Creating Storyboards That Anyone Can Understand

What's The Goal?

Planning and storyboarding is super important. It's the backbone to your video. It lets you quickly develop and tweak ideas whilst easily communicating them with people involved in the project.

But before diving in to the storyboard it's important to make sure you have a solid goal. Why are you making this video? How will you know if it's successful? Where is it being distributed? I tend to work with the client to create a solid set of goals for the video and how it should help the business.

We need to work out these details in order to direct how we tell our story, how we want the audience to feel and what action we want them to take next. There are also technical benefits like knowing the frame aspect ratio and length of the video.

I like to write the goals out separately from my computer so I can keep them in mind (and eye sight) during the whole storyboarding process.

I Can't Draw.

Now it's time to get creating. For the storyboarding I use the free app Storyboarder. It has loads of features for writing actions, voice overs and plenty of exporting options.

The art of storyboards should be rough. You’ll see from my examples that my drawing skills match that of a toddler. But it's about the thought behind the drawings and how you communicate ideas that's important here. The artwork is going to change in the final video anyway so focus on the ideas, composition and mood. With that out of the way, let’s get into my thought process behind creating storyboards that set up any project for success.

Communicating Movement.

There are many ways to communicate movement. I use arrows to show simple movement of the main element in a scene. Speed lines and other action lines can be used to help demonstrate the elements movement. But an often forgotten way is to simply describe the motion in words.

Diving deeper into the movement of an element by creating more frames also helps when working with complex animation. This allows you more space and time to annotate with arrows and descriptions as well as showing more visual representations of the element in motion.

Don't forget you can also move the camera. This can be used to add some motion to an otherwise static frame. With a mix of these it becomes easy to communicate your idea.

Mood & Emotion.

During the planning I have written notes on the mood of the video including how we want the audience to feel and what we want them think about both during and after the video. This is then referred to throughout the process to make sure the ideas and movement create these emotions.

I also try to understand the mindset of the persona before they start the video. Knowing how the video will be distributed helps massively here as people browsing twitter have a different state of mind and intent than those paying to view your video for example. This can then be reflected in my idea generation for scenes in the storyboard.

Multiple Passes & Taking Breaks.

I tend to start with a rough pass to get the ideas down and then go back and polish it up. the composition, flow and transitions. I take a look at composition, making sure the frames are visually balanced and add depth by adding foreground and background elements.

Next is flow. When creating storyboards I make sure there is a path for your eyes to follow to create a smooth flow throughout the video. Whilst working on the flow I also plan any transitions between scenes as this is vital…

Taking breaks between each pass helps your mind reset and think of new ways of solving the creative problem. I try to visualise the final product in my head to help me come up with new ideas.

It may take a long time to create but the storyboard really is the foundation of the project. Once you've got it nailed, creating the style frames and animation is much easier. It's worth putting in the extra time at this stage and make sure you're hitting all your goals and requirements to save you time later in the process.

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