Lights, Camera, Action – Why Storyboarding Matters

In the world of film, animation, and advertising, storyboards are an essential tool for visualizing and planning the creative process. They allow filmmakers and animators to plan and refine their work before beginning the time-consuming and, let’s face it, expensive process of actually filming or animating.

A storyboard, simply stated, is a series of drawings or sketches that illustrate the key moments and shots in a scene. These drawings are arranged in sequence, much like a comic strip, and often include notes about camera angles, movement, dialogue, and other important details essential to a scene. Storyboards can be as simple or complex as necessary, depending on the project and the level of detail required.

To this day I over prepare. I draw storyboards for every scene – chicken scratches so crude that they amuse and horrify the crew. I send out shot lists, act out the scenes, and search for a theme that I can relate to. It’s my favorite time of the process.”

  Eric Stoltz

We have shot large scale projects from simple thumbnail drawings to short commercials on highly detailed illustrated frames. It really comes down to identifying your end result and the production process that will get you there. No matter the complexity, storyboards (and planning) are crucial to the process because they allow the creative team to work out any issues or problems in the story or sequence before moving on to the more complex stages of production. This can save time and money (yes, these are essentially interchangeable terms in filmmaking), as it’s much easier and cheaper to make changes at the storyboard stage than it is during filming or animation.

In addition to their practical value, storyboards also have an artistic aspect. They allow the director and other members of the creative team to explore different visual styles, camera angles, and lighting schemes, and to experiment with different approaches to storytelling. And because storyboarding is often collaborative it only enhances the filmmaking experience by aligning your team with an overall vision.

The ins and outs of storyboarding have been expertly summarized by some of the top artists in the field. We often look to the animation community for inspiration. One of our favorite people is Tim Hodge who has an incredible collection of videos available on his YouTube channel. He breaks down staging and framing in a recent post that we found helpful. Steven Spielberg shared his thoughts way back in 1978 on the importance of the process.

Storyboards provide a visual roadmap for the creative process.

Storyboards are typically created by a team of artists and illustrators, and they can be drawn by hand or created using computer software. The storyboard process typically begins with the director developing a script. The script is then broken down into individual scenes, and each scene is drawn out in a storyboard.

“If you are planning to make a film, I highly recommend using storyboards. They are a valuable tool that can help you visualize your ideas and communicate them to others.”

  ― Chris Valentino