Get Going With Storyboards

In Animation, Production Process by Denis MallonLeave a Comment

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”
 Benjamin Franklin

Living in the Colonial era, Benjamin Franklin probably wasn’t too concerned about well made video content in the 21st century. But he would agree in spirit that it’s a bad idea to shoot your brand video without first planning how it will look.

So how can we make a blueprint for our video project, and is it really worth the time?

In this article we take a look at Storyboarding – the first stage of visual development, and an essential step in the production process.


Why Storyboard?

Visualising your video will take a fairly long time, so why is it worth storyboarding? Why not just go ahead and start animating or shooting?

  • Until now, you might have a lot of visual ideas in your head – this is the best way to get your vision down on paper.
  • When you’ve worked your script into a storyboard, it can be easy to cut boards into cards and play around with the order of the story.
  • Chances are, you’re not the only person on this production: you may be working with directors, animators and designers. Storyboarding is the easiest way to share your vision with collaborators as early as possible.
  • Whatever your role in your organisation, you need to persuade investors, clients, and other decision makers that this is a great idea. Storyboarding is an effective way to sell the idea to stakeholders.

In this brilliant archive clip, we see how the team behind the original Toy Story pitched the idea using a fantastic storyboard and plenty of enthusiasm.


Planning Shots

The choices that you make with the shots in your film are the secrets to producing a professional piece – much more important than choices about equipment or software.

The right shot is crucial to telling the story.

Let’s look at  some of the basic types of shots available, and ways in which they are best used in your video.

  • Long shot / Establishing shot – As the name suggests, this is a shot from a long distance, which is used to establish where the scene takes place geographically.
  • Full shot – The full shot is intended to show the extent of the scene, including all the important elements and characters contained within.
  • Medium shot – Typically used when a person is talking, this shot gives the impression of being in the subject’s immediate area.
  • Close-up – The close-up shot finds the subject filling the frame, and we start to see more detail on their face. This shot is great for seeing emotion, and is commonly used in reaction shots.
  • Extreme Close-up – We use the extreme close-up when a particular element needs to be viewed with maximum detail. This shot creates a strong emphasis on this single element.

This handy guide shows examples of the most common shot types, with scenes from Hollywood movies as examples…



Composition, or the way elements are arranged on screen, is another essential tool for communicating your story visually. Beyond simply making the image aesthetically pleasing, the goal is to have an identifiable message behind the way the elements have been arranged.

These concepts form the building blocks of good composition…

  • The Rule of Thirds – This concept involves dividing the screen into nine segments, and positioning the focal point of the image two-thirds of the way across. The asymmetrical setup results in a more dynamic shot.
  • Focal elements – We can use various techniques to draw the eye towards a particular area of the screen, including colour, contrast and scale. Without a natural focal point, an image can appear flat and get “rejected” by the brain.
  • Balance – Although it’s important to draw the eye to a certain area of the image, it’s equally important to counteract this effect by having other prominent points that offset the emphasis and provide balance.

In this video from electronics retailer B&H, we see a handy overview of the most popular conventions of composition, and when to use them.


Making the storyboard

There are no set rules for how a storyboard should look, but here are a few conventions.

  • Draw the key scenes – Detail all the different camera angles, and try to include the most meaningful frames of action.
  • Include the script – Position the relevant lines underneath your frames.
  • Write notes – These should describe the action. Again, provide plenty of detail without being too verbose.
  • Use arrows for movement – Bridge the gap from static images to moving image, by using arrows to show how characters, objects and camera will traverse the screen.


But I Can’t Draw!

Put a pencil in your hand. Put it to a piece of paper. Move it in a circle.

Congratulations, you just drew!

A storyboard doesn’t have to be technically sophisticated – it just needs to adequately communicate the vision you have for each scene of your video. No one outside of your team need ever see it.

If you’re really not confident drawing: use simple lines and shapes; take photos; or just pull together images from a search engine.

Martin Scorsese is great example of a visionary filmmaker who uses storyboarding to plan scenes. Yet he’s not a technically gifted illustrator, as his storyboards show. This video shows a comparison between his storyboards and the final film.



Storyboarding can seem like an unnecessary and time-consuming exercise. But in truth, the process is an invaluable way of planning your video and saving time down the line.

So next time, before you even think about reaching for a camera or animation software… do what Benjamin would, and get drawing!

Leave a Comment