Storyboarding Tips: How to Plan & Visualize Your Next Video [Reel Rebel #5]

Storyboarding Tips: How to Plan & Visualize Your Next Video [Reel Rebel #5]

I want you to think of one of the best videos you've ever seen. It could be a full-length movie, an episode of a TV series, or even a commercial. Now, once you have one I want you to try to remember what the background looked like. Chances are that most of you won't be able to, but that doesn't mean that it isn't important! Many hours of planning go into making any successful cinematic piece, and an integral part of that process is storyboarding.

This week, Stephen walks through the importance of storyboards and pre-planning for video production as well as provides some basic rules and tips for how to get started.

Pre-Production Planning: Storyboards as Blueprints

Storyboarding is a visual representation, using drawings and illustrations to map out the flow of your video. This should always be done before you film anything. This is your chance to create a blueprint, a solid plan that everyone on your development team can follow and agree on. This is also the chance to hash out details, specific shots, and get rid of any ideas that will end up being horrible on film. If you don't do this first, any mistakes or changes to the continuity of the film have to be edited out. That will lower the quality of the film, possibly drastically, as well as make your editor your worst enemy. Do the storyboard first.

Don't Worry About Being Artistic

If you're worried that you don't have a real artistic talent, don't be. Big studios may be rich enough to hire professional illustrators for their storyboards, but it's really not necessary. Outside of your production team no one needs to see the storyboards, so if you can draw a stick figure you can do this. If you can't draw well enough to even outline the concept of your video, then you might want to just let someone else do it for you. There are also apps available that can help you complete your storyboard.

Visualize First!

As I said before, this is the time to hash out all of your ideas. The storyboard will change, probably drastically, as the process goes on. This is a good thing. You want to get a consensus on any possible changes before you start filming, or things will start to degrade really fast. You will not be pleased with the results if you try to make these changes later in the process.

Once you finally get a final draft completed, it should contain several components.  The following are ll fairly basic things that are always useful to include:

  • Technical details
  • Content
  • Verbal delivery
  • Set location
  • Time of day

Think of a storyboard as your grocery list/dinner plan for the film. Forgetting one ingredient can ruin the whole thing, and though it's wise to have a backup plan, we both know it won't be as good.

Question: Do you plan out and storyboard your videos in advance?

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View The Full Video Transcript:

Hey, I'm Stephen schweikhart with Vscreen where we make company videos and today we’re going to talk about pre-planning your video.

If you think of some of the best videos you’ve seen, whether it’s one of the Harry Potter series….or a kick ass superbowl commercial that was so entertaining and captivating you just HAD to watch it again…..you may not realize how much planning actually went into the concepts.  While I hate to admit that all 38 Harry Potter films and all 25 Twilight movies have been topping the charts---they did require some impressive forethought.  I’m referring to…..Storyboarding.

 

Every successful video, even if it’s only a 30 second commercial has a much more detailed shot list and vision hidden behind it.  A storyboard is a visual representation using drawings and illustrations to map out the flow of your video.  To make sure the kids sitting in the back of the class hear me---let me be clear:  you make a storyboard BEFORE you even film!!  It’s your blueprint.  Your map.  Your chance to weasel out all your crap ideas before you waste people’s time with an ill thought through marketing piece. 

             

Your storyboard doesn’t need to be a visual masterpiece worthy of awards, simply enough to convey the concept of who or what will be on camera, how and where each shot will be filmed, the order and feel of events, and so on.  If you’re capable of drawing a stick figure, you stand a chance.  If you can’t draw enough to even outline the concept of your video—well clearly you’re not creative and you might as well find someone else to do the whole bit for you.  Or, you can use one of the popular online apps to save your day.

 

Your storyboard will probably undergo many changes along the way as you and your entourage collaborate.   It’s better to make changes and revamp the concept in these planning stages than after filming has started.  That can result in an editing nightmare, sections being forgotten, continuity errors and more.  The final draft however, should clearly convey technical details, content (written and/or verbal delivery), details regarding set location, time of day, background appearance and more.  Your storyboard is the video world’s version your grocery shopping list and the dinner recipe combined.  Forget one item, leave out an ingredient, or don’t bake it long enough---and you’ve just thrown your money, time and dinner-slash video out the window.   In both cases you’re left scrounging for something to make do…and we both know…the back up plan is never Filet Mignon.

About the Author -
Mark Robertson is the Founder and Publisher of ReelSEO, an online information resource dedicated to the fusion of video, technology, social media, search, and internet marketing. He is a YouTube Certified, video marketing consultant and video marketing expert, popular speaker, and considered to be a passionate leader within the online video and search marketing industries. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Annette Eggers

    I storyboard everything! Not only does it help me to visualize but the crew can see what's going on in my head too.  I put in camera shots, narration, v/o, equipment needed, run time for each shot, location… pretty much everything goes on it.  Planning makes a smooth shoot and everyone knows where they should be.  I pretty much scribble my shots on paper, they are definitely not fancy but more like stick figures with large heads!
     

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @Annette Eggers Sounds perfect, Annette!  It's the plan that matters the most… not the drawing skills behind it.  :)

  • JoinRevolution

    Storyboarding is a great tool when creating an explanatory video.  It keeps the video concise and to the point, and it limits the ability for videos to stray (which loses viewers attention).  Great article!

  • http://stebian.com/ Bianca TeRito

    Cheers Mark! If I am short on time – often I'll take digital photos and lay them up like a story board, I've found this to be a quick and easy option to get my creative vision across to others. I'll even shoot in the angels that I want and rough framing. Double win if I can do this on location.

    • http://stebian.com/ Bianca TeRito

      Lolo..that's "angels" as in Angles..although having one on set could help :)

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @Bianca TeRito In a tight jam, we've found this method very helpful as well!

  • damianhoskin

    Story boards are the map to your production. When working on a tight schedule they can help marry up to shot lists and keep your camera op on track. I like to scan them and upload them to an editing program to have them play out in real time. It is a great way of sharing your vision with your video clients.

    • Annette Eggers

       @damianhoskin Hey Damian… do you upload to an editing program like FCP or is there an actual storyboard slash editing slash cool software program that can make our storyboards come alive?

      • damianhoskin

        Annette, there are dedicated 3d storyboarding programs like Frameforge. But I prefer to keep it simple. I import hand drawn frames straight into Premiere Pro, then I add music and titles. The titles can describe the action or dialogue. I have even used windows movie maker to do it and that keeps things real simple.

  • http://www.heliosmm.com/ heliosmm

    Mark, 
     
    This was great advice to keep in mind when creating a video. I run a video marketing company in Arizona and have been drawing storyboards for the last year. Not only does it help me stay organized but it helps me relay the vision to those working on the project as well as those whom i'm proposing the vision to. Although I've found that storyboards are crucial when creating very elaborate videos or ones with multiple scenes, but I seem to slack when the project is more "simple," if you will. Some videos that we create for clients are educational or "internal updates"  so it seems overkill to draw up storyboards for less intricate videos. Do you still recommend doing so? We have quite a system in place that enables us to be very efficient with these videos, but I'm still curious to see what improves if we draw up storyboards for all videos, regardless of complexity. Thanks in advance for your reply!
     
    Tyler @ Helios Media Marketing

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @heliosmm 

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @heliosmm Hi Tyler- I know this comment was directed at Mark but thought I'd throw a response your way.  Only you know how much time you spend doing your current process vs. how long it would take to storyboard, film, and edit.  If you find you don't change your mind about the direction you go in during the creation of your less intricate videos, you might be able to skip the storyboarding step.  I would recommend marking the time spent doing it both ways and see which way really does save you the most time overall.  Though, as a rule of thumb, I find storyboarding everything really is the way to go!

      • http://www.heliosmm.com/ heliosmm

         @Stephen Schweickart 
         
        Stephen,
         
        Thank you very much for the feedback! The question was directed to Mark, but any advice or insight is always very appreciated! Do you write for reelseo as well, or just an avid reader like myself?
         
        You made an excellent suggestion though to time how long production takes with and without storyboards, I will do a little experiment on the next shoot! I can imagine however, that the time spent physically drawing the storyboard might equal the time spent producing the less intricate videos on the fly, but I am curious to see the outcome! Thanks again for the reply Stephen.
         
        Tyler @ Helios Media Marketing

  • Anthony Lowe

    Good post thanks for the tips.

  • Stephen Schweickart

     @heliosmm  
    Tyler,
    Believe it or not, I'm actually the guy in the video.  :)  Mark and I teamed up so that we here at VScreen, Inc. could pass along our production tips with his audience.  Looking forward to hearing the outcome of your comparison and good luck with all your filming!
    -Stephen

  • Annette Eggers

    I storyboard everything! Not only does it help me to visualize but the crew can see what's going on in my head too.  I put in camera shots, narration, v/o, equipment needed, run time for each shot, location… pretty much everything goes on it.  Planning makes a smooth shoot and everyone knows where they should be.  I pretty much scribble my shots on paper, they are definitely not fancy but more like stick figures with large heads!
     

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @Annette Eggers Sounds perfect, Annette!  It's the plan that matters the most… not the drawing skills behind it.  :)

  • JoinRevolution

    Storyboarding is a great tool when creating an explanatory video.  It keeps the video concise and to the point, and it limits the ability for videos to stray (which loses viewers attention).  Great article!

  • http://stebian.com/ Bianca TeRito

    Cheers Mark! If I am short on time – often I'll take digital photos and lay them up like a story board, I've found this to be a quick and easy option to get my creative vision across to others. I'll even shoot in the angels that I want and rough framing. Double win if I can do this on location.

    • http://stebian.com/ Bianca TeRito

      Lolo..that's "angels" as in Angles..although having one on set could help :)

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @Bianca TeRito In a tight jam, we've found this method very helpful as well!

  • damianhoskin

    Story boards are the map to your production. When working on a tight schedule they can help marry up to shot lists and keep your camera op on track. I like to scan them and upload them to an editing program to have them play out in real time. It is a great way of sharing your vision with your video clients.

    • Annette Eggers

       @damianhoskin Hey Damian… do you upload to an editing program like FCP or is there an actual storyboard slash editing slash cool software program that can make our storyboards come alive?

      • damianhoskin

        Annette, there are dedicated 3d storyboarding programs like Frameforge. But I prefer to keep it simple. I import hand drawn frames straight into Premiere Pro, then I add music and titles. The titles can describe the action or dialogue. I have even used windows movie maker to do it and that keeps things real simple.

  • http://www.heliosmm.com/ heliosmm

    Mark, 
     
    This was great advice to keep in mind when creating a video. I run a video marketing company in Arizona and have been drawing storyboards for the last year. Not only does it help me stay organized but it helps me relay the vision to those working on the project as well as those whom i'm proposing the vision to. Although I've found that storyboards are crucial when creating very elaborate videos or ones with multiple scenes, but I seem to slack when the project is more "simple," if you will. Some videos that we create for clients are educational or "internal updates"  so it seems overkill to draw up storyboards for less intricate videos. Do you still recommend doing so? We have quite a system in place that enables us to be very efficient with these videos, but I'm still curious to see what improves if we draw up storyboards for all videos, regardless of complexity. Thanks in advance for your reply!
     
    Tyler @ Helios Media Marketing

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @heliosmm 

    • Stephen Schweickart

       @heliosmm Hi Tyler- I know this comment was directed at Mark but thought I'd throw a response your way.  Only you know how much time you spend doing your current process vs. how long it would take to storyboard, film, and edit.  If you find you don't change your mind about the direction you go in during the creation of your less intricate videos, you might be able to skip the storyboarding step.  I would recommend marking the time spent doing it both ways and see which way really does save you the most time overall.  Though, as a rule of thumb, I find storyboarding everything really is the way to go!

      • http://www.heliosmm.com/ heliosmm

         @Stephen Schweickart 
         
        Stephen,
         
        Thank you very much for the feedback! The question was directed to Mark, but any advice or insight is always very appreciated! Do you write for reelseo as well, or just an avid reader like myself?
         
        You made an excellent suggestion though to time how long production takes with and without storyboards, I will do a little experiment on the next shoot! I can imagine however, that the time spent physically drawing the storyboard might equal the time spent producing the less intricate videos on the fly, but I am curious to see the outcome! Thanks again for the reply Stephen.
         
        Tyler @ Helios Media Marketing

        • Stephen Schweickart

           @heliosmm  
          Tyler,
          Believe it or not, I'm actually the guy in the video.  :)  Mark and I teamed up so that we here at VScreen, Inc. could pass along our production tips with his audience.  Looking forward to hearing the outcome of your comparison and good luck with all your filming!
          -Stephen

  • http://www.heliosmm.com/ heliosmm

    c

  • http://www.platinumhd.tv Anthony Lowe

    Good post thanks for the tips.

  • http://twitter.com/DomSoar Dominick Soar

    Hi guys. Excellent tips thank you. Quick question – how do you go about storyboarding when your video content is unknown by its nature? E.g. you don't know what your subjects are going to say? I do client interviews for my company asking them what they think about us and our industry, and also events where I interview guests and take shots of what's going on. I find I have to reverse engineer a story out of the footage depending on what happened/what they said – how would you handle this differently?

  • Carmen Pantaleo

    Hi Mark,

    Great ideas about storyboarding. I am a park ranger at Thomas Edison NHP in West Orange NJ. I am trying to bring our school program into the 21st century…it is rather outdated right now. Any suggestions to teach kids about movie making. The program we do for the kids is 90 minutes and the target audience is 6-9 grade. I am looking at have them storyboard to make a short 30 second movie like edison was doing in the Black Maria. Any suggestions from anybody would be great. It has to also be inexpensive since there is really not much money in the budget. Thanks for anyone help

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