When it comes to documentary filmmaking, filmmakers and cinematographers have a secret weapon: the storyboard. It's a vital tool in the pre-production flow that helps them get crystal clear on the story before they start crafting the documentary script.
Whether it's your first documentary or you're a seasoned filmmaking pro, it's always a good idea to spend time on your documentary storyboard – before you start lining up interviewees or dreaming about enlisting Samuel L. Jackson for your voiceovers. (Although that would be cool.)
In this tutorial, we'll show you how to go about creating a top-notch documentary storyboard that'll take your documentary filmmaking to dizzy new heights. And we'll throw in a free storyboard template for good measure, too.
A storyboard's a series of drawings accompanied by a little bit of text, where each drawing represents a specific part of the story. It became popular in film production back in the 1930s thanks to the OG storyboard artist, Webb Smith.
Smith, an animator at Walt Disney Studios, started drawing rough sketches of frames on different bits of paper, then stuck them up on a wall to communicate a sequence of events. Since then, plenty of people have adopted this approach in video production – including big names in the documentary world like Daniel Raim.
Documentary filmmaking is, by definition, an unknown. You have to know how to roll with the punches. But, as with everything in life, having a solid plan is going to make the whole process a lot easier. That's where storyboarding comes in.
Although you don't have a script (this isn't screenwriting, obviously), you should have a strong idea of how your documentary is going to come together. Storyboarding is where you take that idea and reproduce it in image form.
Make sure that each image on your storyboard contains enough information for people to understand what's going on, but not so much that it masks the most important details.
New projectand name it after your documentary
You can use custom fields to add extra information and keep all your whipsmart ideation in one place. We recommend adding a
Notes field and using a nifty custom icon.
Notesand any other new fields that'll be useful for your planning. Generally, your footage will fit in three categories, so these might be good starting points for field names:
Add an illustration in each frame to help tell the story. Emphasise each moment, and think of how your character feels about it. Visuals are a great way to bring a story to life, so use them wherever possible.
Don't worry if your drawing skills aren't too hot. There are oodles of stock images and handy illustrations in Boords' image editor.
It's important to show your interviewee’s emotional state during each moment. You might want to add emoticons to give a clearer picture of what they’re likely to be feeling. Use the drawing tool to create a simple human face.
Leave more information in the
Notes field of each frame to give more context. You can also show a character’s thinking with thought bubbles.
This might be a good place to add notes about b-roll footage that you need to capture to bolster the story, or sound effects that you plan to add later.
Now that you've got the entire story laid out, take a step back and check that everything flows correctly. Drag and drop frames if you need to tweak the order.
After you've drawn the storyboard, show it to other team members to make sure it’s clear to them.
Sharein the top right of the screen
Manage peopleto give team members editing access
Here's to your next step in UX mastery. We bow down!
We’ve got plenty more articles that can help on your documentary-making journey. You can explore our blog, or check out some suggestions below:
Move over, Werner Herzog. Boords is the simple, powerful way to storyboard your next Oscar-winning documentary.
Try Boords today for free. A whopper Netflix licensing deal awaits, we’re sure.
Thanks to Masterclass and StudioBinder for their helpful posts on storyboarding.