How Storyboards Guide the Creative Process (Pt: 1/2)

Artboard 1

If you’ve ever attempted to make a video with a story arc, then you probably already know the importance of storyboards. Sure, it’s fun to record 10 solid minutes of your overweight cat attempting to jump up onto the kitchen counter, but that’s very different than using your video camera to tell a clear and focused story.

As a San Francisco creative agency and video production company, we spend every waking hour waist-deep in several different projects at once. We can tell you firsthand that creating even a single short narrative requires more than just a cute cat and a camera.  

It requires the development of characters and a plan for how it will all unfold. We also need to make sure our clients are on the same page and have plenty of opportunity to help guide the story. And in order for the story to convey a clear message with maximum impact, the overall plan can’t just involve killer locations and awesome action. It also needs a variety of camera angles and interesting character shots.  

At Corduroy Media, we’ve been thinking a lot about all of the different elements that come together to make a successful project. Of course, it always starts with a concept, but how do we take that seed idea and successfully execute on a final project? One of the greatest challenges is to bring our clients and their stakeholders along for the ride, ensuring we are all on the same page for virtually every frame. One of the key ingredients is pre-visualization or storyboarding.

Storyboarding 101

A storyboard is a series of frames that depict the main points of the story in pictures. In short, it’s a visual representation of how the story will unfold. Each frame contains an image that illustrates what the viewers will see. But in filmmaking and video production, a storyboard is more than just an outline of the story’s plot-points—it’s also a roadmap of the shot sequences that will be used to drive home the story’s message. Storyboarding is used in various types of media production, including commercials, television shows, feature films, and music videos.

Storyboarding as an organizational tool for sanity   

At Corduroy Media, we use storyboarding in nearly every stage of production, especially when producing a narrative or commercial-style piece from the ground up.  For example:

  • In pre-production: The storyboard helps us to take what’s inside our heads and put it on paper in front of us, so we can get a sense of whether or not our ideas are going to work.  Once we can step back and look at the story as a whole, we know if we’re missing a transition or maybe need a close-up shot to enhance the emotional impact.
  • Client approval: A storyboard allows us to show a client how their commercial or brand video will unfold and what the viewer will experience. This is crucial for both us and the client because it gives us an opportunity to make sure we’re all on the same page before we take the next steps in production.
  • Collaboration: Storyboards provide a common visual language and vocabulary so that our creative team can truly partner with our clients and produce a project that reinforces the brand while engaging and holding the attention of the audience.
  • During production: Here’s where storyboards really save time, money, and sanity.  On production days, we hang our storyboards where everyone can see them so we’re all on the same page. They allow our whole crew to stay organized and on track while we shoot. (Imagine the headache if, right in the middle of a video shoot, we had to stop and debate about whether a wide or close-up shot would work best.)
  • Post-production: The storyboard is a road map to what the director wants and how the story should come together. We can imagine film editors everywhere rejoicing over the clarity a storyboard provides.

Without our storyboards, our heads would spin

At Corduroy Media, we pride ourselves in our ability to collaborate with our clients to tell impactful stories, and we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay organized in the work we do. Honestly, without our storyboards, our heads would spin. Not only do they strengthen the clarity and focus of each story we tell, but they also makes us more efficient, thereby saving our clients both time and money. Earlier, we showed you a side by side comparison with storyboards and stills from a recent brand film for “Nominum, It’s Personal”. Here are the complete storyboards and the final product.

Want to know more about storyboarding? You do? Cool, because we want to keep talking about it.  

Next week, we’ll feature a Q&A with Joe Bernados, one of our favorite storyboard artists.


Posted on

February 7, 2017