The Power of Storyboarding

What is your process for producing a video? Are you one to shoot on the fly, and make it up as you go? I used to be.

When I was in college, my Intro to Video professor forced us to do shot-sheets for every video we made. I hated it. How was I to know exactly what I would shoot? Oftentimes, I would make the shot-sheet after I was finished shooting. 

After a period of time, I began to rely on these shot sheets. It became a sort of checklist for things to get before I wrap a shoot. By the time I graduated, I had grown to spend as much time creating shot sheets as I did gathering footage.

Once I was out of school, I quickly moved over from the news/sports side of video in to filmmaking. Although I still used my shot sheets, I began to draw out my shots...in other words, I began storyboarding. Storyboarding is nothing new. In fact, it's been in the film industry as long as there's been a film industry. But as I began to use storyboards on a regular basis, I began to realize how valuable they were. 

Storyboarding Saves Time

Once the script is developed, I begin to put images to the words. It's nothing complex, just a simple page of empty boxes. 

 
 

By drawing out the script, I begin to get a true visual of how the film will work. Just by rough-sketching, I can walk into a shoot knowing exactly where we are heading. The time this saves is unbelievable. Instead of walking around a shoot aimlessly, we can move from shot to shot and call it a day.  

Storyboarding Shares Vision

Another great aspect of storyboarding, is it creates a way to easily share the vision with others on your production team. By being able to get an idea of what the film will look like, everyone will be on the same page in the field.

Once again, this will save time and potential arguments with your team. I have been in situations where everyone from the actor to the audio tech have opinions as to which way the camera should face or actor should walk. By dealing with these issues before you go in to production, time in the field will be focused on the appropriate tasks.

Storyboarding Allows Change

My favorite aspect of storyboarding is that it allows me to change focus or direction of a film before we even begin production. By mapping out the film visually, I can begin to tell what parts of the script might be weak, or if parts should be reorganized. 

I can remember just going out a shooting before, only to get in the editing suite wishing I had that one other shot. If only I would have shot from a low angle here. I should have panned left. These things I didn't have the opportunity to process in the field, could have been discovered through the storyboard process. 

 

 

Storyboarding Tools

The two tools I use for storyboarding are simple. Paper and iPad.

Paper is my favorite way to storyboard. I just created a PDF full of empty squares, and let the pencil do the rest. I guess I'm just old school this way.

You can download the template here.

I have also dabbled with Penultimate, which is owned by Evernote. What I love about this app is that I can quickly sketch, color, write, share ideas and boards with others...it's also Free! With its Evernote syncability, I can always have my boards with me. 

More info about Penultimate can be found here.

 

 

I know this is old news to everyone, but by taking time to storyboard my films, I have discovered a missing piece to my creative process. By developing a focus and look to the film before I begin production, I am able to save valuable time in the field. 

What are some of your storyboarding experiences? How has it helped your process?

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