Do You Really Need a Storyboard Template?
Nov 19, 2019
As a company filled with creative people, we like to think of storyboarding as the process of creating structure that a whole team will share.
Whether you’re building a script, choosing locations for filming, or starting to think about background music, a storyboard can help. It’s a technique that helps conceptualize and organize ideas before production, which saves you time, effort, and money.
Time to move on from your cluttered Post-it Note idea board | Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash
But storyboarding isn’t just for big-budget projects. Ad agencies, independent filmmakers, corporate videographers, and even cartoonists use this process. Anything with a visual element can benefit from storyboards.
Novels and screenplays benefit from an outline, particularly for pitching ideas and reviewing specific section. But don’t let this great organizational tool become some secret writer superpower — find ways to improve your creative projects too!
In case you’re curious about storyboarding in general, let's explore some background information on what the process is and how it will benefit you.
What Is Storyboarding?
What we think of as “storyboarding” today started back in the 1930s, but it had been a part of storytelling (and specifically filmmaking) since at least the 1890s.
Storyboarding helped creatives transition from newspaper comics and traditional art and into the era of “moving pictures.” As the storyboard process became more integral to the earliest days of film production, the practice continued to grow and evolve.
But unsurprisingly, the modern storyboard concept was developed at Walt Disney Productions.
Disney animators drew single frames from different scenes, then arranged them in sequential order to provide a visual reference for everyone involved with the project. It functioned like a comic book and sometimes included pieces of a script or notes to give direction for mood and animation.
Storyboard example from Walt Disney Productions’ “Aladdin” | Art by Francis Glebas
But the process was never restricted to hand-drawn animation. Gone With The Wind — which released in 1939 — is considered the first live-action “blockbuster” to have been fully storyboarded in the new Disney format.
The process has remained relevant because it just works.
For Disney, storyboarding became even more important as the company worked on bigger projects. And the eventual rise of computer animation sealed the deal: storyboarding was an important step in keeping the Disney magic throughout the pre-production process.
As a content creator, here’s your big takeaway: When you are collaborating on a project, it’s important to see how elements from different people will come together. And the sooner you tackle that challenge, the easier it is to divide and conquer while still meeting the deadline.
What Can I Do With Storyboards?
Detailed comic book-style storyboards are great in theory, but do they really work for other types of projects? How do they apply to live-action videos? Do they affect creative freedom during a shoot? Is it worth using them as an independent creator?
Those are all solid questions to ask, but the good news is that storyboarding is as old as the film industry. It’s been tested by thousands of people over the years, so you don’t have to worry — a process this old has at least something that any creative can apply to their process.
And the best thing is that storyboards are flexible and scalable. You can provide as much or as little information as you need to make sense of a particular scene or shot.
Detailed storyboard of “The Grudge Keeper” by Mara Rockcliff | Illustrations by Eliza Wheeler
Do you want to draw an arrow to indicate camera push in? What about a note about one character’s movements in the scene? A printed, physical document gives you leeway to make notes and even change direction mid-project without losing sight of the overall vision.
That’s true whether you work with an 30-person ad agency or have your own wedding video business. Independent creators face the same challenges as anyone else, and they often do it without the resources or oversight of a more experienced supervisor.
For those of you who fall into this boat, think of a storyboard as an easy way to keep yourself accountable. This can be especially helpful if the project is part of a side hustle — keep track of your best ideas, no matter how long it takes to complete the piece.
And if your next project is a corporate video or something with a lot of people involved, a solid storyboard template can save you time and money. It’s an easy way to establish consistency for yourself and other creatives.
Oh, and it also helps non-creative people (like that project manager who hired you for the job) get a clearer idea of your vision. They might still ask you a hundred questions about each shot, but at least you’ll have a clear reference point to show them.
What Resources Exist?
You can find all sorts of storyboarding tips and tutorials on YouTube. And if you’d like more context, there are long-form articles (or even entire sites) about the history and evolution of storyboarding.
But our guess is that you’re looking for resources to help you try out the process. Or maybe you want to learn about the value of storyboarding and see if it can improve your workflow.
Anyone who’s worked with Disney or Pixar walks away with a deep appreciation for the hive-mind creativity there. Renowned consultant Bill Capodagli wrote books on the culture of both companies, and those experiences made him a believer in the power of storyboards:
“Storyboarding is what I call an ‘idea landscape’ — one that can help unleash creativity, improve communication, and identify practical solutions to complex problems. The beauty of storyboarding is that ideas from an entire team are harnessed, not just those from the extroverts or vocal members.”
As creatives, we’re always looking for a new tool to help streamline the process. So if storyboarding will trim down time the time you spend on reshoots or smooth out collaboration with a team, you may as well give it a shot.
That way you can focus on creating the things you love.