What’s a storyboard?
A storyboard is a series of drawings that visually tells the story of a screenplay or script. Varying in style from detailed drawings to stick figures, the key element of any storyboard is that it delivers a clear user experience for production teams to execute the story. “Some storyboards are super crude,” Archer and Black Lightning storyboard artist Kevin Mellon says. “But as long as it’s a storyboard that conveys information and emotion, it doesn’t matter.”
A good storyboard brings the storyline to life.
The storyboarding process: Putting camera shots together.
“When it comes to the storyboarding, you’re not just doing the storytelling,” explains Archer art director Neal Holman. You’re starting to envision what types of shots might be used in different moments to establish tone and character. A storyboard artist will use different camera angles and types of shots to add action, drama, and emotion to a scene. A director will begin creating their shot list from what is established in the storyboards. An establishing shot can be used to set the scene, an extreme close-up can add emotional focus, and the framing of different characters can help underscore their relationships. These are all creative choices that are made first by the storyboard artist.
That’s how a professional storyboard artist does it, but how do you learn what shots work well together? Research and study will help you learn what types work well in certain sequences. Studying film theory will help you learn what shots work well in which sequences. Then start simply with only a few types of shots.
Breaking into a storyboarding career.
Whether your goal is to become an animator, work on live-action feature films, or plot storyboards for opening credits, music videos, or video marketing, creating a portfolio of work is a must. “I hear it time and time again. ‘I really want to do storyboards.’ Can I see some of your storyboards? ‘I’ve never done them,’” Holman says. “If you want to do boards, start doing boards.”
Once you’ve studied the type of work you want to do and started creating your own, you can add it to your portfolio. Then look at the film credits for the types of projects you want to work on and try to make connections to get your work in front of those people. “If you can show a range — you can do an action show and a Bob’s Burgers — I’m going to be even more impressed with you,” Holman says. “People who come from drawing comic books can be great because they’re so used to drawing good anatomy and focusing on composition in the frame.”
“If you want to do boards, start doing boards.”
The process of landing a storyboarding job may take a long time, but with script resources to work from, you can continue improving your work and building your portfolio as you search and network. Discover what other storyboard artists are doing on Behance to pick up tips on drawing storyboards and what to include in your portfolio.
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