Every awesome video marketing campaign begins with an awesome video storyboard. So, where do you start in creating your own? We spoke with Han Lung of Vidaao, a video production marketplace that connects marketing teams with creatives, about his top tips for creating the perfect video storyboard….
“How can you build a house without a blueprint?” The answer is: you can’t.
In the same way, a video without a storyboard is like a house without a foundation. It might look okay on the outside, but once you step through the front door and see that the floor’s missing, you’re going to walk right back outside. Similarly, viewers watching a hastily-made video that wasn’t properly storyboarded are going to know someone was cutting corners, and they’re going to stop your video at hello. The current business video landscape is saturated, and no one has time for anything less than the best.
Yet, for some reason, many marketing execs and creatives spend sufficient time on every step of the production process except storyboarding. All too often a script is written and a videographer just goes to town during a shoot so there will be a lot of b-roll to work with. A little jump cutting here, a little match cutting there…and – voila! Business video, right?
Wrong. Storyboarding is just as important as scripting if you want a video to have a professional look and feel (and not just be erratic and uninspired). More importantly, storyboarding is how you arrive at a vision for your video.
1. Learn the visual alphabet
If you’re not going to outsource your storyboard, then it’s crucial that you learn the visual alphabet. It doesn’t matter how good or bad of an artist you are – anyone can learn this alphabet because it’s comprised entirely of shapes like triangles, squares, circles, and lines.
Ever looked at a drawing book? Anything, from a car to a dinosaur, can be simplified into basic shapes. And shapes aren’t hard to draw at all. Once you get good at using the visual alphabet, you’ll be able to storyboard with relative ease. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be a comic masterpiece, but it will serve its purpose.
2. Sketch a lot
This one really isn’t a secret, but it bears repeating. Unless you’re some sort of virtuoso videographer who can shoot by the seat of his pants and make perfect, polished video, you better be sketching your heart out. If you don’t have the discipline of a professional artist and drawing stick figures rubs you the wrong way, then don’t even bother erasing. Just produce as many versions of your frames as possible – until you’re satisfied with your on-paper camerawork.
What’s your upfront cost at this point? What’s your overhead? That’s right. Nothing at all, except for the price of that printer paper you’re using and maybe a few Ticonderoga #2 pencils. You can afford to spend a few hours on this.
Alfred Hitchcock was notoriously stuck on storyboards. In fact, he considered them the most important creative step in the entire filmmaking process (to him, shooting was just a necessary evil). And look where it got him.
3. Get a digital drawing pad
Yes, you need to buy one. Older storyboarders will always swear by their pencils, and some people just love drawing in moleskin notepads, but at the end of the day a digital drawing pad is going to be your single best storyboarding investment.
Digital drawing pads are easy to setup and easy to use. They come with every drawing feature you would possibly need to flesh out your storyboards, don’t leave a mess on your desk, and are automatically saved on your computer so that you don’t have to deal with taking pictures or scanning images.
In recent years, digital drawing pads have also become more tactile and sensitive, so they’re almost as true-to-life as pencil and paper. It’s important to choose a highly-rated one, however, because cheaper pads have lower sensitivity and precision. A decent drawing pad for the purposes of storyboarding will cost around $50 to $200 (and you’ll never have to buy a #2 pencil again).
4. Start with key frames
A 30-second video has 720 distinct frames that the human eye can perceive (we see at 24 fps). Granted, you don’t have to storyboard all those frames. In fact, you don’t even have to storyboard each of the 30 seconds – you just need to hit the keyframes.
What are keyframes? Frames of particular significance in the context of the script or camera direction. For example, the jovial executive shown above is walking from point A to point B. Let’s say that, at point A, he suddenly realizes he wants a hot dog, and a thought bubble pops up next to his head. That’s a keyframe. Then, at point B, he buys the hot dog and starts to chow down. That’s point B. Anything that happens in between are transition frames, and they don’t have to be drawn out until after all the keyframes are drawn.
Keyframes are like plot points in the outline for a script. It makes sense to get them down first before filling in transition frames.
5. Use PowerPoint
Chances are you don’t know how to use your video editing software as well as you already know how to use Powerpoint. That’s totally fine, because as it so happens, Powerpoint is a great barebones storyboarding tool.
After you have all your frames drawn and ready, popping them into Powerpoint and inserting comments for dialogue and direction is easy. Printing out each frame and laying them side by side on a giant corkboard is important, but when it comes time to “preview” your video, Powerpoint’s slide show feature is the perfect, low-budget storyboarding option.