Making a video can be a complicated undertaking. You’ve got to come up with a storyline, manage lots of small details, and decide how to edit the finished product. Luckily, there’s a low-tech tool that can make every aspect of video creation easier: a storyboard.
So, what is a storyboard?
Creating a storyboard simplifies every stage of making a video. You’ll be able to plan more effectively, pitch your idea to other people more clearly, and avoid problems during production. If you make any kind of business or marketing videos, storyboarding is an essential skill for you. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a clear understanding what a storyboard is as well as all the knowledge you need to start storyboarding your next video.
What Is a Storyboard?
A storyboard is a visual outline for your video. It’s made up of a series of thumbnail images that convey what happens in your video, from beginning to end. It also includes notes about what’s happening in each frame. A finished storyboard looks like a comic strip.
Storyboards can be simple or complex. They’re usually hand-drawn, although some people prefer to use storyboarding software to create their images. A storyboard is similar to a script, but the two aren’t quite the same – storyboards are visual, while scripts are text-based.
A simple example of a storyboard. Source: dummies.com
Why Do You Need a Storyboard?
Storyboarding adds an extra step to your video creation process, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Making a storyboard pays off in a number of important ways. So, if you're still asking yourself "What is a storyboard? How can I benefit from it when making my videos?", here are a few of the top benefits:
It helps you organize your thoughts. Making a storyboard helps you condense all the ideas bouncing around your head into one coherent, fleshed-out vision.
It helps you plan your video more effectively. Video requires you to coordinate a lot of small but important details. Because of this, it’s difficult (if not downright impossible) to create a good video on the fly. The more thoroughly you can plan your video, the better the finished product will turn out.
It helps you communicate your ideas to other people. You might be able to envision exactly how you want your video to look, but it can be hard to convey your ideas to other people using only words. A storyboard bridges that gap for you, helping your colleagues or clients envision the kind of video you have in mind.
It simplifies everything that comes later. Investing some time and effort up-front in a storyboard can save you much more time, energy, and frustration later on. If you’ve got a good storyboard before you start shooting, you’ll be able to bring your video to life more efficiently, and you’ll be less likely to make expensive mistakes or waste time on ideas that don’t pan out. Having a storyboard also makes editing your video more straightforward.
Which Information Should a Storyboard Contain?
Finding the right level of detail for your storyboard is important. Include too many unnecessary images, and you’ll waste time and energy that could be better spent on other details. Include too few images, though, and your storyboard might be hard for other people to follow.
The obvious answer for what to include in a storyboard: as many images as it takes to move the action forward in a way that makes sense. But the longer your video is, the harder it is to identify which details of the action are crucial and which you don’t need to draw. Even a one-minute video can pose some ambiguities during storyboarding.
But the longer your video is, the harder it is to identify which details of the action are crucial and which you don’t need to draw.
Making a few storyboards is the best way to get a feel for which information you should spell out. As you get started, keep these tips in mind.
Each major occurrence in your video should get at least one thumbnail to itself. Some events may require multiple thumbnails.
Each image should include characters, important props, relevant details about the setting, and information about how each element in the scene is interacting with the other elements. For instance, if your characters are walking towards each other, use arrows to show that they’re moving.
- As you draw each image, keep the camera in mind. For instance, if you want a scene to be filmed from a particular angle or distance, draw your thumbnails accordingly. This will help other people visualize the effect you’re trying to achieve as they look over your storyboard.
Pay particular attention to transitions. Each transition in your video should be marked by its own image.
Remember that you aren’t limited to using images. Each storyboard can and should tell a story with plenty of text as well as pictures. Include any dialogue and voice-overs next to the thumbnails where they occur. Add extra notes to clarify any important details and to make the storyline flow more smoothly.
Create the Perfect Storyboard in 7 Steps
Making your first storyboard is easier than answering the question "What is a storyboard?" (and we do hope you have it answered by now!) You don’t have to be artistic or know a lot about video to come up with a storyboard that works well. These seven steps will help you grow your seed of an idea into a finished storyboard that’s ready for production.
1. Define what you want your video to accomplish
Before you break out your drawing pencils, do some pre-planning. Start by thinking about what you want to achieve by making this video in the first place. For instance, do you want to sell more of a particular product, bolster your brand’s image, or create a training resource for employees? How do you want people to feel after watching your video? Setting clear, specific goals for your video will help you make more informed creative choices down the line.
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Come up with as many ideas as you can for your video. Write them all down, even the ones that seem wacky or terrible. Try combining different ideas to see what happens. After all, what is a storyboard for if not for putting all your ideas together?
If there are other people involved in making this video, have them brainstorm with you so you can bounce ideas off each other. You might be surprised at what you come up with once your creative juices get flowing.
3. Create a timeline
Once you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen in your video, start sketching out a timeline. Identify your story’s beginning, middle, and end, as well as any important transitions. Make sure the idea flows well, makes sense, and has an emotional hook. A short business video doesn’t need a complicated plot, but it does need tension of some kind and a satisfying resolution. If you find gaps in your timeline, refer back to your brainstorming notes for ideas about how to fill them in.
4. Start drawing
Now it’s time to start putting your vision on paper. Draw a series of boxes on a piece of paper or grab a free storyboard template. Make sure to leave a generous amount of space for making notes. One frame at a time, start sketching out the action of your video, comic book-style.
You’ll probably find that drawing by hand is the quickest and most accurate way to get your ideas down. Practicality is more important than artistry here – if you’re not good at drawing, stick figures will work just fine. But if your drawing skills are really getting in the way of your ability to convey your ideas, you can use storyboarding software like Storyboard That to get around the problem.
Storyboard That lets you build storyboards using a library of pre-made images. Source
You’ll probably find that you want to add or change things as you go, so stay flexible and have plenty of extra paper (and a good eraser) at the ready.
5. Add text details
If you’ve already created a script, write down the relevant part of it under each of your images. (If you don’t have a script yet, your storyboard-in-progress can help you write one.)
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Add some extra notes for each thumbnail to clarify what’s going on and supply any information you’ll need during production. For instance, if you’re planning to use a voice-over or have text appear on the screen at some point in your video, you’ll want to include that information at the appropriate point in your storyboard.
6. Get feedback
If other people are helping to make this video, show them your progress and ask for feedback. Early storyboard drafts give you a great opportunity to discuss creative choices, iron out problems, and ensure that your finished video will be in line with the goals you initially set. You may even find it helpful to sit down with your colleagues and draft your storyboard as a team.
7. Revise your storyboard
Revision is one of the most important parts of the storyboarding process. Instead of looking at revision as a chore, embrace it as an opportunity to experiment with different approaches and make your storyboard as good as it can possibly be. It’s wise to have other people on board during the revision process, so that you can give each other feedback and catch any mistakes before production starts.
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Tips and Best Practices for Storyboarding
The whole point of storyboarding is to create a better video while saving yourself time and hassle, so don’t let this part of the creative process become a headache in itself. Here’s how you can create a storyboard you love as easily and efficiently as possible.
Don’t get hung up on perfection. Your storyboard is a tool, not a work of art in its own right. Avoid getting so wrapped up in storyboarding that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place. If a messy or imperfectly-drawn storyboard results in a great business video, then it’s done its job.
The drawings aren’t as important as you think they are. Your creative talent matters during storyboarding, but your artistic talent really doesn’t. As long as you can convey your ideas clearly, it doesn’t matter if your characters are stick figures and your props are circles or squares with labels. (Although if you’re good at drawing, by all means, make use of your talent!)
Use arrows to show motion. Clarify the action and make your thumbnails more dynamic by labeling the motion of people and objects with arrows.
Number each of your thumbnails. If you create multiple versions of your storyboard during revisions, give each version its own name as well. This will make it easier to discuss your work with other people.
Use a pencil. You’ll waste time and paper (and probably get frustrated quickly) if you try to storyboard with a pen.
Experiment before you finalize your storyboard. Try moving frames around or creating slightly different versions of your storyline. Nothing is permanent in a storyboard, and trying different things can unlock your creativity and lead to unexpected new ideas. Just save all the versions you create, in case you decide to scrap one idea and return to an earlier one.
Your storyboard gives you a bird’s-eye view of your video, so use it. As you create your storyboard, you might find problems with your sequencing or plot that you didn’t catch while creating your timeline. Now is the time to fix these issues so that your finished video holds together well.
Use your storyboard to make things easier for everyone during production. For each thumbnail, make detailed notes about what’s happening and what visual or emotional effect you want to achieve. If you have details like props, angles, and special effects in mind, include that information too. You can write these notes on the back of your storyboard if there’s not enough room on the front.
If you want to create strong videos, whether for your business or any other purpose, storyboarding is an essential step in the process. Creating a storyboard helps you iron out the wrinkles in your ideas and explain your vision to other people – and it’s fun, to boot. If you’ve never made a storyboard before, try it next time you have an idea for a video (and we hope the question "What is a storyboard?!" doesn't make you startled any longer). You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how much easier the whole process of video creation becomes.
Have you found that storyboarding makes your video creation process simpler? Share your thoughts in the comments below!