The goal of this document is to help students design and create storyboards that are useful when filming. The techniques shown will include: how to design storyboards, including how to show correct camera angles for the scene, writing your story, and how to use video transitions.
A storyboard is a comic book of a movie that allows you to easily explain the shots in your movie to other people. Storyboards are created from scripts, so write your script before continuing this tutorial.
Find some paper that has a box for an image and several lines beneath the image to write on. An example storyboard template is found here: Blank Storyboard Template
- Type of shot (camera angle) – close up, wide shot, etc. By doing this in the storyboard it will help to establish what settings to use when filming later on.
- Screen direction – what’s happening in the shot.
- Dialogue – indicate who is saying what this includes any voices coming from off-camera
A traditional board may look like this:
A frame is a single image on the storyboard, like the box on the left.
A shot is continuous footage with no cuts – that is, from the time the camera is turned on to the time it’s turned off.
Listed are some basic camera angles and lengths that you will find useful when designing the visual scenes and giving instructing for filming with the camera. While only a few shots are listed here, more are discussed in a provided link.
Choose the angle framing (how wide the shot is) by asking yourself, “What do I need the audience to see right now?”
The first shot of the sequence is usually the establishing shot which sets the stage for the action. This shot orients the viewers and puts a map inside the mind of the audience. The establishing shot is a long distance, or “bird’s eye view,” shot. This shot typically has much more detail than other, following shots in the same location.
Used to stress the environment or setting, a long shot is set from a distance, but not a distance as great as the establishing shot.
A medium shot is a shot that frames actors from the waist up. This is often used to focus attention on interaction between two actors.
An over-the-shoulder shot of one actor, taken over the shoulder of another. This shot is used when two characters are interacting face-to-face and focuses the audience’s attention to one actor at a time.
Taken only inches away from an object or actor’s face, the close-up is designed to focus attention or give significance to an element. Close-ups should capture a story-point –a moment or action that’s very important to the story.
Don’t frame close-ups too tightly. Reserve the extreme close-up for rare occasions of extreme emotion. Further, avoid centering characters. Leave some extra room in the direction that they’re facing. This is sometimes called “look room.”
Panning is moving the camera to follow an object or action. Depicting this in storyboards can be done one of several ways, depending on the context.
Note: It’s best to pan when you’re following the action or a character; give the eye something to follow.
If the shot is one big scene and you want to pan to the side or up (or down) to show the rest of the scene, you can take a bigger box and draw the entire scene you plan on filming. Then you will want to draw boxes indicating where you’d like to pan. One box will indicate the start of the filming and then draw arrows to the second box to indicate that the pan is finished.
If the shot covers action, you can use separate frames to show the character(s) at different times.
In the first frame of the scene you want to pan, draw an arrow that runs to the last frame of the pan.
Staging & Movement
Always make sure to draw a clear background in the first panel of a scene. This panel orients the viewer, so it’s important to consider which objects will be present. Background details can be incorporated, if needed, in later frames of the storyboard.
When deciding where the actors stand on screen, keep space for necessary actors and movement in future panels. Don’t let your main objects bump against the sides of the panel – keep the white-space.
When an actor is moving, use arrows liberally to communicate the movement. Overall, use as few models as possible to communicate action.
When to cut
Cut IN (closer) when you need to see a specific expression or small action.
Always give a reason for the cut: This is called “Motivating the cut.” Possible reasons can be a voice off-screen voice or action. This action of cutting is used to create a sense of curiosity in the viewer.
At the first frame of each new sequence, put a number next to that frame. That number is the sequence number, and is used for clarity when cutting from one sequence to another. Anytime you cut from one scene to another, indicate it on the storyboard.
Storyboards are important! Storyboards are a smooth transition from a script to filming, and allow you see the film before filming. They can tell you where your script needs to be changed to look good in a film, saving you time, effort, and possibly money. A storyboard should be so complete that a director who sees a storyboard can, without reading the script or talking to anyone involved in the original project, create the film as it was intended to be. Use the techniques discussed in this document to create such a storyboard.