Storyboarding 101: Creating Effective Storyboards

How to make storyboards, the backbone of every great video project

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to edit a video after weeks of shooting only to think, “I wish we’d shot THAT!” Planning a project well in advance lets you avoid those head-desk moments, and the key to this is a comprehensive storyboard. A storyboard is a sequence of descriptions, drawings and notes that map out all the scenes you need to make the video you want. The more thorough the storyboard, the better it will serve as a cheat sheet that will ensure you get all the shots you need with maximum efficiency.

Nailing Down Your Vision

The first step in crafting a storyboard is identifying your video’s mission. Decide who your video should target, the message you want to send and the goals you hope to accomplish by sharing the video. This is also a good time to nail down the project’s budget and what your priorities are: even the most gorgeous venue on earth won’t look good if it’s shot by a low-budget or inexperienced videography team. Once you’ve established your video’s mission, brainstorm with your team and collect a broad range of ideas, then narrow them down together. Next, spitball key moments that should be included in your video. You’ll use those as anchor points and build a more comprehensive outline around it—that’s your storyboard.

Essential Details

An effective storyboard isn’t just a collection of sketches: it should be detailed and include notes about the video’s scenes and overall message. The four key elements every storyboard needs to address are a video’s scene, action, tone and technical effects. The scene is the where, but it’s more than an address: if you have a time of day, a type of lighting or other specific visual details in mind, nail them down during storyboarding so your film crew can plan shoots around them.

The action is what’s happening in the video, and depending on the style, there’s a lot or a little you need to nail down. A straightforward, sit-down interview only has one focal point, but a 360 degree video has action everywhere. Explain what will be happening in the foreground and in the background, and where you want your audience’s attention to be focused.

The tone includes both the way a subject is speaking and the overall mood the scene should convey. Your tone guidelines will help your film crew choose lighting, music, camera angles and more to deliver exactly the vibe you want. If you want any additional technical effects, like motion graphics or stop-motion animation, describe what you want in detail in your storyline.

Creating a Storyboard

There’s no one “right” way to craft your storyboard, and your team might go through several drafts before you solidify exactly what you want your video to look like. Some people draw stick figures on Post-it notes, paste snapshots into a PowerPoint or sketch on a whiteboard wall in a conference room. There are computer and mobile apps you can lean on, and if you’re not visually inclined, feel free to create a “prose storyboard” that describes the action, camera angles and other details you want for specific scenes.

What all effective storyboards have in common is that they are detailed, built around a timeline, and each scene is distinct, with notes that will guide how each moment should be shot and what key elements need to be included. The goal is to communicate clearly with your video production team, and if you partner with an experienced crew like us, you can be sure all these important details will be top-of mind from start to finish. We’d love to help you develop the perfect video project—and the storyboard that shapes it—for your brand. Contact the Bottle Rocket Media team today to get started on your story.

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