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How to Storyboard a Short Film

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Luke Leighfield
Luke Leighfield
Content Writer

Bigger isn't always better. Just think about puppies. Or tapas. Or... short films!

In this post, we'll give you the tools you need to make one of our favourite small things: a short film. And by tools, we mean tool, singular. Because it's all about our pal, the storyboard.

Storyboarding is a vital part of the pre-production process, whether you're making a full-blown feature film or a humble short film. Either way, if you want to have a successful filmmaking career, you need to get comfortable making your own storyboards.

Thankfully, you don't need to go to film school to learn this part of the video production process. By the time you finish reading this post, you'll be more than comfortable creating storyboard frames that your filmmaking co-conspirators will love.

Create a storyboard for your film in Boords. Complete with fields and story structure.

What's a storyboard?

Storyboarding's a way to visualise the storyline of your short film. A good storyboard breaks down every last bit of action into individual storyboard panels (like a comic book), explaining everything that's going to happen in each shot – and speeding up your film production.

Your storyboard should include details like the type of shot (e.g. single shot or close up), character movement, camera movement, voiceover, camera placement, POV (point of view), and more. A professional storyboard will save your production team, including the cinematographer and film director, a lot of time.

Don't worry if your drawing skills are lacking. Plenty of people use simple stick figures to create storyboards. And with Boords, you can use our drawing tool, choose from millions of free stock images and icons, or just add images from your computer, Google Drive, or Dropbox. Easy!

Looking for some storyboard inspiration? Check out some of our favourite storyboards.

Why you should storyboard your short film

If you've already written your script, then you already know how your short film shakes out. Now, all you need to do is take your storyline and ideas and begin the storyboarding process – translating them from words to images.

It might seem like a lot of work, but creating a good storyboard will help make sure you've got all the shots you need when you start post-production. This stops you from wasting time filming shots that you don't need, or spending money on video production or special effects.

Mapping out your shot list helps you organize a complicated shoot. Putting this into a storyboard gives you an even better tool to help you through a complex shoot day. You'll thank us, promise.

When it comes to storyboarding, some people like to use index cards. Others go for post-its or sticky notes. At Boords, we're big fans of using... well, Boords. It's the same kind of thing, but online. We think it's much easier. Try it free.

How to storyboard your short film with Boords

Follow the steps below to start creating your first magical storyboard with Boords.

1. Make a shot list

First up, pick a scene from your script and make a shot list (check out our free shot list template for help).

Think about how you can use different camera angles to bring out the story, reveal things about characters, or make certain moments pop onscreen. This will be super useful when you start making your storyboard.

2. Set up your storyboard

Go to your Boords dashboard, click New project and name it after your short film. You'll be prompted to create a new storyboard – you can name that after your film, too. Finally, click Create storyboard.

Get familiar with the basics of storytelling. We'll show you how to tell a masterful story by doing your research, inspiring people, knowing your audience, and editing like a boss. You'll also learn about our favorite movie franchise, Rocky. Learn more

3. Customize your fields

Custom fields let you include all the details you need for your storyboard and make it truly yours.

The default fields are Sound, Action, Lighting, Camera, and Notes but you can change these to whatever you'd like. And you can add custom icons to your fields, too.

3.1 Sound

In the Sound field, you want to include any information about sound in your film. If it's helpful to know what the dialogue's doing in a certain frame, add it in. If there's going to be a voiceover, write it down. Think about any other sound direction you can provide, too.

3.2 Action

Pop any information about action in the Action field. Think about the staging of actors, what they're going to be doing, and how they'll be moving. The more information, the better.

Pro-tip: Our film storyboard template has this structure built in. Less setup, more story.

3.3 Lighting

Will you shoot this section with natural light? A huge lighting rig? By the light of a single match? Any lighting info needs to go in the Lighting section.

3.4 Camera

If you've got any more information about camera movement that you can't explain in the visuals, add it here. Think about camera angles, camera placement, shot size, shot type, and lens details as well.

Will the shot be close up or wide? Static or tracking them on a moped? At a low angle or eye level? Pop it all in the Camera field.

3.5 Notes

If there's anything else you can't explain in your drawing, or in the fields above, add it here. It might be details about special effects. Or the live camel you might rope in for a shot. Just make sure it's in your Notes field so everyone's on the same page.

4. Add images

The image is the star of the show on your storyboard. As well as including a basic sketch of every element that features in the scene, it's crucial that you use arrows to indicate motion.

You can use arrows for everything – like showing which way a person's walking or how a camera should be angled. Anyone looking at the storyboard should quickly be able to understand all the relevant details of the shot.

Boords has pre-made camera transition arrows built into the image editor, so adding indicators for zooming and panning is a breeze.

Don't fret if you're not a pro storyboard artist. You can use Boords' drawing tool, choose from millions of free stock images and icons, or just add images from your computer, Google Drive, or Dropbox. Nice.

5. Convert to animatic

Once your storyboard's complete, you can click the Animatic button in the top right of the page to convert your rough sketches into a living, breathing film – without needing to call an animator.

From the Animatic screen, you can easily tweak timings, add sound, and generally finesse your storyboard.

Learn how to structure your story with the help of Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Our rock solid guide teaches you all about the three-act story structure – setup, conflict and climax – and how to use it to nail your plot. Find your perfect story structure

Storyboard your short film with Boords

Forget janky storyboard templates. Boords is the simple, powerful way to storyboard your novel, perfect for filmmakers and other storytellers.

Try Boords for free. And don't forget us when you're polishing your Oscars.

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