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UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

Storyboards - Convince the investors!

A storyboard is a form of pre-visualisation for projects such as films, music videos and
advertisement. Drawings are placed together in a sequence to represent each shot of a
scene in the project. However storyboarding has before been criticised for being a tedious
activity that takes away the spontaneity of film creation but it had been noticed that it helps
with organisation, smoother editing and pitching of an entertaining idea. Since first being
used by Webb Smith in the early 1930s for Walt Disney Studios, it has now become an
essential tool for planning productions in the world of media. I aim to assess the
effectiveness of storyboarding in communicating information and ideas to convince you that
storyboarding will help the production of any potential movie.

What is the history of Storyboarding?

The first use of storyboarding (or the first time storyboarding was actually named
storyboarding) was by Webb Smith a Walt Disney animator in the early 1930’s who
illustrated and pinned his imagined scenes to a bulletin board. As the drawings were
adjustable he could rearrange, add and take away multiple scenes until he got his desired
layout for a film or animation. Many workers at Walt Disney favoured this layout as it was an
easy way for employees at Walt Disney to have their say and discuss many possibilities for
films. This later on was used to create “The Three Little Pigs - 1933” one of the first
animated short films.

Young Webb Smith // Walt Disney Studios in the 1930’s // ‘Lilo & Stitch’ illustrated

Walt Disney studios have continued to create illustrated storyboards to plan out their
animations. Creators Webb Smith and Walt Disney realised that storyboards were an
essential part of making a masterpiece. Making them their blueprint for many Walt Disney
animations from 1933’s ‘Three Little Pigs’ to ‘Lilo and Stitch’ - 2002 storyboards continue to
be the foundation for Walt Disney’s popular creations.
Disney believed that there should be a “storyboard” department in the Walt Disney studio
that had specialised storyboard artists as audiences felt more involved with a film if the
storyline had characters that they could connect with. Having an area in the studio where
storyboards were created in detail ensured that all characters had a purpose, storylines were
UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

made that featured characters that audiences would care about, which lead people of all
ages to have a stronger investment with Disney films.
According to John Canemaker storyboarding started off with a comic book format ‘story
sketches’ that had speech bubbles for shorts animations such as “Steamboat Willie” it later
evolved to have more illustrated concepts. Another film that first incorporated storyboarding
was the first live action film ‘Gone With The Wind’ - 1939 directed by Victor Fleming. Disney
and Fleming helped to gain storyboarding its popularity for live action films and become a
standard procedure maximising the potential of productions today. Many creators enjoyed
that there was previsualisation of the project before the final outcome of the film.

Another man that played a part in the recognition of storyboarding was George Melies a
french director from 1861 to 1938 was said to have used drafting similar to storyboarding for
the pre-productions of his short films such as “A Trip to the Moon - 1902” and “The
Vanishing Lady - 1896”. As he made many developments in the technical world of film he
also been acknowledged to have made advancements in the narrative world of film
productions such as storyboarding, although this information has not been recorded in great
While larger budget silent films were being created during the late 1900s they were always
storyboarded before production, however most of this material has been lost from the 1970s
and 1980s due to reduction of storyboarding archives.
Although storyboarding is incorporated in many genres of film it became especially popular
in the action genre as the layout of the movie was important for the overall outcome of the
film. Action films tend to have a bigger production and so a well defined storyboard ensured
that every member of the team understood what was meant to be achieved throughout each
action scene. The great outcome of many films regardless of their genre due to the use of
storyboarding reinforces that they are an essential part of any film production.

Storyboarding in Film & Television

Storyboarding also known as the “shooting board” it is used to plan large

productions such as film and television it is much more detailed than other types of medium
such as advertisement and music videos. This is due to the budget for television or films
being larger than an advert, meaning that storyboards for film and television is greatly in
depth with detailed captions and camera shots to utilize the possibilities that can be
achieved for the film or program whereas the storyboard for an advert typically excludes
many in depth camera angles but creates a general idea keeping the adverts information
concise and achievable in production.

Storyboard for Film:

In the storyboard for Mad Max there is a key focus on the location of each shot which is
noted underneath each illustration, this helps to inform the camera men and directors on
where to film. Storyboarding for a film it is essential to include camera work which is
UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

illustrated with the drawing of the arrows on the storyboard to show the movement of the
cameras such as zooming and panning.

Mad Max Fury Road - 2015 original storyboard includes great detail of potential camera angles

Films usually have a frame dimension of 35mm, 36 by 24mm which means that each panel
for the storyboard is drawn to represent that size to help give an accurate representation of
positioning when filmed. Continuity is a key part in keeping the realisticness in films and
having an enjoyable viewing experience for the audience and so being able to visualise the
production a scene at a time on a panel allows the writers to be certain that continuity is kept
throughout the whole film.

A great reason for creating a detailed storyboard for a film is because they can not only
show what is taking place in front of the camera but including the positioning of the cameras
as well. Different directions of arrows positioned on the outside of the storyboard panels
represent different types of camera movements that should be used for each scene. For
UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

example arrows on each corner pointing in means zooming in and an arrow placed at the
bottom box pointing left or right means panning to the left or right.
Dolling is shown by an arrow placed next to the sketched character in the panel. Illustrating
the camera directions on the storyboard help to have organisation on the set and allow crew
members to know what equipment for the shot will be needed minimising confusion on set.

Camera movements such as dolly tracking, zooming and panning can all be shown on or
around storyboard panels.

One of the most common types of shots during films are establishing shots, these are wide
angle shots that shows the setting of a scene these are typically shown at the opening of a
film to allow the audience to gauge the context of the film they are about to watch while also
establishing the location that the film takes place in. An establishing shot allows viewers to
become curious about what the film may be about and what characters will be apart of the
scenery in the establishing shot.

Example of an establishing shot for a film, this tells the

audience that the characters in the film are associated with the city, and that the opening
scenes will take place at night.

Close up shots which often feature in films and are planned in storyboards features a tight
camera view of a person this is usually to emphasise a characters emotion. An iconic
example of a close up shot is in Hitchcock’s 1960’s film ‘Psycho’ where a woman that is
about to be killed in the epic slasher film features an extreme close up paired with her bone
UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

chilling screams here you can see that the close up helps to show her emotions quickly
without the need for dialogue. However close up shots are not always just a face they can
sometimes be close ups of objects or facial features such a single eye or mouth.

Close up shot from ‘Psycho’ 1960

Medium shots also known as mid shots are mostly used for scenes that feature a lot of dialogue you
can usually see the characters full body or half their body the shot thrives as showing facial
expressions but also their body language which can be helpful in the narrative of many films. This is
the most popular shot used in films and TV as viewers often enjoy seeing body language as well as
facial expressions however it can be used too much in films and so the use of mid shots must be
selected carefully in order to not make a film become to predictable.

Storyboarding in Advertisement

Storyboarding for adverts is often more laid back then big productions films, as they are
often filmed in short notice this leads to a minimum amount of drawing being used on
storyboards but still has the ability to convey the most amount of information. Storyboarding
preparing for an advertisement is also great as it saves a lot of time and money as mistakes
are not made while filming, as any problems that may occur are visualised beforehand
through the storyboard. While the production may not be as large as a film it can often be
more hard work for directors as the storyline of the trailer has to be precise enough to fit into
a few seconds but also be understandable and also enjoyable to grab the attention of
viewers. To plan out a storyboard for advertising an art director and copywriter work to layout
the plan that has already been handed to them for an advert company for example an
advertisement about a kids toy. As the target audience is children the ideas for the advert
need to be vibrant and interest and tell a story that is relatable to an audience while being
under a minute.

As adverts are fairly short ranging from a few seconds to just over a minute it is important
that all information that is needed to sell a product is put out very quickly. To help with this
many quick edits and transitions are included, an example of this is Apple's advert ‘iphone 8
and iPhone 8 Plus in 8 seconds’ edits are made by fast jump cuts to put out information
quickly. The use of a storyboarding allows the planned edits to be positioned and arranged
ready for the development of the advert.
UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

Storyboard Advertisement: Colgate advert

From this short and simple colgate advert you can see that a simple message must be
conveyed from the advert that is most typically under 40 seconds and only 6-30 frames this
means that the storyboarder has not spend much time writing down the particular times for
each shot of the advert storyboard as they would typically be very short under 5 seconds. To
quickly get the message across to the audience (brushing your teeth) there is a strong focus
on facial expressions which makes up the fact for there not being any written dialogue
underneath the shots, this is shown by multiple close ups of the characters faces and of the
object being advertised. Also to help advertise the advert there are strong distinctive colours
such as blue and the red of the ‘Colgate’ toothpaste this is to look more aesthetically
pleasing for viewers of the advert.

Storyboarding in Music Videos

The use of storyboarding in music videos is key as it allows filming of the music videos to run
smoothly. The music playing is essentially the most important part of the music video and so
without the use of pre-planning it can be easily assumed that the amount of footage filmed
will match up with the music playing however it can often be wrong and not match up at all.
This means that storyboarding is a great way of visualising the content for the music video
making sure that it fits with specific time frames of the music, for example when a verse
starts in the song the scene in music video transitions. Not only is storyboarding functional to
the camera crew but also the editors as they will already know what to expect.

Storyboard for Music video:

UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

Example of a storyboard for a music video

establishing shots can be used to highlight the main focus of the music video.

For this music video storyboard arrows placed at the bottom of the box for the shot facing
inwards indicate that the camera will need to zoom over the crowd which ends in a close up
of a particular character in the music video. The use of zoom in this helps to give the music
video more dimension and a purpose as it shows the audience that the reason for showing
that crowd is to show the particular character. From use o​f shot direction​ you can see a
small story being formed for the music video. The ​image of the shots​ for the storyboard has
been clearly illustrated which allows the production team to understand what to shoot when
filming. While this storyboard is informative it does lack lighting information which would be
very helpful for a music video storyboard however the lack of this information could be due to
the director choosing this as he creates the music video. Also as the music video seems to
be in a club the​ lighting​ is already very self explanatory of dark with flashing lights which fits
the typical lighting used in a club. The storyboard has timings placed next to the shot this
technical information informs the director on how long each scene should be. As music
videos are typically under 5 minutes the timing of each scene is crucial to have an
acceptable length music video.

Storyboarding in Games

It can be presumed that storyboarding for games would not be that helpful as it is a game,
however often intros to video games are very cinematic, setting out the narrative for the
objective of the game. Storyboarding before creating the game allows designers to see what
would work for the game and what shall not, this shows that storyboarding is helpful in nearly
all types of medium even the least expected. Video games that include animations can be
very costly, utilizing the budget effectively is a very important aspect before the game even
gets put in production and so having a storyboard that can be approved by company means
that companies can share their ideas for changes and rearrangement of the video game
before any construction of the game has begun.

Typical storyboard for Game:

UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

To conclude storyboards are still used in many mediums today from film advertisement and
even games. They were created in the 1930s and continue to be used in the modern day.
This is due to them having a positive effect on the progress of productions as they allow pre
planning minimising the amount of errors that can happen while filming and during editing.
This means that storyboarding is an effective tool for planning and should be included in the
productions of films.

Storyboarding in animation:
Animation storyboard of Incredibles 2004:

The key focus on an animation is visual which means that the process of storyboarding
places a crucial factor on presentation such as the look of the scenery and characters that
will be shown in the animation. While most storyboards don’t include dialogue bubbles
around the shot squares for an animation there is often exceptions which means that these
dialogue bubbles may be added around the storyboard. These dialogue bubbles can often
contain a description of how the sound of characters voices should be like for dialogue in the
animation which unless it is a silent film it is particularly important for many animations. The
finished pre-production storyboard is often used to inform the animator of exactly how the
creator wants the animation to look which means that there is often more time spent on the
storyboard process then for a live action film as you can not adjust the camera movement to
how the creator desires. However while there are no cameras used there are still certain
shot types that are included in the animation such as point of view and establishing shots
(which can be seen in the incredibles storyboard) this helps audiences to have some
UNIT 18 : Storyboarding for Digital Media

familiarity from live action films and animations which increases audiences engagement in
the film as it is not completely new them.
For animations storyboards are often used to create animatics which is used to previsualise
a rough draft of the animation, by doing this it allows the creator to see what the final
production of the animation could look like.