For the creatives in the filmmaking world, knowing what they want to shoot can take a lot of time. There are many things the production team can do before the cameras roll to make the shoot go smoother. Take a look at the rest of the series for more bits of paperwork that can do just that, the last one the Locked Script.

Getting the cameras set up and then re-setup for the next shot can take time. Storyboards can help reduce some of that time during filming.

What is a Storyboard?

A Storyboard is a collection of drawings that help the director and his team visualise the film before they even step on set.

Why are Storyboards important?

Storyboards help to get the feel of the film. They can also give the director and producer an idea for what sort of equipment and locations will be needed. Storyboards can also help to make sure there is enough time scheduled at a location to tell the story.

With the Storyboards, it helps many different departments prepare for filming. It can give insight into the director’s vision for the locations, the props, set design, costuming, and casting.

These may also affect scheduling. If a scene has two Storyboard frames, it may not require much time to film, depending on the length of the scene. A scene with eighty-seven Storyboard frames will take a while to film, simply by looking at the number of setups it will require.

Who is involved in Storyboards?

For some, there may be a Storyboard artist, who works with the director to get their idea across. For short films or independent productions, it may be the director sketching something out.

A Storyboard may also reveal the need for some more specialized camera equipment, such as an underwater rig or a drone.

What is included in a Storyboard?

There are two different types of Storyboards: Storyboard for the shoot and Storyboard for the edit. For more information on the difference between the two, check out this article.

You can also have a template Storyboards as a PDF or as an Excel document.

There are three main bits of information to include in each Storyboard frame.

In this example frame, the top box is where the scene number goes. This should correspond to the scene numbers from your locked script. There are a few cases where two scenes in the script may be filmed all at once, as they are continuous scenes split for story reasons. All of these can be included here. If there is a time gap where people change clothes or something happens to the set from one scene to another, a different Storyboard will be needed.

When numbering your Storyboards, I recommend using a sequence that includes the scene number and the shot number. For example for scene 16, there are 3 shots in the Storyboard. I would number these 16.1, 16.2, and 16.3. (This is the number sequence I will reference in coming articles.) You can also use letters, but that can get confusing when you start slating.

The second box is where the Storyboard goes. This can be as simple or as complex as you want as long as it gets the point across. My super amazing drawing skills mean my Storyboards are fantastically drawn stick people, but I always add a nose to tell the direction the actors are looking.

If there is movement by an actor within the shot, put an arrow to show their direction of travel.

For camera movement, draw the main beats of the shot. For a tilt, dolly, and pan, or something similar, draw the start and finish. Then between the frames, draw an arrow with the type of shot. For a tracking shot, draw the important moments.

The bottom box you may not find on all Storyboards. It’s a description box. Put what’s happening in the shot or what actions happen.

Do you have to do Storyboard before setting out for filming? No, you don’t, but it will save you time on set. It will also help you, in the long run, to avoid forgetting that one shot that makes or breaks your story. There are no hard and fast rules for how to make movies but learn from my mistakes: Storyboards help immensely.

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  • Connor Sassmannshausen is a screenwriter, video producer, and social media organizer with the Initiative Production Company. She loves watching movies, nerdy t-shirts, travelling and taking broken things apart (but not necessarily putting them back together).

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