Storyboarding: Planning Projects With Pictures

Storyboard3Storytelling is a way of communicating, educating, entertaining and sharing experiences. Whether stories are recorded on film, video or the written word, they start with a seed of an idea and expand as they are remembered or conceived.

Storyboarding is a great way for students to communicate these ideas, feelings, and stories. One of the great things about storyboarding is that anyone can do it by combining picture and words. Some people think better in words, others think better in images.

The goal of storyboarding a story is to visually present and encourage the development of the story idea. Creating successive frames stimulates students to further the ideas and create actions for their characters showing where and how the story unfolds. When a storyboard is being created from an already written or conceived idea, the goal of the storyboard is to visually represent and refine how the story is presented (from a camera/viewer's perspective) in preparation for recording it on video or film. The result is similar to creating a comic strip.

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Most schools that have a video curriculum use simple tools to encourage students to plan their projects. One such tool is StoryBoard Quick. This software provides artwork such as people, locations, and props that students can access quickly to create a series of frames or shot compositions. Frames can easily be annotated in the accompanying caption window. The advantage of using software tool like Storyboard Quick is that the focus is on storytelling and shot building, not the student's drawing ability. The software enables all students to be on equal footing when planning or expressing their ideas visually.

In a narrative project, a storyboard frame can represent one shot (a roll of the camera) or an entire sequence (an action series that can begin, develop and end in the course of one setup / one location). Technically, a new storyboard frame is created to show important changes in the scene or action. The amount of detail you choose to include in each frame can best be decided by determining to whom the boards are being presented.

A good rule to keep in mind is that "actions speak louder than words." If important story information can be shown visually, it is more memorable and interesting than having it revealed or presented by dialogue from a character or in voice over. Storyboarding can point out those opportunities where a project can become more cinematic and in turn more memorable.

"Know your audience" is the key to any successful communication; from writing scripts to making speeches, to telling jokes. The same applies to storyboarding. Once you know the project type, take a minute and decide who is the audience for whom your storyboard project is intended. Who will see your boards? Knowing "who" will help you determine what kind of detail needs to be included and how it needs to be presented.

Various storyboard types:

Production/shooting boards (used for Film/Video or DV planning): Visually scripting a story and creating a shot list for the crew to use on the set. Called shooting boards because images are rough sketches that simply and clearly communicate the setups, or main elements of each shot and the spatial relationships between each element. This cuts down setup time and questions from crew members.

Presentation boards (used for Film/Video, DV, Animation or Commercial planning): Used to communicate or sell an idea or concept to clients, producers, directors or project executives. This type of storyboarding is typically more polished than shooting boards and is meant to impress and persuade. Key frames show scripted scene changes, visual concepts and product placement.

Prototype boards (used for Game or Website planning): Used by the project director to show graphic designers and programmers the ideas/concepts of the project. This type of storyboard also shows how the end-user would navigate through the project, and how the elements (scenes or pages) fit together from a functional point of view (how the end-user can access all the elements of the site or the end-user connects to the various elements of the game).

Most schools use production type storyboards for students to plan their projects. Before starting to film, it is helpful to understand perspective to play effective shots. Storyboard software helps you understand what perspective is and how you can use it to make your story more interesting and shots more dynamic. Perspective is the representation of three-dimensional elements (or illusion of depth) in a two dimensional world (within the frame, on the computer, on paper, in a photograph or on the movie, video or television screen).

The ultimate goal of your storyboard is to show the relationship between the main elements in the shot and their relationship to their environment. That's what your crew needs to know for setting up shots, and/or what the client wants to see when you're selling an idea. In other words: make objects appear to be grounded within a plausible space. Creating the appropriate visual perspective for your project requires the use of some simple concepts.

To storyboard a live action shot or animation scene, you’ll want to visually show the approximate distance between each of the shot’s elements (characters, buildings, furniture, props, etc.) and their position relative to the horizon line and each other (i.e.: above or below horizon; overlapping images; size: closer = bigger; farther = smaller). StoryBoard Quick’s layering, zooming and rotating character features make easy work of quickly repositioning elements to create these situations. The size of one object relative to another will give an indication of which object is closer. Larger objects usually appear to be closer (i.e. over the shoulder of two people talking: person with back to camera should be larger than person facing camera). Small objects usually appear to be farther away (especially when positioned behind a larger foreground element.)

In the following example there is a person and a truck. We can't be sure if it is a normal sized person with a toy truck... or a giant sized person with an actual big rig truck. In this case, we may need more information to complete the effect we are trying to communicate. The added information can be in the form of a location or overlapping planes.

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Shots are the foundation for most visual multimedia projects. Building from shots, you create sequences (a series of shots), and from there, your entire video. Storyboard Quick is a great educational tool that can help students compose each of their shots! The composition refers to the entire contents of a frame - including the people, locations (settings, environment, surroundings), and props or objects. In addition, the shot shows the spatial relationship between the different objects in the frame. There are many types of shots filmmakers use to make their films more dynamic and interesting. There is no reason why student filmmakers shouldn't use the same knowledge. With a little planning using StoryBoard Quick you will see how quickly student projects improve.

Paul Clatworthy is Creative Director at PowerProduction Software, creators of StoryBoard Quick and StoryBoard Artist. You can visit their website at www.powerproduction.com

VideoAssistSB