What is a Storyboard - Header

Planning a video or sequence in a film doesn’t come second nature to most filmmakers. Serious prep is required. Lucky for you, there are tools to make this easier. Laying out your vision in a storyboard is one way to do it. So, what is a storyboard anyway? If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’re not yet a pro at storyboarding. That’s okay! We’re glad you’re here. This post will cover the basics and why knowing them are critical to your production’s preparation.

Storyboard Definition

What exactly is a storyboard?

It’s time to discover the tool that will help you realize your vision.

So what is a storyboard?


What is a storyboard?

A storyboard is a visual representation of a film sequence and breaks down the action into individual panels. It is a series of ordered drawings, with camera direction, dialogue, or other pertinent details. It sketches out how a video will unfold, shot by shot.

It's is similar to a trial-run for your finished film, video, or commercial, laid out in a comic book-like form.


  • Sequence of drawings, sketches, reference images or photographs of stand-ins.
  • Provides a visual guidance for look, feel and movement.
  • Indicates the staging of actors and camera placement.
  • May include dialogue and sound direction.

Of course in 2019, there are digital boards (that we’ll touch on soon), but below is the basic idea.

What is a Storyboard - Storyboard Example

What is a storyboard: example

So what actually goes into making one?

What Should a Storyboard Contain?
  1. Each major event should get its own thumbnail.
  2. Each thumbnail should include essential props, characters, and relevant details about setting.
  3. Note movement if it’s relevant to the scene. Use arrows to show direction of movement. 
  4. Clarity with the camera. Note the camera angles or camera movement you envision for each thumbnail. This will help others see your vision through your eyes.
  5. Add text to describe each panel. Highlight essential dialogue, or any other ideas you want to convey. 
  6. Don’t forget about transitions! Use a new image for each transition if this is relevant to your project or whatever it is your storyboarding.

Now that you know a bit more, let’s explore why these boards are so critical to your vision. 

why add an extra step?

Why do I need a storyboard?

Whether you’re planning a film or a video ad for your business, the process involves many steps. So why the heck would you add another step to the process?

Well, it turns out jumping in without using one could cause a ton of problems later on. Taking the extra time will save you the headache. 

1. They help you organize your thoughts

If you’re planning a campaign for your company and have a million ideas, some ideas are blending into one, others seem to go off tangents. Are you ready to present it to the team? What about your film pitch? Are you the god of oration? Maybe. But just in case you're not, use them to organize your thoughts.

Plan your vision, step by step, and shot by shot. It will prepare you so much more for the next step which is essential.

2. Share your vision

Most projects involve more than one person. So if you want to see your vision come to fruition you’re going to have it share it with a team, or at least another person.

A detailed board will allow the team to see your plan step by step. It will give them, and you, an opportunity to clear up any questions or lock in new ideas. These collaborations may give rise to a better plan. Without sharing your ideas ahead of time, you could be in some real trouble come production. 

3. They make production easier

These boards are the blueprint for your production. As we mentioned above, each thumbnail contains information for each shot. How could you stay on schedule, (and on budget), without a plan? Even when you plan, things often go wrong!

They ensure you won’t forget any scenes or shots, especially if you’ve clearly prepped camera angles and setup times.

4. They save time and money

We just said it above. The process takes more time upfront but the time you’ll save in production, (and the headaches), will make it worth it. You’re more likely to stay on schedule, and therefore budget, when you don’t have to add extra shooting days or re-shoot scenes.

Traditional vs. Storyboarding Software

What does a storyboard look like?

I added this section for clarification regarding jargon that might be floating out in the ether. I personally believe they should have as much detail as possible. But some types require less.

Traditional storyboards are what we saw above. Basic pencil sketches that help creators visualize their scenes or videos before filming begins. They include detailed information like arrows for camera movement, characters, props, etc.

There are also thumbnail style storyboards that don’t have any writing. Keep in mind I use the term thumbnail in this article and was referring to the image, not this style board. Again, the more detail you put into it, the easier it will be to execute later. They’re not used as often as detailed ones. But then again, if it’s just you, or a small team, writing might not be necessary. 

Here’s an example from Hitchcock’s Psycho.
What is a Storyboard - Storyboard Example - Thumbnail Style

What is a storyboard: Psycho example

And then of course there’s the digital storyboard

Storyboarding software will make your life so much easier. You can upload your drawings or even upload images to create mood boards to share with the team. We used StudioBinder storyboarding software to lay out a sequence.

The reason why I like digital the best is the share-ability. It’s simple to invite people to the project and with one click, your entire team has access. They can comment and make notes on your vision in real-time and expedite the process. 

Don’t forget to keep reading to learn how to make a storyboard. You can also download a free storyboard template here.

Up Next

How to Make a Storyboard

What’s the point of knowledge if you’re not planning on putting it to action? Now that you have a basic foundation, let’s dive into how to actually create one. The next post takes you step-by-step with more examples from films you love. You’ll also get a storyboard template to help get you started.

Up Next: Make a Storyboard →
Solution - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows. 

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