Pre-Production: How To Create a Storyboard

A storyboard is crucial to the filmmaking process. It is a nice visual to present during fundraising and also very informative to the crew. Storyboards do not always need to look pretty; sometimes stick figures are enough to get the point across.

Step 1: Getting Ready

Before you begin your storyboards, you should have a shot list. A storyboard will translate these words into a visual form. You should also decide on your aspect ratio. This is the relationship between the height and width of your frame. Take a piece of paper and draw eight rectangles with the dimensions of your frame. Leave room below each square for a description. Use a new page for each scene. For this example, we will shoot a scene with Jack and John sitting at a table facing each other.

Step 2: Characters

If you are not good at drawing, you will still want to find a way to distinguish your characters from each other. It does not have to be complicated; something as simple as curly hair on John is enough. This will help you keep track of who is sitting where and how their eye lines should work.

Step 3: Coverage

The key to storyboards is to be clear as to what size the person should be in the frame, where in the frame they should be, and at what angle. In your scene, you are planning a single of John and a single of Jack. You want both of these to be over the shoulder shots. So, you should first draw John with curly hair in the left of the frame. Draw him as large as you want him to be in the frame and with a face so we know he is looking forward. Then, be sure to signify that Jack's shoulder is in the right of the frame. This can be as simple as a curved line. Jack's shot should be similar except that it is a mirror image of John's shot.

Step 4: Dolly

Now you want a wide 2-shot of the two men at the table. This will in all likelihood be a profile shot. So, draw them sitting full body at a table facing each other. Again draw curly hair on John to distinguish him. Now add noses to both characters so we know that we are looking at the side of their faces. Perhaps you want to have this shot push in to a medium 2-shot of the two characters. In the next box on your storyboard, draw the desired ending frame for your dolly shot. Between the two squares, draw an arrow and clearly write "DOLLY" over it. If your move is more complex, draw all (and only) the frames in which the movement changes.

Storyboards are extremely informative for everyone on your crew. Though you may not know how to draw and cannot afford an artist, you only need enough skills to clearly communicate your vision.

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