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Tips for Creating an Impactful Storyboard for Your Next Video Project

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Creating storyboards for video projects is an essential step in ensuring that everyone is on the same page for your video before you begin shooting. Without a storyboard, you could spend a lot more unnecessary time and money on filming. If you plan ahead and communicate with everyone involved in the film beforehand, you will be one step closer to producing a clean, professional, and well-managed video project. Continue below for 5 tips on creating a great storyboard for your next video project!

What is a storyboard?

Storyboards a great way to visualize what you will be shooting in your next video project. When you are working with a team, it can be hard to make sure everyone is on the same page, especially with having everyone visualize the same thing. No matter how much you say it out loud, if team members and/or the client don’t have a visual reference for what you are talking about, it’s going to be hard to ensure that everyone is following along.

This is why we use storyboards! A storyboard is a visual, graphic representation of how your video will come together, shot by shot. It can be made up of a variety of different illustrated references or images that will showcase what your ideas are. Pair these reference images or drawings with a variety of notes to help your team and/or client to even better understand what you have in mind for each scene. Let’s discuss how to make the best storyboards so that everyone can get on the same page and quickly understand how you foresee the project coming together.

1. Provide Clear Reference Images

The first step in creating a storyboard is providing clear and confident reference images and/or illustrations. The good thing about the internet and the library of films that have been produced in the world is that there are plenty of reference images that you can use to help convey what you want to shoot, and most of them have already been shot before!

Obviously it would be great to showcase your exact idea before you’ve shot it…but that’s quite literally impossible – that’s why you’re bringing a team together to shoot your idea in the first place. Use reference images from your inspirations. If you want to showcase a certain composition for a scene, search for the specific scene on youtube and take a screenshot or still from this to show your team what composition and angle you have in mind. Providing the best reference images will help everyone better understand what you mean by a ‘low angle wide shot of actor walking through the city’ or ‘closeup detail of hands coming together to show romantic tension building.’

If you can’t seem to find the perfect reference image from one of your film inspirations using Youtube or Google, you can always illustrate your ideas or work with a graphic designer or illustrator to help show exactly what you have in mind, too. Sometimes when you show reference images from movies or shows that people have seen before can instantly transport them to that feeling from the reference. If you’re working on a comedy project, maybe it’s not the best idea to use a horror film to show the reference image. Always think about how one reference image or illustration will make the rest of the team feel. Ask yourself – is this going to help not just one member, but the whole team to better understand what you are trying to verbalize? Visuals are the key to an incredible storyboard, so take your time – it will make all the difference!

2. Add Tons of Notes to Make Your Ideas Vivid

Besides visuals, your notes are also essential to making the storyboard come to life. Pairing your reference image with specific things circled or highlighted about composition and other key pints will help everyone understand what you’re thinking.

For me, I was recently working on a storyboard and mentioned that a scene would have multiple team members showing the design process move from the physical prototyping stage into the digital rendering design stage. I had the reference images to show this as best as I could, but when we all went to review the storyboard before the shoot, the team was able to understand more of what I was trying to show because of the included notes about transitioning from physical to digital.

This part is just as crucial as adding high-quality reference images / illustrations because it brings everything together. Use your images, use your words – there can never be too much information to make sure your team knows what your ideas are.

3. Include Camera Details, Angles, and Equipment Needs

Another crucial step to creating an amazing storyboard is including camera movement details, angles and composition notes, and even equipment needs such as lenses, tripods or dollies, special audio equipment, and more. Skipping this step is a recipe for disaster when it comes time to shoot.

When reviewing the storyboard with a client or even with actors, this is something that does not always need to be addressed unless it directly affects a certain person, but it is always beneficial to have just in case. For example, maybe the actor doesn’t need to know that you will be switching to a 50mm lens for this next scene, but if they are going to have a dolly pushing in at them, maybe it’s good to make a point to them to not worry when the camera starts moving at them and that it might get close to them.

As for the rest of the team, especially the camera and audio crew, it is essential that they know ahead of time when camera setups will be changing, what equipment will be needed to get the shot, and what angle or composition will be produced in the image. If you have specific shot ideas… which I’m sure you do – then the team needs to know what the best setup is for the shot. Work with your DP to make sure you know how a scene should be lit, and what type of equipment you’ll need to capture the specific movement and angle/composition before you get on set. Are you going to be panning and following talent throughout the frame? or are you looking to create a still, wide shot where you won’t be following? Does the lighting need to change/move during the scene? Are we working in low-light or bright, daylight right now? All of these little details are very important and should be thought about far before the day of shooting.

4. Work With a Script and Shot List

Another piece of advice that helped me when creating some of my first storyboards was to work with the script and shot list while creating your master storyboard. Having both of these on hand while creating the storyboard will ensure that you do not miss a single step!

When you don’t have a script on hand while making your storyboard, you may think that a shot is well thought out, but it may not be fully put together. If you have the script for your monologue or dialogue, it will help you to better think about what is being said while talent is in the frame.

Will the subject be moving a certain way that will cause there to be a need for more camera movement? Will the dialogue be still and slow, allowing for different angles or compositions?

Knowing what shots need to be accounted for is one thing, but the script will really dictate how and where you are shooting from, so always keep your script close by when you’re creating a storyboard.

5. Add Animations and Gifs

Adding animations and gifs to your storyboard is another great way to visualize what you want to be showing your team how exactly you want something to be shot. Use websites like giphy, gif.com, and tenor to find or create animated gifs to show what movement will be occurring in your shot. Sometimes taking a still from your favorite movie isn’t enough to get the idea across. Using online resources you can create gifs to show exactly how you want to produce a shot in your next video project, so don’t shy away from using every resource you can find.

Always make note of specific shots that you like while you’re consuming content whether it be a funny social media video or while watching a movie at the theater. You never know when are where your inspiration will come to you, so don’t keep a guard up – allow inspiration to flood in and wash over your. It’s your job to make note of these reference and bring them back out to life when you’re shooting.

BONUS:

One bonus piece of advice while creating your next storyboard is to use the emotionality rule. When thinking about camera angle and composition of a scene, always think about the script and try to understand what emotion is being portrayed. If you are trying to create an intimate, personal shot, don’t shoot from a wide angle that’s really far away. Bring the camera in tight with the talent and show their facial expressions and their body language – being close physically helps to show that feeling of being close emotionally. Don’t shy away from being weird and different, but also understand how consumers read images.


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