Whether you’re pitching to a client, applying for funding or just trying to get your ideas in order, drawing up a storyboard is an important skill. So, if you’re a designer, theatremaker, filmmaker, illustrator or animator, take our top tips…
Choose the right program
Hey guys! Welcome to the digital age! Pull up a chair, grab a tablet, enjoy the view. There are several programs designed specifically for storyboarding including StoryBoard Pro by Toon Boom as recommended by animator and Sky Arts winner Drew Roper. But if you don’t want to fork out for something specific then making the most of your layers on Photoshop should do the trick.
“Your storyboard will always grow, so make sure you’ve made it in a format that allows lots of amends and additions,” says John McKeever, who’s drawn storyboards for many of NYT’s major projects including S’Warm, the Olympic welcome ceremony [below] and Flood. “When you separate your images into layers – background, characters, props etc – It means you can amend and refine one area, and move them about, without having to do each image over again. It means you get continuity across the document.”
The process at a glance
“I go through the script and start drawing up thumbnails there on the page [below],” says Drew. “I then work the thumbnails up into rough boards and then turn those roughs into proper boards and finally turn them into an animatic (an animated sequence of boards).”
Try to balance your time
You need to juggle the time you take drawing up a storyboard and the time you take actually making the finished product, and striking the right balance is no mean feat.
Director, designer and filmmaker Alex Turvey [see below] prefers to spend a long time on his boards, saving him time on set. “I’ll literally spend four days at the beginning, going above and beyond on making the storyboard, but for the next month that’s all my work there, done already,” says Alex.
“I’ve got a good reputation for making my things look exactly like my storyboards. They are my safety net. As long as I achieve what’s on those, then I’m winning. I draw every single key frame by hand, but draw each element separately. I’ll film myself doing the action, put that into Quicktime, then I will trace over it and adapt the shape of the person to how I want it to look.”
However, be aware that when you are working with a client, much of your storyboard will be changed or cut out. “Don’t spend too long over each image,” warns John McKeever. “Things like pastel drawings or paint will look lovely, but if they don’t get used then it’s not a good use of your time.”
Presenting to clients
Much of the time, the storyboards you make will be to show clients what you’re doing. So make sure they communicate your story and intentions as clearly as possible.
“When I’m really excited about ideas, I can get a bit muddled talking about then. So a storyboard is the best way to show exactly what I want,” says Alex. “I animate it all, as a moving storyboard with music, to give it a bit more depth.”
“Just show the client one board and let them make amends,” says Drew. “If you give them too much choice, it just makes it harder for them to make a decision. Also, keep any boards you don’t use just in case you need to put bits back in. They’re a nice record, too.”
If you’re not particularly great at storyboarding then don’t worry about getting a professional storyboarder to do it. “There are people who are so apt at it,” says Sky Arts winner and animator Phoebe Boswell. “If I were doing something for a client then I probably would get someone else to do the storyboard.”
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Main and final image: H&M/Anna Del Russo Fashion Shower storyboard by Alex Turvey.
NYT Olympic Welcome Ceremony storyboards by John McGeever.
A-Tissue animation storyboard by Drew Roper.