Storyboards for Entertainment Media 101.

Firstly – What do we mean by storyboard?

Well, there are a wealth of examples easily accessible via the web.

If you are interested in the history of the process why not take some time to check out a guy called Webb Smith.

There are plenty of documentaries and videos out there that describe the process too.

In this session we’ll take a brief look at the reasons and methods used in generating storyboards for entertainment media products.

Firstly, back to that definition.

In short – A storyboard is a sequence – long or short – of images that describe (prior to final production) a scene or set of scenes or events* in order to communicate the intentions of the scenes creator/creators to others.

A true storyboard is a mixture of explanatory and representational images, diagrammatic information and explanatory text.

*I’ve used storyboards not only as part of the creation of moving image production, but as part of the theme park development process, showing typical audience experience.
dramatic camera move 003image from Batman Animated – Paul Dini & Chip Kidd

So… now the important question.

“Why bother creating a storyboard for my film/animation/games sequence? Can’t I just get on and make the actual thing?”

Or as we know this regularly recurring attitude in the studio, “I’m a genius! Surely I can just wing it as I go along?”

Sadly, not everyone is a genius, and not everyone, particularly in the film and games industries, works alone.

Film/TV/Animation and Games are in most/many cases collaborative projects… storyboarding is a vital communication tool in that process.

Pixar‘s Brave, Storyboards through to final renders… storyboard tests, animatic tests, process and render tests…

This next clip from Wall-E… well, this shows the process around the storyboarding and beyond in the creation of a single animation shot.

– Like I said…

It’s collaborative…

How are storyboards used?

LECTURERS NOTE: (You can get your class to participate here by asking them various potential uses for storyboarding)

Variously, you can use your storyboards to:

  • a, To Present work to investors (high-end studio execs, punters on Kickstarter), producers, studio heads, clients even other departments:

Some examples:

Full hand-drawn storyboard – The Ox and The Frog.

Pixar, the storyboarding process… in storyboards.

Games Design – Storyboards/animatic

NOTE: Yuri Norstein the Soviet and Russian animator, who lived through some difficult political times while working creatively, spoke to me (back when I was a student animator) of having to have two storyboards for some of his projects, one to show officials what he was working on and one that he was actually working from.

  • b, To plan difficult or complicated shots such as Physical FX shots, CGI shots, choreography (coordinating large crowds, fight scenes etc)

Previz is a major part of entertainment media these days and many skill sets that used to be limited to post-production work are now tapped much earlier in the process in order to pull materials together that can show a products viability to investors, and in order to get it “Green Lit“.

  • c, To (pre)Edit – It is possible, especially with early storyboards to create them in such a way – i.e. on cards or Post-it notes (the original “boards” were movable in this way), allowing you to shuffle them around as you develop your narrative…
sboards r important 001David Lowery (Storyboard Artist) – image via this blog –

…this type storyboard (above) on individual cards/boards (even post-it notes) also allows you also change your running order of production whilst keeping a track of things already shot (note the crossing out) still to be done.

Storyboarding Your Film, Animation, VFX or In-Game Action Sequence.

Before you create your film storyboards, you have to perform certain tasks and make certain decisions.

First, begin by evaluating your screenplay/script/sequence of events and picture it in terms of separate shots, events, and audience perceptions that can be visually translated into individual storyboard panels.

Then you determine what makes up each shot/event (on screen content) and also which images need to be heavily storyboarded and which ones don’t. After you start storyboarding, you’ll need to determine whether you’re shooting for a TV or a theatrical release, or for a game or some other format as discussed, which as we said will might ultimately affect the frame dimensions of your panels/boards.

  • Breaking down your script

The task of turning your screenplay into a film or your interactive idea and scenarios into a game can be very overwhelming. But remember, a long journey begins with a single step, so begin by breaking the screenplay down into small steps, or shots. A shot is defined from the time the camera turns on to cover the action to the time it’s turned off; in other words, continuous footage with no cuts. Figure out what you want these shots to entail and then transform those ideas into a series of storyboard panels. Stepping back and seeing your film in individual panels makes the project much less overwhelming.

composing shots 001image from A New Vision In Animation – The Prince Of Egypt
  • Evaluating each shot

As discussed, you have several elements to consider when preparing your storyboards. You first need to evaluate your script and break it down into shots. Then, as you plan each shot panel, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the location setting?
  • How many actors/characters/elements are needed/to be used in the shot?
  • Do you need any important props or vehicles in the shot, and have you sourced/designed them?
  • What type of shot do you need/will you choose to use (close-up, wide-shot, establishing shot, and so on), and why?
  • What is the shot’s angle (where the camera is shooting from)? Is it a high angle? A low angle?

This brings us back to composition – we’ve looked at this a little in other areas, but a quick reminder might be useful.

There is some great discussion of composition relating to single image concepts in the book “Art Fundamentals” (look in the old media section in the studio), pages 36 – 65.

Also you might want to check out Wally Woods’s 22 Panels That Always Work, now fair enough this looks at comics but I’m sure you will be able to adapt some elements of the thinking for your storyboard/shot composition needs.

--- storyboarding zombies 001Examples of my own rough Zombie scene storyboards.

Basically what we are talking about here is what Ron Doucet calls “learning the basic rules of cinematography” in his online discussion of drawing and composition for visual storytelling.

  • Do any actors/characters or vehicles/props/other items need to move within the frame, and what is the direction of that action? (arrows people/arrows)
  • Do you need any camera movement to add motion to this shot? In other words, does the camera follow the actor or vehicles in the shot, and in what direction? Or do characters and objects move past a fixed camera? We don’t know until you tell us.
  • Do you need any special lighting? The lighting depends on what type of mood you’re trying to convey (for example, you may need to access candlelight, moonlight, a dark alley, or a bright sunny day, or in the case of games and animation you will need to create this from scratch).
  • Do you need any special effects? Illustrating special effects is important to deciding whether you have to consult a special-effects person. Special effects can include gunfire, explosions, and computer-generated effects or CGi (this includes masking items out as well as adding VFX items in).
  • As part of a collaborative effort, other departments might rely on you to inform them what they need to prepare.

Creating a shot list:

After you determine what makes up each shot or event or possible event (remember games are not as linear as traditional animation narratives), decide whether you want to storyboard every shot or just the ones that require special planning as mentioned above such as action or special effects.

If you want to keep a certain style throughout the film — like low angles, panning or dolly shots, special lenses, or a certain colour palette or lighting style (for example, German Expressionistic or Film Noir style shadows!) — then you may want to storyboard every shot.

If you only want to storyboard certain scenes that may require particularly special planning, keep a shot list of all the events or scenes that jump out at you so that you can translate them into separate storyboard panels.

But remember, in the moment, even if you’ve already created your shot list, you aren’t locked into it. Inspiration for a new shot often hits while you’re on set or in the moment of animation and your creative juices are flowing. If you have time and money, and the schedule and budget allow, try out that inspiration!

Your storyboards should be “living” documents… they should be useful, not overly restrictive.

  • Constructing the actual storyboard panels
--- Own StoryboardsExamples of movable storyboards by N. Griffiths-Scott (animator/illustrator – former student)

A storyboard panel is basically just a box containing the illustration/visualisation of the shot you envision for your film or event. You can download templates for storyboard panels in different format sizes online or make your own (keeping them at a legible size). But remember, you may need to make your own if you are working to a unique format, Mobile phone games, Custom Projections, etc.

Here are some quick steps to design your own storyboard panels:

1, Decide which shape and size/ratio/format of storyboard panel to use (what device media will your audience be seeing the final product in?), and choose how you wish to present them (are they roughs?

A television storyboard panel, like the screen on your television set, resembles a square, only slightly wider, traditionally (4:3) though this is changing, this is true of some games consoles too.

Theatrical feature-film storyboards are still rectangular in shape, but almost twice as wide as a television screen (16:9); and as mentioned many TV shows have begun to shoot in this widescreen format too, some films are occasionally shot wider than widescreen, super-wide screen etc.

Games come in many formats however, especially if you consider none standard arcade (real arcade) games…

Special event shots even within a standard screen format might require alternative thinking when planning…

dramatic camera move 002image from Batman Animated – Paul Dini & Chip Kidd
dramatic camera move 001image from A New Vision In Animation – The Prince Of Egypt

2. Draw the shape of the panel and add a thick black border. This can be done digitally if you wish, even printed and repeatedly photocopied for large projects. Draw them up in your sketchbook, Are they developmental? Draw them on Post-its. For presentation, you might want to develop them digitally and print them out on labelled up paper in colour.

Placing a border around each panel helps you to see each panel as a definitive separate shot, and subliminally creates the illusion of a Monitor or in the case of film, a darkened theatre around your shot, giving you an idea of what that individual image will look like.

3. You can then create a description panel by drawing a empty box just below the bottom of the frame panel, or simply write your directions/instructions into the space below and around the image box. Don’t forget how useful arrows are.

Use this space to write down important information that describes in detail what the illustration doesn’t show or enhances what is drawn in the frame above. For example, include any important dialogue, camera directions, scene numbers, or special-effects instructions.

Then you are ready to go.

And ultimately, if its good enough for this guy

sboards r important 002Steven Speilberg on the set of Jurassic Park from the making of book.

Well… its probably good enough for you…

~ by hesir on December 11, 2013.

2 Responses to “Storyboards for Entertainment Media 101.”

  1. […] may wish to read around the subject of storyboarding as discussed in other sessions. You may also wish to take your storyboards to the next level and produce and Animatic (perhaps […]

  2. […] – An Intro To Storyboarding inc. composition. Basic Seminar Notes – Delivered Wed – 30/11/16 (See Monday Sessions for additional links – Eiv […]

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