Your storyboard is one of the most important parts of planning a film. Storyboarding is a staple part of the preproduction process, setting a visual outline for the shots, flow, and feel of the film. Although the final product might end up deviating from the storyboard, it is nonetheless essential for guiding the project.
A well-made storyboard makes production easier, giving the cast and crew a visual reference for the pace and style you have in mind. But how do you get it right? Here are some of the best tips on getting a storyboard right.
Make a Shot List
If you learn about what goes on a storyboard, one of the first things you’ll always see is a shot list. Storyboards will often have empty spaces alongside them where the creator can detail their shot list, describing in more detail what is happening in their storyboard panels. Storyboard panels might not always be very obvious, especially if you’re not the world’s best artist, so it’s useful to make notes about the shots.
For example, you might detail the type of shot (medium shot, close-up, establishing shot etc.) and talk about any camera movement that is happening within the frame. For instance, if the camera starts as an extreme close-up and slowly zooms out to a long shot, you might draw arrows on the panel to indicate camera movement and then follow this up by writing “ECU zoom out to LS” in the shot list area.
Sadly, there’s only so much information you can get across in an image. Sometimes you need to make notes to help the reader understand exactly what’s going on in your panel. Making notes can also help to give your storyboard more context. For example, if you plan to have a long, lingering shot on one of your main characters, briefly explain why. Is it a poignant moment in the story? Is the character realizing something? Give it some context.
Making notes can also help to indicate things like music and voice overs that you might want to include in the final cut but they’re not very obvious on a storyboard. Basically, your notes should help to explain what’s going on in your panel, why it’s happening, and how it will be shot/edited. Of course, you don’t need to go into too much detail – there’s definitely a balance to strike.
Think About Motion
On a similar note, it’s important to think about motion in your storyboard. After all, we’re making a motion picture, so it’s essential to get across the idea of movement on your static storyboard. If one of your characters is walking in a certain direction, use arrows to indicate this motion. If the camera pans in a certain direction, make a note of it in the shot list and use arrows to give us an idea of how it will look.
Basically, try to visualize the finished product in your head and then get that down onto paper! When significant props and characters move across the frame, get that information down onto the storyboard. Whoever looks at your storyboard should be able to visualize the movie in their head due to your images, arrows, and notes.
If you’ve got the artistic talent of Rembrandt, that’s swell, but chances are that you haven’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re terrible at drawing so long as you can convey what’s going on in a scene. Stickmen and stickwomen are fine if you’re able to convey basic facial expressions and a feel for what’s going on in the scene.
Of course, good storyboard art is still better than bad storyboard art, so perhaps it’s best to work with a professional storyboard artist if you’re looking to take your pre production to the next level. A professional storyboard artist will be able to convey emotion, movement, tone, and give your storyboarding a more filmic feel.
Obviously your storyboard will cut from panel to panel (most of the time) but how long does each shot linger? If you’re looking for several fast-paced quick cuts, indicate this in your notes. On the contrary, if you want a very slow and drawn-out scene, make a note of this in your notes or shot list too. Indicating the pacing of a film can really help your editor to give it the feel you desire.
Similarly, the cut of a shot might happen in reaction to something, helping the crew and editors to follow what is going on. For example, perhaps there is a shot of your main character and suddenly they hear a door slam shut – when the sound happens, we cut to a shot of the shut door. It’s a simple concept, but cuts should happen when they do for a reason.
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