What Is a Storyboard and When Should You Use One?

1. What is a storyboard?

Let’s begin with the basics. A storyboard is a graphic portrayal of a narrative, concept, or script, divided into sequential scenes (panels). They are generally used to map out how a script or story will look once it is animated or acted out, but people utilize them for a variety of situations. 

Think of the classic parable, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” If you were to create a storyboard for this tale, perhaps the first panel would show Goldilocks looking a little worse for wear in front of the bears’ house. The next few scenes would portray her eating different porridges with a sour look on her face, followed by a drawing with her eating yet another bowl of porridge, this time with a smile. The images break down the story into bite-sized scenes and help people visualize how it will come to life.

“Storyboarding” is simply the act of creating a storyboard. For the best results, you’ll need to strike a balance between providing enough visual information to be able to tell the story so others can understand it and making it overly detailed. Some storyboards can be very rough and simple; other times, they can be very elaborate. It depends on the situation, how much time you have, and what stakeholders (your team, clients, etc.) are looking to use them for (more on that later). 

2. When and why do you need a storyboard?

Stories are an excellent way to communicate information. They make it easier for people to understand complex concepts and tend to be more interesting than informative text. And since graphics are more straightforward than the written word, a storyboard can break down even more communication barriers. Given their versatility, it makes sense that people use them in a variety of situations.    

Who uses storyboards? 

People typically use storyboards to map out scenes that comprise a movie or an animation. As a visual medium that’s ideal for storytelling, video is incredibly popular for marketing and sales collateral, product use instructions, and even pitching internal strategies. Marketers use videos to explain complicated value propositions, map out customer journeys, and entertain potential customers to boost brand awareness. 

Storyboarding helps ensure the message is on point and achieves the intended goal, and that the scenes all work together fluidly before moving onto any actual film production—which can save quite a lot of money in the long term!

While storyboard use is rife across virtually all industries, the movie industry heavily relies on them, especially for animated films. Filmmakers use them to pitch to studio bosses, tweak storylines, and map out scenery, among other things.

Storyboards are also excellent teaching vehicles for educators, especially when young children are the target audience. They can be low-budget (poster board, anyone?) and easy to create without a lot of resources. Even better, they can illustrate concepts that youngsters may have trouble remembering without a visual aid, like how to wash their hands properly or how to react in case of a fire or other emergency. 

What are the advantages of using a storyboard?

A storyboard can help get everyone on the same page quickly. Humans process images a stunning 60,000 times faster than text, which means that no matter how brief you make your pitch or presentation, it will ultimately take longer for people to understand it because there are words involved. 

In addition to communicating ideas faster, a storyboard is also a great way to hone an idea without going too deep into further production. A script or a concept can sound amazing in principle, but you may create a storyboard and realize it just doesn’t translate well into visual scenes.  

A storyboard is an especially important part of the animation design process. Just like for any video, it provides a visual map that communicates the script or narrative, but it can also include critical requirements that will give clients an idea of cost and time to produce. Establishing these parameters before moving forward into the drawing phase will lead to a much smoother process down the line, trust us! 

Finally, storyboards are also helpful to video editors, as they’ll be able to use them as points of reference to ensure the final cut adheres to the original vision.

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