The Smartypants Guide to Storyboarding

We don’t think you’re a Dummy if you’re a little confused by storyboarding. Our animators dream in storyboards, but perhaps this is your first encounter with the video-making creative process.


Let’s start with a little bit of history. If we gave you ONE guess as to who was the first to use storyboards for animation, would you say Walt Disney? Of course you would, and you’d be right. See? You’re no dummy. Storyboarding was first used by the father of animation, Walt Disney for the 1928 animation, “Plane Crazy.” Disney drew up numbered panels, indicating how they were to appear- before he got to work on the development of the film. That was a long time ago, but you’d be surprised at how little the method has changed since. Animators still ‘blueprint’ the illustration of an animated film in relatively that same way. Storyboards in 1928 and storyboards in 2013 have the same elements: Numbered cells, preliminary sketches that show movement and character features, camera and dialogue notes and sometimes even the first layers of color.
The way we use storyboards also remains the same – to see all on screen elements will look in a sequence. If any of the screens don’t fit the flow, they can easily be edited or moved around. In 1928, this was done manually, shifting pieces of paper around a physical board. Today, this is done with digital ease… cut, paste, delete, reposition, update, tweak. It’s a simple, yet very effective way to collaboratively put the pieces of the production together. The production team can now very easily get input from the client, and pass it along through to every “department” from scriptwriter to post production. The video-making process is now more collaborative than ever… and it all starts with team-storyboarding.


If you’ve never seen a storyboard – here’s are a few things to look at:

  • Sequence – The storyboard is always ‘in sequence’ starting from the beginning of the script.


  • Action – what are the characters doing? Movement will often be indicated in the notes, or in the drawing. Camera notes will also be given, such as: zoom in, pan left, close up etc.


  • Script notes – animators will match the action with points in the script. Note whether the script is narrated (by voiceover), spoken by the character, or displayed in graphic text on screen.


  • Style – animators have their own storyboarding-style, it’s as unique as their art. Your storyboard is an artist’s rendering of your characters, scenery, pace and animation style. It’s not complete, but it will give you an indication of the direction of your video.


There was a reason why Walt didn’t etch storyboards into stone… they are meant to act as a visual guide, not as the final product. It is a very necessary part of the creative process because it brings the entire team together and begins to put narrative and visual pieces into sequence. It’s your chance to see the script come to life through animation. We love to get you involved all the way through the creative process…but we can’t wait for you to see the final cut!


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