you are here [x]: Scarlet Star Studios > the Scarlet Letters > four types of storyboard
<< before superNOVember - 2
after >> dinnergrrls holiday bazaar

November 5, 2006

four types of storyboard

by sven at 11:59 pm

In all the books I've perused about filmmaking, I think I've only ever seen one kind of storyboard described: the Professional Hollywood Storyboard.

Well, here in indy micro stopmo land, we have different needs. And so, I'd like to suggest that there are at least four types of storyboard that might be of use.

1. the thumbnail storyboard

Draw your storyboard all on one or two pieces of paper. For each shot in your proposed film, draw a little sketch, about the size of a postage stamp. It's OK if the sketches are barely legible -- the point is to be able to get your cinematography ideas down on paper as quickly as possible. If you're working alone, you could even start shooting based on this. Most likely, however, you'll want to do a second, more legible draft.

benefit: very fast

2. the floating storyboard

When you see photos of storyboards, the sketches of scenes are always drawn inside rectangles that match the aspect-ratio that the film is being shot in. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can draw sketches of your scenes in a sketchbook without rectangles around them -- just floating on the page. When you're in the early stages of developing your images, this is a nicely free-form way to work.

benefit: allows drawings to expand, unrestricted

3. the framed storyboard

A framed storyboard is one where you draw your images inside of fixed-aspect-ratio rectangles. The point here is to force yourself to think carefully about how you want to compose things within the shape of the screen that your film will be displayed on.

There are number of ways to do framed storyboards:

benefit: forces you to compose images within fixed aspect-ratio

4. the photo storyboard

If you have your puppets and sets done, you can make your storyboard images using a digital camera. With the camera, you don't have to worry about aspect ratio -- the device imposes a frame around the image. Working with the camera also helps you generate camera angles that you might not have thought of when relying only on your imagination. If your puppets and sets aren't done, you can still work with this technique somewhat if you can make stand-ins and mock-ups of some sort.

benefit: fixed aspect-ratio; reveals new camera angles

storyboards and words

With stopmo puppets, we're often making pantomime films without dialogue. Even so, I've found that it can be extremely useful to put words with the storyboard.

Particularly with a floating storyboard, it's easy to write a sentence or two describing what's happening in the image -- sort of like in a storybook. Being forced to switch modes from visual to verbal can help reveal aspects of the story that aren't clear, or suggest new meanings that you want to work into the story.

I haven't gone very far yet with pairing words and pictures in my storyboards. My sense is that there'd be benefits even if you just wrote one or two words beside each image... And if you wrote a whole paragraph for each shot, the discoveries would be even greater.

the purpose of storyboards?

The way that I've typically seen storyboards written about goes something like this:

Write a script.
Draw your storyboard.
Shoot your film.

I want to explore and promote the notion that storyboards are a way of developing your story.

Storyboards can be part of how you generate your script. When your story concept is still rudimentary, drawing images helps it become clearer in your mind.

Then, later on, when you're writing paragraphs that describe what's in each storyboard panel, the images will help prompt you to think about emotional beats, blocking, and performance. Storyboards can help you figure out how you want your puppet to act.

A storyboard could be compared to having a blueprint when you build a house: it's the plan you keep referring back to as you assemble your film. But maybe this metaphor is all wrong...

Maybe films aren't actually (or don't have to be) built from a perfect preconceived plan. Maybe the filmmaking process is more like watching a blurry and indistinct image come into focus... And each time you draw a new storyboard, it's like seeing that red blur in your mind further resolve into a crisp-edged rose.

posted by sven | November 5, 2006 11:59 PM | categories: movies, stopmo