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Old September 19th, 2007, 08:18 AM   #16
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I like storyboarding software. (I use Frame Forge 3D)

See the shot in your head - build the set in the computer - add the actors -tell the software what kind of camera and lens you have - set up the shot.

Voila! There it is, perfect!

Or...and this is the important discover the shot that looks SO great in your head isn't physically possible with your equipment and the available location.

Oops. But better to find that out in the comfort of your own home, than on the day of the shoot. Gives you the chance to re-think it. (And try out other possibilities...always a good thing.)
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Old September 19th, 2007, 02:58 PM   #17
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I rather like drawing plans with the camera positions and a note beside each position with the actors moves marked in. It's loose and doesn't tie you in, which as Charles mentioned can happen when directors obsess with their storyboards; especially when they've put in more shots than they need, or have time to shoot. They can also become blind to a shot lasting longer than the time frame of their drawing.

Often a good way is to block the scene with the actors and then very quickly decide your shots. However, you should have planned your scene in advance as to what it's about in story terms and what is important. A shot list is good starting point, so you know what you need and don't waste time by suddenly finding you need to relight in the opposite direction because you've forgotten a shot.

I've had shoots with really good storyboard artists - one I know who worked on the Judge Dredd comics and does great storyboards. However, they're just starting points and you don't just copy them mechanically. Although, I do sometimes joke with him about which lens he's using in his drawings.
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Old September 19th, 2007, 10:03 PM   #18
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With a medium budget project, storyboard. Get your shots right the first time while the rentals, talent and crew are on the clock.

With a no budget film, don't bother.

Here's the deal. If you don't know who's gonna show up. If you don't know what props are gonna be on hand. If you don't have any idea what locations you can access. And the crew is working for fun and pizza. And you own your own equipment. Then there's only one answer:


Often you find that your grand idea won't work. And you have to write around it. On the spot. And if you and your buds all brainstorm. It works out just fine. And they are part of the creative process. Which makes the pizza taste that much better.

Bear in mind that this works best on comedies. Probably not so well on an intricate who-done-it-? caper. I heard that on Anchorman the idea for including the song Afternoon Delight came to one of the actors during the shoot, the director loved it, they immediately learned it, filmed it and then got the permissions later. No storyboarding there. On the other hand, can you imagine the pre-visualization they went through for the Matrix freeway scene?

Storyboarding is a great tool. But it's not the only way to make a movie.
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Old September 25th, 2007, 10:01 AM   #19
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As a novice film maker, I thought that making storyboards was redundant and didn't really see a point. However there is a point, organization. Also when you're actually drawing out the storyboard you come up with new ideas for shots and angles. It is time consuming but keep it simple, instead of drawing out every little detail to a character on the storyboard, just draw a plain body(not stick figures), and put the characters initials as the face for the illustration. You're a film maker not a comic book artists so if you think your drawings suck, don't worry because it doesn't matter.
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Old September 25th, 2007, 05:29 PM   #20
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One very helpful process can be to take a digital camera with you when you scout and/or shotlist your film and do quick snaps of your proposed setups. Bring a couple of bodies along to stick in the frame, of course. If you intend to use a 35mm adaptor, a digital camera with an APS sized sensor has a reasonably equivalent field of view to 35mm (motion picture, not still) so you can play around with different focal lengths to see what you might use on the day, and where the camera needs to be. Then you can print these pix onto a storyboard or imbed them into your shotlist or script. These can be helpful for communicating the desired shots to others. Some people will be thrown off by the literal nature of photos vs drawings but for most it is a help. Of course, you can take it a step further and shoot rough video of the scene, and even cut it into a sequence to see if it will work--at a certain point, you are basically making the film twice, though!

Here are some stills that I did while scouting a film recently; we had a couple of folks stand in while I quickly snapped a series of setups and then showed them to the director to illustrate various aspects of what I was proposing for certain scenes. After each still I have included the matching frame grab from the finished film (not final color correction) to show just how close these were to the originals. Incidentally after I showed these to the director I never looked at them again, or had them on set as references, as once we had our game plan set I knew what do by the time we shot the scene, based on my notes and the shotlist. With a more complicated scene with many setups, I might well have printed them out and had them with me just in case.
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Old September 25th, 2007, 05:42 PM   #21
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They are not necessary if you are shooting it yourself and you have everything in your mind's eye. If you are working with a DP a storyboard, or shot list at the very least, will help him/her prepare ahead of time. I use overhead diagrams myself.
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Old August 18th, 2008, 07:43 AM   #22
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I'm reviving this old thread because I feel I have something to add to it. I'm a director who has, in the past, worked as a storyboard artist. I will say first off that, while I can easily storyboard anything I shoot, I don't. Whether or not I use storyboards depends on the shot and the project. However, used correctly, they can be an extremely powerful tool.

Are storyboards and scripts redundant?

Not at all. Scripts* are about character and story. They communicate to the reader what happens, who it happens to, when it happens, and why it happens.

Storyboards are about the visuals. They show the where and the how. You can hand a script to 5 different directors and get 5 films that look completely different. Storyboards set the visual feel of the picture.

*a shooting script is an entirely different tool. Shooting scripts are technical documents meant used to communicate with technical crew. They are not intended as accessible representations of the story.

What is the purpose of a storyboard?

Storyboards serve three primary functions: planning, organization, and communication.

Planning: Most people, when reading a script (or writing one) form visual pictures of each scene in their minds. These pictures are incomplete! Say the scene is a guy in a room with a gun in his hands, deciding whether or not to shoot himself. You picture the guy, and you put him in a room. You put a gun in his hand, and then you let the script carry you through the story to the next scene. You DON'T stop to wonder what kind of gun it is, or whether it's in his left hand or his right, or whether there's a painting hanging on the wall, or what the bedspread looks like, or how big the room is, or what he's wearing, or any of a million other little details. You have what you need: guy, room, gun - now, does he shoot himself or not?

Storyboards give you a chance to plan all the things that the script leaves blank. Whether you do them yourself, or have someone else do them for you, this is your chance to work out important details for the cost of a piece of paper. So you draw your guy in the room. From what angle? You decide you want to shoot a low angle, looking up at him. Where in the room is he? He's sitting on the bed. How is he lit (shaded, if it's a drawing)? Well, what if there was a window with a neon sign just outside, shining though some blinds? Now you picturing red and blue lights playing across his face. Are there other lights in the room? You decide that most of the room is dark, just a few small simulated practicals. And so on... when you sit down and actually create/draw/compose a storyboard, you're forced to make decisions, and that allows you to plan things out before you get to the set and have a whole cast and crew standing around, waiting for you to figure it out.

Organization: Storyboards help you organize your shoot, before you get to production. In the above example, adding that "neon sign through the blinds" effect means you know you're going to need a couple of hard lights, some colored gels, and a venetian blind cookie. On a broader sense, having storyboards allows you to organize your shoot so that you have everything ready when you need it, and allows you to schedule your shoot around common elements to save time and money. They can help identify, for example, the three shots in the script you need a crane to shoot, and allow you to schedule all three shots on the same day or weekend to save on crane rental costs.

Hitchcock has already been mentioned as a meticulous storyboarder. In an October, 1995 article for Videomaker, Mark Steensland wrote:

"As mentioned above, Hitchcock was well known for storyboarding every shot in his films. In fact, he was so meticulous about it that he considered that phase of the production--drawing the storyboards--to be the actual process of making the film. For him, shooting the film was just a necessary evil; the making of the storyboards was where most of the creative work took place. The storyboard not only determined exactly what the shot would look like; it even decided what kind of lens to use. Production for Hitchcock, then, was simply a matter of creating live versions of the storyboards he'd already made."

It's obviously not necessary to use storyboarding to this extreme a level on every shot of every project, but learning how and when to use them can help you form a detailed and concrete visual and work out details and problems before you get to the set, when they're still cheap and easy to fix.

Communication: This, in my mind, is the most beneficial use of storyboards. Directors communicate visually; it can be exceedingly difficult for them (or anyone else, for that matter) to use words to really communicate to another person a specific image they see in their heads. If you can show someone (DP, set designer, costumer, prop master, etc.) a picture of what you want something to look like, they can instantly grasp it.

Try this for an exercise (you don't have to do it, just think about it): think of a movie you love, that someone you know hasn't seen. Would you rather a) show them the movie, or b) describe the whole thing for them (and I don't mean summarize, I mean sit them down and tell them shot for shot everything that happens in it)? Movies are powerful because they're VISUAL, and communicating visually is the most efficient form of human communication ever invented!

Don't believe me? How about some examples:

Good storyboards can also be used to convey your story to people outside your crew. George Lucas was able to get 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars by first having Ralph McQuarrie paint a series of five images illustrating various scenes in the film.

What storyboards are NOT good for

Storyboards are static images (if they move they're called animatics), therefore they are not good at showing movement, any more than a single frame of a video is. Often, arrows are used within the board to indicate camera movement, but showing subject movement within the frame -even something as simple as a character nodding "yes" or "no"- is not possible. For complex shots or scenes where planned movement is important, such as a tracking shot or a fight scene, multiple consecutive boards are used. This is somewhat similar to animation key frames; you show the movements at their most important points and skip the in betweens.

As mentioned previously in this thread, storyboards are generally not needed for simple shots like a two-shot and close ups for a normal conversation (however, some directors choose to board these scenes anyway).

Working with Storyboard artists

For low budget projects, it's usually best for the director to create the storyboards him- or herself. Even if you can't draw, there are lots of ways to get the image across (digital stills, stick figures, storyboarding software).

There can be great benefits to working with a storyboard artist, however. A good storyboard artist is adept at putting the director's vision on paper, and getting it out of his/her head. They will ask the director enough questions to get a clear picture of the shot, and then draw it out. When I work with directors, I usually do quick sketches as they describe the shot, just to make sure we're starting out on the right page, and then go complete a more finished board. I'm always willing to make changes, whether to incorporate a new idea or get it closer to what the director wants.

Storyboard artists are professionals just like everyone else, they should be compensated for their work! However, this doesn't mean storyboarding your project has to be expensive. The first thing you can do is really know which scenes you need storyboarded. By limiting the number of boards they have to draw, you limit the work they need to do and the amount you need to compensate them.

Some storyboard artists may be willing to work for trade, as well. When I was first getting into the business, I did a lot of storyboards/concept art in exchange for on-set experience, like a speaking role, or a job as a PA or production coordinator or 1st AD or whatever. There's a lot of things they could be drawing... if they're doing storyboards it automatically tells you they have an interest in the process of making films. This arrangement can help both parties - the directors I worked with got free storyboards and I got valuable experience on a variety of projects.


Here's a quick example of what a storyboard can do. Using the above scene (which I made up off the top of my head), I'll present the same shot as both a script excerpt and a board. I don't have access to a scanner at the moment, so I just did a quick sketch using the most basic software on the planet - MS Paint.



Dave tosses a PISTOL back and forth from one sweaty hand to the other. The dingy room's cheap ceiling fan is not nearly enough to cool the thoughts in his head. The SOUNDS of traffic on the street outside are oppressive and distracting, like water drips from a leaky faucet in the middle of the night.

He paces the confined space of the room, juggling the gun - left hand, right hand. He sits on the bed, then jumps up and paces again.

I didn't mean it! Why did she have to do that?

There's a CLICK as he pulls the pistol's hammer back...

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Old August 28th, 2008, 03:25 AM   #23
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I've been playing around with Frameforge (can't draw for nuts) and I'm finding it very useful.

In writing or reading a script I have an image in my head but getting others to see the same image is another thing. The storyboard makes that clear.

I also find that it helps the process (maybe because of my lack of experience) of 'seeing' what shots I need. to give a specific example I'm working on a short called 'Fade to Black', the initial scene was one shot that opened on a family seated at a table and swung around to be an over the shoulder shot of the father (in an arc around the table). It was only when I printed the storyboard out that I realised I hadn't captured the expressions I needed from the actors - so I added a couple of closeups the cover that.

I'm directing this short and I'll give the results to my DOP so he can see where I'm coming from and we can work together. I'm happy to make changes but I want to be sure everyone 'sees' what I see before they build on or change it. I'll be including our gaffer & 1st AD in the process as well - collaborative vision

It makes sense to me and helps me to prepare and plan in as much detail as I can.
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Old August 29th, 2008, 09:31 AM   #24
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I find storyboards crucial for planning a scene's narrative, its tone, and its pacing. I tend to find that, without them, even though I "think" I have every single shot "visualized" in my head, when it comes to the actual shoot, I find blanks -- missing angles -- missing set-ups -- holes in the narrative. And I usually end up with a lot of wasted takes from shots/angles that just didn't work in the editing room.

That's why I find it best to put down every shot and set up down onto paper so that you can "physically" see how your scenes unfold with every juxtaposed shot, and later communicate this with the cast and crew. It smoothens the shoot, limits your set-ups, and speeds up the editing process.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 11:30 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Seun Osewa View Post
DO we really need story-boards or are they a luxury for movie directors who have too much time on their hands?

I thought the script was supposed to contain all the information about what's going to be on the screen?

Making a storyboard is like writing the movie all over again. Isn't that confusing?
I know this is an old thread, but having gone through this I thought I'd share.

It's true that you should cover every single shot in your script. But unless you're building custom sets (and even if you are), only once you're on site looking through your camera, will you realize that the shot doesn't look exactly (or sometimes even remotely) like what you had imagined. And let me tell you that there's nothing worse than having to re-compose a shot on the spot because there's a tree you hadn't noticed or your lens isn't wide enough, while your cast and crew wait.

What I'll do is plan everything I can in the script, then on rehearsal I'll take stills with my camcorder to block each shot with the actors (or stand-ins) in place. I'll then put together a storyboard using the pictures I took, since I can't draw anything more complicated than stick figures.

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Old December 9th, 2008, 08:24 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
With a medium budget project, storyboard. Get your shots right the first time while the rentals, talent and crew are on the clock.

With a no budget film, don't bother.

Here's the deal. If you don't know who's gonna show up. If you don't know what props are gonna be on hand. If you don't have any idea what locations you can access. And the crew is working for fun and pizza. And you own your own equipment. Then there's only one answer:
treat it the same as any other budget film!

I know this thread is old, but c'mon. This is the problem. Storyboard everything but change the level of detail for specific projects. I'll bet that Afternoon Delight thing was shot using the same kind of framing and composition as the rest of the shots. Since they had preplanned the look of the film, it was nothing to make an addition. All artists who improvise, who deviate from the norm, do so with the express knowledge of what the norm

Maybe if more no-budgets took a big budget attitude, they wouldn't be no-budgets- they'd be movies.
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Old December 12th, 2008, 01:57 PM   #27
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A producer perspective:
You need to be able to answer your own question on a per-project, per-scene basis. Quantify the time it takes to prepare vs. the time/risk of being unprepared. Quantify your exposure to this risk in dollars. Quantify the time in various stages of post-production against the time in pre-production and production. If you can do all of this with a reasonable level of consistency and accuracy, you're a producer. If not, you're a director and you need to find a good producer.

Overprepare and adapt.
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Old December 12th, 2008, 09:14 PM   #28
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One thing storyboarding forces you to do is MAKE SURE you know HOW you're getting into one shot from another. You will be able to identify angles that don't work, jump cuts and inadvertent screen reversals on paper LONG before you shoot and force your editor to work magic to make your mix up work onscreen.
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Old December 12th, 2008, 11:42 PM   #29
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There may be a bit of a tendency to glean that the higher budget a project is, the more likely it is to be storyboarded.

My experience has been that of the studio features I've worked on, none have been completely storyboarded. This has been the case with certain action scenes which involves a lot of quick cuts and specific beats, but rarely if ever dialogue driven scenes. Episodic television, I don't think I've ever seen a storyboard on set. Commercials, absolutely, since they have to be approved by the agency and client and every frame is accounted for.

Some of the examples given in this thread show storyboards of singles and over-the-shoulder shots. I will continue to encourage people that once they have made a few films, boarding shots this simplistic are not only unnecessary (they are extremely easy to communicate to others without visual aid) but it may even become a crutch. It is an important and valuable skill for a budding director or DP to learn to visualize not only individual compositions but actual cut sequences in your head. A simple shot list should be able to cover many types of scenes, along with diagrams of actors and camera positions (which can be represented simply as circles and v's) as required.

I'm not looking to discourage pre-planning, that's always a good concept. I'm just suggesting not to get hung up on literal storyboards.
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Old December 13th, 2008, 09:13 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Melvin Harris View Post
treat it the same as any other budget film!


Maybe if more no-budgets took a big budget attitude, they wouldn't be no-budgets- they'd be movies.
Exactly. In fact, if you have people working for free then you ESPECIALLY need to treat them with respect and not waste their time with poor planning. Otherwise you'll find yourself short of people who'll do you favours.

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