Last month Phillip Harris wrote an article entitled "Storyboard – it is worth it or cumbersome?"
After reading the article he wrote from his experience as a teacher of Television Production, I was left with the impression that he felt storyboards were “optional except for extremely complicated shots.” He found “kids were spending inordinate amounts of time doing artwork even when (he) gave them examples of storyboards that were simple stick figure sketches.”
I agree that storyboarding complicated shots is necessary; however, I was disappointed that he resorted to making storyboards optional in his class. I wrote to him and explained why I found it troubling that he was allowing students to give up on storyboarding.
Following is what I wrote; I will admit to being biased because I am one of the creators of StoryBoard Quick and StoryBoard Artist storyboarding software:
"Whether creating a movie, an educational video, a PSA or a commercial for television or the internet, visually planning a project is where storyboards become necessary. Storyboards are a great communication tool for directors and producers to show their ideas and setups to their crew or client. But not when a person who is trying to create the project is intimidated by his or her own 'ability (or inability) to draw.'
Not all creative minds know how to draw, but most creative minds have stories to tell and projects to make.
"StoryBoard Quick storyboarding software was created to fill the needs of those who 'can't, or don't want to, draw.' It simplifies the storyboarding process so it doesn't have to be a daunting or time-draining task. The focus can be on working out story flow or shot setups which is a preproduction step that most productions will benefit from.
"StoryBoard Quick comes loaded with 'storyboard art,' people (characters), places (locations) and things (props); which can be put into a frame, manipulated (rotated, scaled, repositioned) easily and quickly within the frame, even faster than most can draw. Then the user can move on to the next frame and quickly create another shot.
The boards can be distributed via printing in storyboard formats or exported to a flash movie.
The software itself is simple and easy to use and learn. As filmmakers ourselves, we know that storyboarding is a necessary step, but not one that should be a stumbling block on your way into production.
"StoryBoard Quick is used in classrooms by students and teachers in all grade level and all over the world. Some teachers call StoryBoard Quick 'the great equalizer' because it allows everyone, even those who consider themselves 'graphically challenged,' to make their boards quickly and plan their projects.
"Learning to setup/compose shots is also a great way to begin teaching students how to direct a project. After all, the objective of a production class is to help students develop skills of production and expose them to equipment and technologies that enable them to communicate in such a manner that makes it possible for their audiences to receive their message. And of course, planning is a key step to a successful project."
While Phil wrote very little about the “software” element of storyboarding, I guessed that he might have been referring to “drawing” on the computer or using 3-D visualization programs both which can have a steep learning curve.
Phil wrote that when he “discovered that (he) actually had students not sign up for the class because they self-assessed that they couldn't draw. That was the final straw." He dropped the requirement and made it “optional except for extremely complicated shots.”
Sure, complicated shots especially need to be mapped out; and, yes, “stick figures” can suffice and large Hollywood productions do have a position called a storyboard artist (people who draw the storyboards). But there are a lot of positions in large productions that have their own say about how shot/s looks. A large Hollywood production has second unit directors, stunt coordinators, and others who contribute input to shots. One of the creative professionals who recently discovered storyboarding software from PowerProduction wrote about the point I was making.
Director, Anna Foerster wrote to us about StoryBoard Quick's pro (big brother) package StoryBoard Artist (which is StoryBoard Quick with a timeline and more):
“My terrible drawing skills often stop me from sketching storyboards because it ends up not showing what I wanted. And it gets really bad if you have to explain your storyboard and gets even worse if you work internationally and half the time, you don't speak the language. Being creative doesn't necessarily mean that you can draw. I am definitely not a computer whiz but I figured Storyboard Artist ...and I feel like I grew wings." - Anna Foerster, Director of Criminal Minds; Second Unit Director for Day after Tomorrow, Aeon Flux, 10,000 BC and more.
While teachers may find it challenging to stay ahead of some students today “technology-wise” (since most students seem to be born with a mouse in their hand!), exposing students to the tools, skills, techniques and technologies that are being used in the professional world of digital film/video/television production is an important part of the process.
Thank you, Phil for being receptive to my input and sharing it with others in your circle of educators.