of all, you don’t even need to know how to draw!
Give it a try before your next shoot, I’m sure you will find it to be an invaluable tool