So you’ve got a big shoot coming up. You want to show your collaborators a scene you plan to shoot, but your drawing skills have their limits.
What do you do?
In today’s post we’ll show you how to make a storyboard sans artistic skills. Then we’ll show you how to use free storyboard software to upload your images into ultra-clean layouts while customizing as you go.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have a detailed preview to show your collaborators and crew.
What is a Storyboard?
Before we dive in, let’s define “storyboard”. A storyboard is an organized list of illustrations that chart out how your scene will unfold, shot by shot.
A storyboard looks like a comic strip. It has a set row of boxes (“frames”) that show a progression of story events. A short description of the action is included as well.
What is a storyboard, you ask? Basically a comic book.
Storyboards visualize your sequence of shots (or shot list) and visualize how they interact with one another. They can render their images with great or sparse detail.
A few storyboard examples showing the range of detail that can be used.
To know what will go into those frames, you need to start by analyzing the content of your story.
Step 1: Use free storyboard software to extract scenes
You can learn how to make a storyboard with or without a script. But whether you have one will change how much prep you have to do at this point.
If you don’t have a script, consider the basic timeline of your scene. Make a list of events (or “beat sheet”) of your story actions. Don’t go into too much detail here, just focus on the major turning points of your scene. Now break those beats into scenes.
If you have a script, a free storyboard software like StudioBinder will create your scenes automatically. This saves you a ton of time in formatting and will get you thinking about your shots quicker.To get started, navigate to the Shot Lists & Storyboards dashboard.
Click the Import Script button to upload your Final Draft script directly.
Drag and drop your script into the storyboard maker and it will automatically create all the scenes you’ll make shots for.
Creating shots in StudioBinder. This is where you’ll add illustrations later.
But if you don’t have a script, don’t worry. You can create scenes manually too:
This will prompt you to name the shot list (as a “custom list”), and this will serve as your scene container.
Now you’re all ready to add your shots.
Step 2: Use free storyboard software to extract scenes
Before you get started drawing your frames, you need to identify the actions they will represent.
Refer to your script or beat sheet here. If you uploaded a script, click the Preview Script button to reference the content of your scene at any time.
The key here is to create a shot list to represent your actions and dialogue. Traditionally, you would use a shot list template to fill out your shots. This involves a lot of manual data entry.
Using a free storyboard creator like StudioBinder will save you a ton of time here. This is because it combines shot listing and storyboarding into one cohesive process.
Set Up Your Workspace
To get started, customize your workspace to create your shots and images nice and easy.
Navigate to your Shot Lists & Storyboards dashboard. Click on the Adjust Layout button up top.
Easily adjust the display options, aspect ratio, ordering and columns on your storyboard.
A dropdown will appear with your customization options. Click the Storyboard Display.
This will present your shot list in a storyboard view. I also suggest selecting at least three columns to ease dragging and dropping your shots later.
Add Your Shots
Now it's time to think about the shots in your scene. Start by reading the scene. Think about your character’s actions and how many angles will cover them.
It's totally fine if you're not clear on this yet. Making your shot list and storyboard are processes of discovery. Just make your shots very high level for now and establish details later.
To start, click the +Add New Shot button. A pop-up will present many options to specify your shot. Be as specific or sparse as you need here.
Adding your first shot in the StudioBinder’s online storyboard maker
Now you can add the shots for your scenes. To make your scenes rapidly, use the Save & Add Another button. This is handy if you quickly want to see your shots sequenced.Create all the shots you need. If you wish to return to your workspace, click the Save & Close button. You’ll see that the shots you made are now listed.
Please refer to our previous post for more details on creating your shots and shot list.Pro Tip: Use the cheat sheet shorthands to create and organize your shots faster as you go.
Make a storyboard even faster by memorizing StudioBinder’s hotkeys
Step 3: Gather your drawing materials
You're just about ready to draw. If you're hand-drawing your images to scan later, find a pencil. Any one will work. Your storyboard is a work-in-progress, so make sure you have a good eraser too.
If you have artistic friends, ask them if they own a Wacom tablet. This is a tablet you can connect to your laptop for illustrating. It works with Adobe Photoshop and other illustrating softwares. With a Wacom tablet, you won’t need to scan anything, which will save you some serious time.
Otherwise, a good ol’ pencil and (real) paper will get the job done too. Afterwards, you can use scanning apps like ScanBot to snap photos and create high-contrast renders of your images to upload into StudioBinder.
Step 4: Draw your frames
If you're artistically challenged like me, you might dread this step. But don't worry, it's actually pretty straightforward.
Our How to Make a Storyboard video covers some of the essentials:
Use Three-Point Staging
Generally try to make your subject as 3D as possible. Do this by using three-point staging to keep your subject from looking flat. Avoid "tight rope floors".
Use Grid Lines
Drawing grid lines in your frames will keep basic direction and orientation straight. This way you can create depth without getting too detailed.
Maximize Depth Cues
Relate your subject to its foreground, middle-ground and background. Including these elements will put him in a better 3D space.
Use A, B, and C to Group Subjects
If your scene has multiple subjects, just use the alphabet as their faces. This will give enough detail to skip on drawing character detail.
Arrows are how to make a storyboard pop and clarify motion. Use arrows in a striking color like red to clarify camera and subject movement. There are a few good reference guides for this as well.
Use these principles to sketch your shots in as little detail as you need. You can always add more later.
Or Use Existing Footage
As an indie filmmaker, most of the time all I need is a reference to convey basic shot details and tone. So I head to Google Images and start searching for screenshots for existing films and videos.
Doing this, the storyboard also doubles as mood board that you can share with the team.
Step 5: Make changes as you go in your storyboard creator
Reference your shot list to guide the images you generate. Remember that these aren't set in stone. Change shots on-the-fly as you see fit.
For example, imagine your shot list has two different shots that you can combine with a tilt to save time. To change the shot, click on the vertical ellipsis and select Edit Shot or Remove Shot if necessary.
After you create your images, cross reference them with the shots again. Are all the characters, props and scene elements accounted for? Did you use enough arrows to show movement? Make sure everything is good to go to save having to re-upload later.
Collaborate with Tasks
Use the Tasks sidebar to keep your DP, director and visual collaborators in the loop as you go.
For example, you may meet with your DP to go over which lenses to use for a shot. To do this, click on the Task Cards button.
Keep track of action items by creating tasks as you work.
This will open up the Task Cards sidebar. Click “+” to add a new task card.
Adding a Task Card as you work.
After you name your task, a pop up opens with oodles of details you can fill out: tasks, due dates, file attachments, comments and teammates you can assign the card to.
Most importantly, add tasks to outline the steps you want your visual collaborators to take to address a particular shot or sequence.
I used my Task Card to ask my DP to confirm a composition I wanted.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to assign a status for your task with the Change Status button!
The Change Status button keeps your Task Cards actionable.
Your card will now appear in your Task Cards sidebar. Note that your task now retains the color of the status you set.
All of the task cards (across the various StudioBinder pages) aggregate on the Workflow dashboard’s status columns so you can quickly identify which cards are on hold, in progress, needs review and completed.
All task cards aggregate in StudioBinder’s Workflow dashboard
Step 6: Upload your images
Once ready, upload your illustrations as individual images onto your laptop. Now you're ready to add them into your shot list.
Go back to your Shot Lists & Storyboards dashboard. Click on the blank thumbnail in your first shot.
Select your uploaded images from the Finder pop-up and click open. Voila, you now have a storyboard!
Resequence your shots as you see fit by using the vertical bars to drag and drop.
Step 7: Build your Storyboard Reports
Your images are now uploaded into the storyboard creator with your shots sequenced as desired. Now you're ready to build a storyboard report.
Keep in mind who will read your storyboard and what they need to take from it. Your goal is to create a meaningful storyboard that’s an easy read.
First, click View Report. Then use the buttons to customize how your shot list will be presented.
Click this button to filter between your scenes or custom lists if you used them.
The Scenes button selects your shots lists. Choose those from your uploaded script or the additional lists you added.
The Scenes Sidebar
This is where you customize which scenes should be in view. Use the checkboxes to filter accordingly. Also rearrange the scenes to your liking by clicking on the triple bar and drag and dropping.
Tweak which scenes to include and in what order in the Scenes Sidebar.
The Layout button allows you to choose the best display settings to fit your final storyboard. Start by clicking the Layout Button.
Use the Layout button to choose how your shot list will be displayed.
Next choose which ordering you would like to use for your shots; numerical or alphabetical. Also decide how many columns you would like your images to appear in. This will help you choose the most readable display.
Use the layout buttons on the upper right for quicker navigating between the layouts.
Use the Adjust Columns button to add or remove columns in your report. Click on the checkboxes to add or remove any of the input fields you used.
Make your storyboard even more handy by adjusting columns to streamline your data.
Filter by Day
Use this filter to specify which production day you’re presenting. Choose the shooting day by clicking on it in the dropdown. You can also click All Scenes to include all shooting days.
Narrowing down your shooting day on your shot list report.
If you need to make edits to your storyboard at any time, click the Edit Shot List button to jump back into your shots.
Keep in mind that people will likely reread your storyboard many times. Choose the optimal layout and omit data that isn’t mission critical.
Check your work many times to make sure the data is correct. Check your shot data, scene ordering and layout and notes. Show your producer, DP and other visual collaborators.
Step 8: Sharing storyboards are easier with a storyboard maker
Now it’s time to get that storyboard out to your collaborators. Use the methods below to easily share your work with StudioBinder’s storyboard maker.
Printing Your Storyboard
To print the shot list, click View Report in the Shot List & Storyboards page. Make the sure Filter by Day button is displaying the production days you are creating the storyboard report for.
Now is also a good time to double check that the Layout and Adjust Columns settings are correct and optimal.
Whether you are saving your storyboard as a file or printing it out, click the Print button.
Printing a script directly from the Reports page.
If printing, just make sure your printer is selected, click Print and you’re good to go. If saving, click Destination and change your destination to Save to PDF.
Save your script as a PDF to email or include with your call sheet.
Note that the Reports page is optimized for printing and sharing. Make sure to print from the Reports page and not the Edit Shot page.
Pro Tip: If your shot demands are complex, you might want to include your storyboard when sending out your call sheet. This way everyone will be better primed for the shooting day.
Presenting Your Storyboard
You can turn your storyboard into a visual presentation using StudioBinder’s storyboard creator. To start, return to your shot list. Click Presentation Mode.
This will display your images in a slideshow format. Use this mode in meetings and teleconferences, or even show it crew members on set.
Note that your Edit Shot ellipses is available in the presentation pane. Presentation Mode is essentially a full-screen view of the Slideshow Layout. Use this to concentrate on your images while you create your shot list.
Making a storyboard is probably the most important step for cementing the vision for your project. With this in hand, you can now tell anyone what your project will look and feel like.
Give yourself a pat on the back. Through learning how to make a storyboard, you have also solved the visual questions of your project. You just made your shooting day much smoother. Now it’s time to start working on those call sheets to finally make your vision a reality.
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