Movie Making Manual/Storyboarding

Storyboards are drawings of the sequence of shots for a script. It helps to pre-visualize how the director wants the screenplay to be shot. As an image says more than a thousand words it is very useful as a basis to communicate the director's ideas to the crew and the producers. Some directors will storyboard every scene and camera angle to save time and money when they are on set. Others however feel that this can inhibit their creativity and will have very few graphic representations done before shooting commences.

This Module is part of the Movie Making Manual

Getting Started edit

To get an idea of how you can storyboard your movie, grab a comic book off the shelf at a bookstore. Many large productions will have storyboards that are somewhere between stick-man quality and full comic book illustrations. If you can draw fairly well yourself, it may seem tedious, but you will gain a lot from trying to draw out a few of the most complex sequences. Every time you storyboard you will take that moment to see the shot through the camera. It's a heck of a lot less expensive than having a cast and crew waiting for you to "discover your vision" right there on the spot.

For the definitions of some of the concepts please refer to cinematography. Storyboarding is mainly there to get a first idea of what the film will look like. It gives indications of the size of the shot, the camera angle and the sequence of the shots. It is rarely followed exactly but it is a helpful guideline during the shooting of a film. It's very common while a crew is tearing down all the lighting rigs and moving to the next shot, the Director and DP will be looking at the storyboard trying decide what is best before everything needs to be placed. Since they have those plans, they are more capable of improvising.

The main areas where storyboarding is regarded as essential are in the planning of elaborate stunts, special effects sequences and designing make-up and costumes.

Animatic edit

An animatic is a movie which has been edited from the storyboards. Animatics are useful for determining the timing of a shot, particularly an expensive shot such as an effects shot.

Software edit

1. Thumbnails are storyboards no bigger than a thumbnail. There is little detail in thumbnail storyboards. Each person's head is represented by a circle. Thumbnails are done with pencil and paper.

2. There are 2D storyboard programs such as StoryBoard Quick and StoryBoard Artist. They are fast ways to make high quality storyboards.

3. There are 3D storyboarding programs such as FrameForge 3D Studio, Antics (which is no longer in business) and SketchUp Pro. Designed for creating storyboards, these programs can be faster than the other kinds of 3D animation software. Free limited demo versions of FrameForge 3D Studio and SketchUp are available.

4. There are many kinds of 3D animation programs which work for creating accurate shots such as Blender 3d, Maya, 3D Studio Max, Cinema4d and Lightwave 3D. There is a free version of Maya for non-commercial use called Personal Learning Edition.

5. There are specialized 3D animation programs such as Poser and DAZ Studio (freeware) which use 3D figures called digital puppets or Poser models. Use predefined figures is much faster than creating your own figures. Digital puppets that work with Poser and DAZ studio are inexpensive ($12 to $100). The advantage of creating storyboards with these programs is you can use the same lens that the camera will use. That can be valuable for effects shots.

6. If you are storyboarding for 3D animation, there is a program called Redboard which allows you to quickly draw in 2D over accurate 3d models, then export your cameras to Maya. A valuable time-saver if you're thinking about working in 3D.

Lessons in Storyboarding edit

A screen shot of FrameForge 3D Studio for a project at Wikiverity Film School.
  • Wikiversity offers a free lesson in creating storyboarding for a short motion picture. There are also new lessons for 3D storyboarding.