What Are Storyboards?

So if you're interested in animation you've probably come across storyboarding, but what exactly is storyboarding?

If I've said it once I've said it a billion times, animation takes a long time. Because of that it helps to plan ahead, especially if you're working with a big group of people rather than just by yourself. You may have exactly what your story and film would look like in your head, but how do you communicate that idea to other people?

Through storyboards.

A storyboard is pretty much what it sounds like, a board for your story. A storyboard is each key moment of a film drawn out and presented in order, kind of like a picture book. It has key movements and events all laid out visually, as well as the camera angles and any camera movements. The term storyboard comes from when you have these shots all drawn out studios would often pin them up on a cork board, literally making a story board.

Storyboards themselves don't have dialogue bubbles, so they're not like a comic book version of the film. They leave the dialogue and any details off and just focus on what the visual will be. They'll sometimes include big arrows to show if something is zooming in or panning left or right but they put the dialogue or any key information down below, or have someone talk through the storyboards while presenting them.

Here's a great comparison of the storyboard for the opening sequence of the Lion King against the final animation of the same sequence.

 You can see that the storyboards all match the subject and camera angles of the final animation they had created. This not only allows people to more clearly get an understanding of the story and what's going to happen, but it helps the animators tremendously.

If you're animating than you know what you want to have happen, but if I hand that off to someone else, two people can have wildly different interpretations of the same scene.

The storyboard helps guide the animator on what has been established in your preproduction work. Because of the storyboard they know what camera angles to use, camera movements, and how the action should play out.

Storyboarding isn't limited to animation also. Live action films storyboard things just as much as animation does so when they go to shoot the live action sequence everyone from the camera men to the actors to the assistants can be on the same page about what needs to get done.

In fact, storyboarding was the dominant method for Mad Max: Fury Road. Rather than writing a screen play, George Miller did the entire film as one big long storyboard. Fury Road is such a visual film that doing it storyboard rather than a screen play helped George Miller create the amazing film he set out to. In fact, Miller even envisioned it as a dialogue free movie.

 

When you're working personally storyboarding can both be a help or a hinderance. I personally don't storyboard out any projects that I'm working on just by myself. I feel like it slows me down and limits what I can do once I start animating. Since I know what I'm imagining I don't feel the need to lay it all out ahead of time and I like to just wing it.

I like the kind of ambiguous invention that goes along working without storyboards.

That being said though I have friends who even when they're working by themselves will lay out what they have to do through storyboarding. They like it cause it helps them get focused on what they need to do and helps them when they go to animate with having a more clear outline of what's ahead of them. It can definitely help you if you need to figure out how long a certain aspect of your film will take to animate. Whether you storyboard or not is up to you. I'd suggest trying both ways, I've tried and I decided I didn't like it, but I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't tried it first!

In summary a storyboard is a visual representation in still pictures of what your film will end up being. Each still image works as a guide to what will be animated or filmed later on, showing the framing for the shot and any key movements of the characters or camera moves.

They can be a great tool, especially when working with large groups of people.