An Introduction to Storyboarding for Filmmakers
Storyboards are the most ubiquitous tool for pre-visualising what you’re going to shoot before you whip out the camera. If your story is mostly visual, storyboards can even replace a script.
By building the world of your movie on paper before you build it for real, you can share, test and refine your ideas without wasting time and budget. This agile approach becomes essential if you’re shooting a complex sequence or using lots of different effects techniques. Ridley Scott, for instance, storyboards every single shot if he’s planning a fast action sequence.
Whether you’re a great artist or not isn’t important. Stick figures and arrows will do! What matters most is that your storyboards are effective as both planning and communication tools. The goal is to get whatever is in your head down on paper, including composition, action (movement of actors or objects), depth of field, lighting, sound, camera movement and angle. That way you can make decisions and get feedback early. Often storyboards reveal what you need in terms of special effects and locations, allowing you to plan ahead and find creative solutions that deliver more bang for your buck.
Kevin Senzaki, sound wizard and storyboard artist at RocketJump, put together this great ‘Intro to Storyboarding’ video that covers these basics and more, with plenty of inspiring examples from movies like Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones:
Since Kevin whizzes through so many important points, let’s summarise a few basics to help you communicate clearly in your storyboard panels:
- Use arrows within a panel to show the subject is moving within the shot:
- Use arrows on the edges to imply camera movement:
So in the above example, the raptor lunges to the right, while the camera moves to the left.
- To show dolly movements, use a single arrow, narrowing to show movement in or out of 3D space:
- Use arrows in all four corners of the panel to show dolly shots and zooms. Arrows in all four corners can be used to show a widening of perspective:
- …or narrowing of perspective:
- To show how far your dolly or zoom goes, draw a panel within your panel:
- To show a pans use an arrow on the side of the panel, pointing left or right:
- To show tilts up and down use an arrow on the top or bottom of the panel:
- To make it clear whether the shot is tracking vs panning, or dollying vs zooming, use comprehensive notes. When in doubt, over-explain.
We’re plotting the launch of the world’s most spanking gorgeous storyboarding notebook, THE STORYBOARD, on Kickstarter soon. If you’re interested in becoming an Insider on the project, you can get involved and help shape the design, give feedback and get sneak peaks by filling in the contact form on our home page.
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