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.
Honing your skill with three types of shots.
Basic storyboarding can be distilled down to three types of shots: a single that focuses on one person, an over-the-shoulder shot that looks past one character to another, and a two-shot of both characters interacting. “You can bounce back and forth between them — those shots are not hard,” Mellon says. “Where the storytelling comes in is how you order those shots and when you zoom in or zoom out to push emotion in those moments. How do you take the basic language of those three shots and put your spin on it?”
Your first storyboard will be a learning experience in what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the basics, practice will help you hone your storyboarding skills as you try out new ideas. “Grab a screenplay for something you haven’t seen and do a storyboard,” Holman suggests. “After you get through with a scene, play with it and watch how the pros did it — it’s an interesting contrast. You can teach yourself a lot about how the pros work and how they think.”
Get a peek at award-winning animator and filmmaker Chris Dooley’s storyboards for his live-action and animated work.