Home Planning How to Make a Storyboard: The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Storyboard: The Ultimate Guide

by Celtx

Why do you need a storyboard?

Directors need to make a lot of decisions. Filming a brief reaction shot requires the director to answer, at minimum, the following questions:

  • What will be in the shot frame?
  • Where will the camera be?
  • Will the camera be static or dynamic?
  • How much of the background is visible or in focus?
  • How do you want the subjects lit?

Of course, all these decisions will yield less than a second of screen time. To get a sense of just how much brain processing is required for a feature film, imagine making all those decisions for every second of a 90-minute movie. It’s an absolute ton of work.

While storyboards don’t allow the director to do less work, they do allow the director to do a lot of it in advance, leading to less stressful and more successful days on set.

What is included in a storyboard?

A storyboard is a series of images that represent the visual structure of a scene. Traditionally, a director would hand-draw, or pay an artist to hand-draw, the images. However, today, most are generated with software. Celtx offers a massive library of premade art assets from which to build scenes, allowing users to iterate earlier and more often.

The images themselves contain the following information:

  • The Subjects: Most films are possible to watch on mute. This is because the majority of the story is told visually. The images should focus on the subjects of the film as they progress through the plot.
  • The Framing: The image approximates what will be on screen. From this, directors can learn whether a shot will be wide, medium, or close, as well as which characters and objects need to be in each scene.
  • The Action: As with comic books, a series of static images can show a great deal of motion. The storyboard should demonstrate how characters will move through the scene.

Under the images is text with additional information about each shot, including:

  • Scene Description: To better serve as a reference, your storyboard should note which scene from the script is being represented in the storyboard, including scene number and page number. 
  • Dialogue: You can quote specific lines of dialogue to better tie the script into the storyboard.

How many frames does a storyboard have?

A finished professional storyboard has at least one frame for every shot. That means 1000-3000 frames for a feature-length film.

However, you won’t necessarily have time to make several hundred pages of storyboard, at least at first. We recommend starting smaller.

How long does a storyboard have to be?

In the early stages, it’s better for a storyboard to be shorter rather than longer. Choose the key scenes in your script—the ends of each act, the scenes that define characters, and the important visuals. Then, make frames for these scenes. If the scenes have important action, consider making 2-3 frames to convey it.

As the film develops, add frames, bit by bit. Let your storyboard grow and evolve as shooting locations are determined and actors are cast. 

You may not need to go full Hollywood and draw a frame for every shot. Focus first on storyboarding difficult and complicated scenes. That way, if you run out of time before you start shooting, you’ll have storyboard support for the difficult scenes, but creative freedom for the easier ones. 

As long as you work at it throughout the planning process, your storyboard will increase in usefulness. When you’re ready to start filming, your storyboard will be ready too.

How do you create a storyboard template?

At its base, a storyboard document is a set of blank frames with space underneath for text. However, filmmakers often prefer ones with some added structure, which makes important information easy to find.

See our free storyboard templates for ideas.

How long does it take to create a storyboard?

The length of time it takes to create a storyboard is entirely dependant on the level of detail that you’re looking to achieve.

Commissioning professional artists can speed this process up, but can also be prohibitively expensive.

To save time and money, it’s not uncommon to combine basic photography, pre-rendered art assets, and simple, minimalist sketches to express your cinematic plan.

Part of why Celtx exists is to make this possible. Our software allows quick generation of storyboards, as well as convenient integration with your own art assets.

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