Both have their uses, but whichever approach you choose, understanding the process behind it will stand you in good stead.
Generally speaking, the storyboarding process can be broken down into 3 steps:
Let’s run through each step and you’ll be storyboarding before you know it!
Before you can start storyboarding, you’ll need a script. Scripts can be relatively simple, outlining the key points you want to hit. Equally, they can be very complex, describing transitions, voiceover and more in great detail. Either way, you’ll need an agreed upon starting point before making things visual.
While it should be clearly established what a client wants from a piece, at this stage the script can (and, in all likelihood, should) change during the storyboarding process. There are some things which seem like they’re going to be Oscar winners in script form, but for whatever reason don’t work visually. Be ready to tweak and tinker.
Scamping is the process of turning a script from something written into something visual. It’s rough, messy, and raw - a storyboard in its essential form.
A scamped storyboard’s primary function is to help you make sense of the narrative and quickly come up with ideas and make changes, without being overly concerned about visual style.
The scamping process can be a powerful thinking tool. Here are a few guidelines to bear in mind:
Scamps are, by definition, rough. They’re for you, and unless your client is 100% clear that what they’re seeing is not the final version, aren’t shared. Don’t get too precious.
Some parts of the script may feel slow or laboured when visualised. Are there leaps in time or logic? Can some sections be removed entirely? Be ready to feed these ideas back into the script – this iterative feedback process is one of the principal strengths of scamping a storyboard.
If your character is trudging through a muddy river in one shot, they’ll need to be dirty in the next. If your leading lady has been running after energetic dogs on the beach, they’ll need to be looking exhausted when they return home. Consider the chronological order of what you’re writing.
If a character is walking out his bedroom at home, you may need an in-between shot before he walks up the stairs to his office, sits down and starts work. Make sure you take your viewers on a journey.
Once you’re happy with how the narrative is flowing and any script amendments are signed off, it’s time to develop the final version of your storyboard. As you’d expect, this will be more indicative of what your piece of moving image will look like once complete, and will act as a reference for the director or animator.
Now is the perfect time to start thinking about subtler visual cues. What mood do you want your piece to have, and how can you communicate it? Framing, colour and transitions (which we’ll cover in a later post) are all great ways to amplify emotion which might be missing from the script. Here are a few things to consider:
Setting a scene during a particular time of day will evoke a feeling in your audience. Morning is more optimistic, whereas late evening can suggest urgency or suspense.
Silhouetting a character can be a helpful way of seeing if your shots make sense. Look at your scenes without any detailed linework, and you’ll quickly discover whether or not your action is comprehensible.
Adding in staging elements and colour helps convey the mood you’re after, but shouldn’t distract from the story. Character is king.
Vary your shots. Too much of the same thing will quickly become dull and repetitive.
The storyboarding process is a fluid one. Embrace making changes, trying things out and feeding them back into the script, and you’ll be in the best possible position when you start production.
How do you approach the storyboarding process? Let us know in the comments.