When you’re ready to storyboard your video, this means you have your script written. If you don’t, read this article here.
1. Break down your script, sentence by sentence, fragment by fragment.
First you need to break down your script into sentence fragments, shot by shot. First of all, this is not an exact science. If you’re not the video editor, then you may not know this, but there are 100 decisions that go into every shot’s edit – cut, transition, composition, color correction, grading, sound effects, etc. So this process is not meant to “solve all the problems” regarding your video’s final form.
2. Create a “master” storyboard document.
Create a 3×2 matrix on a landscape oriented page, preferably in a graphics program. Start a document in InDesign or Photoshop, or God forbid, Word.
If worse comes to worse, use Google Slides and just make a slideshow or Powerpoint and just use an entire page for each shot. But I don’t recommend that, as it takes away from the flow-like viewing pleasure that a 3×2 matrix provides.
If you’re using InDesign, like you should, create single frames, 3 across the top, 2 down, and place each line or line segment below the frames. Make a little little text box below it, and then number each shot for reference, which you will use later. If you need to split a frame into 2, 3 or 4 parts, do it within the original frame, but number the shots separately. For a 1-2 minute long video, you might have 12-24 frames. But leave a little room below the lines in each text box for notes on locations, and other stuff.
If you’ve searched this topic before, you’ve probably seen other authors recommend sketching out your shots by hand to account for exact composition and rules of 3rds, etc. It’s a waste of time in most instances and if you’re like me, you can’t draw anything. I can’t even write anymore because of computers. And if there’s a choice between a video or an article, I’m watching the video. The point I’m trying to make is, I’m functionally illiterate.
3. Source your frame reference shots.
Next on the list is to start associating images with your words. You’re going to use the stock photo website iStock to search for this stuff. Don’t do a normal Google image search. This is just better, for quality’s sake. You came here for advice and this is what I’m saying.
So take for instance the opening line: “Nothing prepares you for having a family of your own.” This is the opening line for a commercial I’m shooting for a financial planning company, and in this opening shot, a middle-aged man is contemplatively walking the beach, lookin out over the horizon, getting his head straight to make some real decisions.
Now, on the day of the shoot, many factors will come into play, but for now, you’re looking for a “man walking the beach”, so search that term on iStock. Click to expand it, left click, save in a folder on your hard drive, hop back over to InDesign, Ctrl + D to place, and place it. Fit it proportionally, and move onto the next line. This should take you less than a minute per shot.
Move onto the next shot, repeat. Here, time me: beep, boop, beep boop boop.
Do this for every scene, if a single line or sentence fragment is going to have multiple shots that are all different, cut together quickly, just split up the images into a smaller matrix and plug in the appropriate frames. Again, this is not accounting for actual framing or composition.
Your DP – Director of Photography (if you want to be fancy), or director, or producer or solo camera guy – they will have their own plan as to which angles, composition and camera movement will be involved in each shot.
And they’ll shoot multiple takes of each, so this is not an accurate depiction of what your video will look like. This is simply to communicate the flow of action, language and storytelling to everyone involved: actors, extras, your producer, assistants, or just your plain ole marketing director.
4. Assign locations to each shot.
Once that’s complete, you have to start thinking about locations. When it comes to filming locations, less is definitely more. Having too many locations will just complicate things and make booking and managing them a headache. If you can film in just one location, like an office, and get creative with the shots, it’ll save you time and money in the long run.
Also try to plan shots as close to all the talent involved (in geographical proximity), as you’ll likely be trying to mobilize many people to be in one area. I know you’ve heard this 100 times, but if you’re shooting outdoors try to shoot during Golden Hour. Shooting in direct sunlight is difficult, you get harsh shadows, it’s hot, especially here in God’s country, aka Florida, and people get impatient when they’re sweating their asses off waiting for you to setup your Steadicam and screw on ND filters.
On your storyboard, under each line, write the location you’re shooting it at, and add it to a list, and then on that list, put the number of the shot next to it, so you can plan all the shots for each location. It should look something like this.\\
- Beach: 1-5-7-10
- Park: 2-6-8-12
- Kitchen: 3-4-11-15
- Bathroom: 9-13-16
5. Plan for wardrobe changes.
When you’re planning a shoot, you’ll need to communicate with the actors what type of wardrobe they’ll need to bring on the day of the shoot, and it might entail multiple outfits per location, so being organized is critical, especially if you’re working with non-professionals who are relying on your direction, and if you leave something out, it’s your fault. Remember to include hats, gloves and random accessories.
For instance, if there’s a scene on a golf course and you need a hat, the hat better match or it’ll look amateur. You don’t want your golfer wearing a flat brim Yankee hat that you had in your back seat as he teeing off in his snazzy pink gradient polo and dry-fit Nike pants.
Also, fun fact, have fake glasses on hand. That’s the universal sign in movies and film that time has passed. It’s one of those weird things you can’t un-see once you start doing this for a living. Same thing with wet pavement. It’s everywhere.
6. Budgeting time and other impossibilities.
Allow a ½ day shoot per location (and that’s 2-4 hours). Between transportation, setup, multiple takes and all that stuff, bear in mind that Murphy’s Law is the law when you’re on set. Things will go wrong. Something will malfunction. A lens or teleprompter will fog up. Your laptop or drone will need an update. So budget for more time, and have backup batteries for everything.
7. Demand good energy from yourself. It gets the people goin’!
And finally, before you get the clap – loosen up the people! Your actors are nervous, and people tend to spiral when the camera’s on them. Crack jokes. Play some silly music on set between shots… go over lines and just make it fun. Keep your attitude optimistic because people will feed off your energy. Performance anxiety is a real thing and odds are none of your characters have won an Oscar or are stars
Planning wins the day. So take these tips and get working.