Storyboarding isn’t for everyone.
It takes time.
Some people can’t, or just don’t like to, draw.
Some find that making decisions before they shoot limits them on set.
For me, it’s an essential tool. We don’t use it for every job but certainly for anything which we may have control over such as narrative film, it’s a great way for us to make sure that by the time the actors arrive on set, everyone knows what’s happening next, where the lights go, what the shot needs to cut in to and out of, and also to show other crew members what you have in mind.
However, it is important to not feel restricted by the storyboard. Treat it like a roadmap – it’ll take you to the place you want to be (if you’ve done your homework) but if you see a great view along the way – stop off and check it out, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t. So, if you find a better shot, or a nicer angle – shoot it – but bear in mind the limitations which forced you to storyboard that shot in the way that you did.
Everyone’s workflow for storyboarding is different and there’s definitely no correct way of doing this, but this is the way we like to work:
1) Analyse the script, marking beats, motivations, actions and movement
2) Analyse the script looking for technical requirements, location issues etc.
3) Figure out what you need to see to tell your story e.g. emotional moments, how close do you want to be ? How should we feel about the character? What’s your point of focus?
4) Draw out approximate page sized pictures with stick men, no facial expressions (I feel pretty strongly about this one – if you have a clear facial expression in mind it can colour your judgement on set. Your mind should be focused on what your characters want to achieve, not on the behaviours they exhibit whilst trying to achieve that – give your actors the freedom to explore that).
5) Collate the sketches into a meaningful shot by shot storyboard
6) At the location (if possible) photograph mock ups of the storyboards (note times of day if outdoors) – if impossible, shoot photo mock ups anywhere.
7) From the photographs figure out a lighting/actor/camera plot taking note of technical requirements, cut points, actions which need to be seen, actions which carry through the cut.
From there your storyboard can be split up, when planning the shot list, so that as you work, you can clearly see what the shot is, where everything should be, and what everyone should be doing. If you spot something new, or if someone brings to the set something out of left field, you’ll immediately be able to see whether it could work.
It’s important to take on those ideas – they can only improve your work.
We’re pen and paper people, it means we can work fast. However, there are a variety of technological tools available if you’d prefer (I have to admit, the Penultimate Ipad software looks pretty tempting!).
Google Sketch Up – This is great for laptops and desktops
Storyboard Pro – Another great for desktops
FrameForge3D – As above
Penultimate (great for Ipads)
Clip Sketch (another Ipad storyboard software)