Storyboarding: What It Is & How To Use It Effectively

Mar 23, 2023 4:46:18 AM

What is storyboarding?

A storyboard is a series of sketches that help plan out a scene in a motion picture or animated video. It’s basically a blueprint for a video before the video is created.

Storyboards are mainly used in the film and animation industries, which include advertising. 

History of Storyboarding

Storyboarding became a common process in filmmaking, dating back in the era of silent films. 

Walt Disney made it a common practice to use storyboards for the entire animated feature film, and pioneered a lot of the methods and procedures used widely today.

It’s a common misconception that storyboards are not used in live theater, but the truth is that thespians and playwrights have been utilizing storyboards since the late 1800s to help plan out the placement of the actors, stage setups and scene props.

What is storyboarding used for?

Animation and live-action films both involve a huge amount of time-consuming work. 

So it’s best practice to have a storyboard to help plan things out before the final shoot or the animation work begins. 

Storyboards help map out the composition of shots, and the placement of the elements/characters and plan out the camera movements and perspectives. 

This is true even in animation where a traditional camera isn’t used, to help the animators compose their scenes. 

The art style of storyboards is usually quite rough and basic, looking more like rudimentary sketches rather than finished art since the emphasis is on the composition and placement of elements.

How to make a storyboard?

Typically, the process of creating a film or animated video is:

Conception → Script → Screenplay (optional) → Storyboard → Film shoot or animation work.

We get clear approval from the client at every step, before moving on to the next one.

Like building a house, you can’t go back and change the foundations once you’re already painting the walls.

So let’s break down these steps and learn how it all works.

1. Concept

This is the initial brainstorming stage and also involves some research on the part of our writers and creative leads.

We consider the message we’re trying to deliver through the video, and who it’s aimed at.

Multiple ideas are usually floated and narrowed down to two or three, and sent to the client to decide.

2. Script

Once the client has picked the concept they like best, we work on a final script.

 Here, we can use an AI script generator to help us create a polished and professional script that is sure to please the client.

Sometimes more than one version is sent, but they will always be in line with the approved concept.

At this stage, careful consideration is also given to the length of the video.

As a general rule, two and a half-spoken words usually equate to one second of video time.

This is important because the final animation takes a lot of time and work, and directly impacts the cost of the project.

So we usually include a word count and expected duration with each script version just in case.

Once this is approved by the client, we move on to the screenplay and storyboard.

3. Screenplay

screenplay process

This is an optional step in the process, as oftentimes the storyboard just does the same job. 

A screenplay is basically the script with an added description of the visual action being portrayed alongside the voiceover / dialog (script).

It’s pretty straightforward but storyboards do a better job of depicting the visuals than words, so screenplays are better reserved for longer-form content, like videos that involve multiple characters and run for over 5 or 10 minutes.

For shorter videos, we usually skip this step.

4. Storyboarding


The storyboard, of course, is a slideshow with the voiceover / dialog and a description of each shot written out beside the graphics.

In physical form these can look like a huge board with a grid of sketches and notes.

But today, with everything being online and team members and clients located all over the world, this is presented in the form of a slideshow in Google Slides or as a multi-page pdf for simplicity and clarity. 

This stage is quite important because it sets the template for the final work, and serves as a reference for the animators / filmmakers.

Things like transitions, zoom, placement of elements in the foreground / background, are all established in the storyboard.

If there’s any confusion, the animators will refer to the storyboard as a primary reference and guide.

In motion pictures, for example, it’s useful for the camera and lighting crew to better understand and diagram the shots before it’s time to shoot live actors, so that everything runs smoothly. 

This is why a good storyboard will make all of these factors as clear as possible, incorporating arrows and written notes to clearly explain angles, compositions and transitions and so on. 

Realism isn’t so important in storyboards, but these moving elements definitely are.

This is why storyboards often appear like rough sketches, but with arrows and written notes.

storyboarding process

The arrows depict movement and action of the characters and elements, but also clearly map out the lighting, and where the camera needs to zoom in or out, pan across, tilt, etc. 

Another factor is a key understanding of the timing.

A good storyboard artist will be careful to ensure that you don’t have places in the video where there’s a lot of voiceover / dialog but nothing actually happens in the animation, and vice versa.

The voiceover and script need to be in-step with the animation for a smooth experience.

One cannot “rush” the other or lag behind. It’s like a pair of feet working together to perform a dance– they need to be in step all the way.

If these instructions are clear and easy to understand, then you have a good storyboard for the rest of the team to work with. 

5. Art Styles

First, we send a few graphic art style options to the client for their approval.

The art style isn’t chosen at random, but rather, reflects the message and mood of the video. 

A cartoony style, for example, works best for character-driven stories with lots of humor.

Meanwhile, a mixed-media style works best for complex and serious topics like history and politics.

Infographic styles are most common in our industry because they’re easy to follow and explain all sorts of topics well.

3D styles are used where realism is important but animation is still needed, for example, highly technical fields like architecture and medical technology.

6. Graphics

This stage doesn’t apply to live action film or motion pictures.

But at least with most animation teams, the next stage is the graphics.

An artist will start working on key shots in final full-color art, often using vector software or layered Photoshop files depending on the art style.

These are like the individual static shots of comic book panels, which the animator then uses to “fill in” the movement and action for video.

In the grand old days of hand-drawn animation, these would be called “key frames” because they’re like the skeleton on which the final animation is built around. 

For example, imagine an animation sequence where a cartoon character gets out of his chair.

One key frame would be the initial shot of him sitting in his chair, the next would be a shot of him in the process of standing up, and finally a shot of him fully standing up with the chair behind him.

These would be the key frames, and the animator would then “fill in” the “in-between” frames between those three stages of him slowly standing up, until you get a smooth moving animation of the figure sitting, then moving to stand up, then standing up.

7. Production

Once the storyboard is also approved by the client, it’s time to really get to work with the final animation. 

The voiceover is recorded first, and the animators will work on matching their animation with the words in the voiceover as needed. 

As explained above, it’s just carrying out the final work of creating the final animation.

Even with massive improvements in technology and computers, this takes a lot of time.

As a result the bulk of an animation team is a crew of animators working with just one scriptwriter / storyboard artist, all overseen by a creative lead. 

The storyboard is key here in almost every step, so it must be clear and easy for the animators to follow!

Storyboarding for animated videos

Here at Broadcast2World, when we work with a new client, we start with a call where we get to really understand what their needs are. 

Some research is usually done to understand their industry, their offering, and their target audience.

This informs our creative decisions about what kind of video we’ll create for them. 

Every video is bespoke and tailor-made for the client and need, and no two are alike.

We then pitch a few options for the concept, and often even two or three scripts for the client. 

The client picks the best one to go with. Sometimes there’s a creative back-and-forth where we work together to tweak the script and concept better. 

We offer our creative suggestions but it’s ultimately the client’s decision.

Next, we finalize the script. 

Once that’s approved, we move on to the storyboard stage and share it with the client. 

If they have suggestions or changes we incorporate them, and once approval is given, it’s time for the animation team to get to work.

The time and expense of the animation (and the entire video) depends on the complexity of the work involved. 

Some videos have more detailed and busy animation with many complex elements, others can be simpler and take less time. 

So there’s no simple answer to “how much does it cost to make an animated video” because it depends on these factors. 

However, we do our best to find a solution that meets the client’s needs and budget at the same time. 

Once the animation is done and the client is satisfied, the job is done. 

Our clients use their videos on everything from their landing pages, in social media, for internal employee training, and even as online ads.

In Conclusion

Storytelling in general is more art than science. 

But artists use a variety of techniques to plan out their ideas before executing the final work itself. 

Storyboards are one of many tricks that visual storytellers use to help perfect the finished product, and it’s quite effective.

We hope this rough guide was helpful and insightful, and wish you luck on your own creative journey!

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