What is storyboarding anyways?

This is something you’ve probably asked yourself in order to have wound up here, and honestly we don’t blame you. Storyboarding, can be confusing and intimidating for someone starting to create film or video. You may have wondered, ‘Should I bring a storyboard into a pitch? Do I have to hire a professional illustrator? Aren’t mood boards and storyboards the same thing?’

Well, we’re hoping to provide you with some of OUR answers to those questions!

A Time and Place for Storyboarding:

Storyboarding has been around for what seems like forever, or at least since it was first developed at Disney Studios in the 1930s. It involves laying out illustrated visuals of scenes, that the director plans on shooting to accompany a film’s script. Now, I’m guessing you’re not interested in creating a simple Steamboat Willy short. Therefore, drafting tons of illustrations to only actually pitch an idea will cost you a lot of time and energy (typically as a creative, those aren’t two things you can afford to spare). I’m not suggesting that storyboarding isn’t important, it certainly has a time and place, but that time and place isn’t necessarily in the pitching stages of production.

Storyboards are better used as a guide for everyone involved in the production phase of a project, the phase when filming actually takes place. They provide directors, camera operators, and even cast members with specific visuals of what they are trying achieve in each shot. This No Film School article explains how a storyboard “helps filmmakers visualize their film before they shoot, as well as work efficiently when they do shoot.” This same article quotes J. Todd Anderson, a storyboard artist for the Coen Brothers. Anderson describes how he uses storyboarding to get “the image that’s in [the director’s] brain on the paper, so that everybody when they walk on the set is making the same movie –[so that] they’re not all imagining what’s going on.” Ridley Scott, filmmaker icon, also describes how storyboards are meant to act as a target. When he is on set, Scott already knows what he wants to film and how he is going to film it, because he has already illustrated it out.

If you’re still feeling a bit confused as to when and where you should introduce storyboarding into your project, take a look at how the folks here at Urban Video like to break things down from pitch to production…

The Urban Video Way:

Discovery Meeting with Client: This meeting is to gather all the clients’ needs and wants for the project. We jot down their ideas, so that we can head back to the office and combine their vision with our own.

Create Writers’ Room Prep Document: Next, we create a document with all of our notes from the discovery meeting and include a general idea of the direction we hope to go with the video. This document is handed out to staff, so that they are able to brainstorm and collect content for a writers’ room session.

The Writers’ Room Session: During this session, staff looks at the content and ideas each member of the team has been collecting for the project. This meeting involves looking at different videos, images, music etc. This is where the brainstorming magic happens!

Scripting/Mood Boarding for the Pitch: Staff then begins drafting a script to propose to the client. A mood board including images, colours, and inspiration for the project is also assembled. This stage helps establish a clear feel and vision for the project that we can later pitch to the client.

Here’s an example of an Urban Video Mood Board that we used for our clients at the Mosaic Centre!

The Pitch: Now we present all of our ideas to the client, take note of any revisions that need to be made, and wait for the nod of approval. Once we’ve been given the ‘okay,’ the project is handed over to us to go forward with. From here we finish up the script, create a storyboard (finally), film, and edit.

Remember, don’t worry if you’re not a Ridley Scott or J. Todd Anderson. A storyboard doesn’t need to be fancy or professional, and it doesn’t need to be presented to a client. As long as your beautiful board of scribbles creates some visual representation of what you want to film, you’re doing it right. Now pick up a pen, and get those money shots down on paper!

Happy storyboarding!

How do you storyboard? Let us know how your techniques differ from our own.