Storyboarding - An Introduction
A presentation without a storyboard is like a cart without a horse. You have no
idea which direction whomsoever is going to pull the cart. And when you realize
your mistake, it may be too late. And it is at this note that our storyboarding
Storyboarding is never the beginning of any creative project, because you cannot
get to this stage unless your concept and vision are completely clear. If you
are undertaking a project for yourself or for a client, there would be little to
be gained in undertaking a storyboarding session without ideas - the storyboard
is an element to capture and refine ideas, not to create them.
What exactly is a storyboard? Is it a piece of paper or a part of your computer
screen? Is it that part of your mind where you store the sequence of your
creativity? Actually, its all of them - the 'storyboard' is both abstract and
physical - in our thoughts and on papyrus. The abstract is its very existence,
but it's the physical one which is a retrievable record of its brilliance.
The abstract storyboard has got more to do with our imagination and
visualization - it is also the source, inspiration and the very existence that
channels the physical storyboard.
Paper Or Screen?
If you're creating your first formal storyboard, you'll have to decide if you
require a paper or screen board. Both of them have their advantages and
disadvantages - and both come in so many types that you can have a great time
deciding which works best for you.
A paper storyboard is something that's more akin to our psychology - it's no
wonder so many screen alternatives try to emulate paper. There could be nothing
easier than putting a pencil or pen onto paper and scribbling notes, drawing a
prototype or creating a flow chart. You can also manage your schedule, ascertain
your priorities and do more. It's no secret that paper is more close to a human
being's comfort level - lots of people are still wary of digital storyboards,
after all the mouse or keyboard is not something with which you can cut and
write or write between the lines. Things are however changing, or have already
changed, as we shall soon examine.
New technologies are in the fore today - a tablet or pen emulates a regular pen,
and it comes with a convenient electronic eraser to boot, imagine doing that the
conventional way. And you could use a speech recognition program to input ideas
straight into your electronic storyboard. Handwriting recognition and OCR
programs can port all your existing paper storyboards onto the screen level as
Screen storyboards have other advantages too - you can share them over your
network or the Internet, also you can store them on a floppy, a thumb-drive, a
CD-Rewritable or a shared Internet virtual drive. By sharing in myriad ways,
your storyboards become more collaborative, and consequently your content is
richer, your ideas are originated from a higher base level. This does not mean
that paper storyboards are without benefits - not everybody carries a palmtop or
laptop everywhere - paper is everywhere: on newspapers, napkins and notes - just
find an area to write, and scribble your thoughts away. It is necessary to
mention here that it is better to carry a small paper notepad to capture your
sudden or planned spurts of inspirations - all loose papers can be lost very
What's a paper storyboard? Any piece of paper is technically fit enough to be a
storyboard. But paper in many ways belies the very function of a storyboard -
'permanence'. Granted, there is no such thing called 'permanent' on earth - but
paper's permanence levels are directly related to its form. A thick bound
register is more permanent than a loose sheet. In fact the register could be
more permanent than a floppy or a CD. However, your computer's hard disk or
storing it on the Internet is even more permanent than that.
The single biggest advantage of a screen (also called digital and electronic
throughout this article) storyboard is duplication. That's why I don't advise
you to use paper. For that matter, I don't think that the screen alternative on
its own is a good idea too. So, what do we use? Simple, we use a combination -
by all means use paper, but convert it to electronic format as soon as possible.
We just saw how we can use paper to create a better screen storyboard - in the
same way we can use screen to create a better paper storyboard. You can create a
template in your word processor, which you can then print out in certain
quantities. These papers can be stapled or spiraled to form a nice notepad. Use
this as your storyboard - just remember to put it all back in the electronic
format at due intervals.
I could write pages galore on screen alternatives, but we'll stick to the basic
alternatives presently. In it's easiest form, your storyboard could be a text
editor - in it's most advanced incarnation it could be your own custom
application suite comprising of a storyboard program, a word processor and
programs for speech recognition, email, project collaboration and OCR (optical
If you would like to use a basic text editor, then you could use Notepad that
comes with Microsoft® Windows®. Also, there is an excellent Notepad replacement
Next in the hierarchy tier are word processors - you could use them as they are,
or you could use them with a specialized storyboarding template. Such templates
can also be printed to paper. If you want to create a template in your
particular word processor, you can
template in Adobe's PDF format here - this is very basic and you could
emulate it in any word processor which is worth its existence. Needless to say,
you will need to download
Adobe's Acrobat Reader to view and print this template.
However, let's face it - word processors can be boring. For routine in-house
presentations, word processor software like Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect,
Lotus WordPro or a dozen more alternatives will do the job - what's more your
good old presentation program will import the entire storyboard as an outline
and will even decide how many slides you need and where to place what
information - the wonders of computers! All this is boring, safe and predictable
- like typists with thick glassed spectacles! We want our presentations to sing,
dance, play and maybe even get to the movies. You want sighs and wows, with a
few drop-dead responses thrown in for good measure - yes, you need a specialized
The answer is a little disappointing - I haven't found any great storyboarding
program as yet. There are programs which allow you to draw onscreen, others
allow you to input text and create links, but you need more. So, we'll do the
next best thing: we'll look at a combination of programs and hardware.
The best hardware you can get for yourself is a tablet - pen, preferably
pressure sensitive. This will allow you to draw onscreen - my
Wacom tablet even comes with
a specialized software called
Paragraph PenOffice (new Wacoms don't include this anymore) that allows me
to draw right inside Microsoft Word - what's more, others who don't have the
tablet or the software can still view all the files and even edit the text.
There are such draw-into-your-program programs for other word processors too.
Once you have a tablet, you can try out a great free storyboarding program
Springboard - the reason I never mentioned about this above is that this
program is almost useless without a pen-tablet. Still, you may want to take
Springboard for a spin.
Now that you have the software sorted out, let's talk about 'the flow' - this is
the unrestrained stream of thoughts originating from your creativity which forms
a major part of your storyboard. In fact this is the only link between your
abstract and physical storyboards.
You can use sticky notes, both paper and electronic to keep track of your
inspirational bouts - for a free electronic version of sticky notes, try
Keep yourself suitably involved with your ideas to prevent your flow being
hampered with. Nevertheless, if the dreaded 'creativity block' strikes you,
there are a few ideas here which could help you. Visit our
Creativity Un-Block page.
Every storyboard has elements - representation of actual elements of a finished
presentation. These are in the form of text, video, sound, images and more...
It's just that you don't put everything that's going to be a part of your
finished presentation into your storyboard - the storyboard is an intermediate
stage - what's more it's a link to preserve your ideas for use in the actual
If the text part is longer, just put in the beginning lines to suggest which
text you would be using correspondingly in the presentation. In the same way
images and videos are represented as placeholders - and sound could be
identified by some scribbled notes.
Scribbled notes - that's one element in a storyboard that does not finish it's
journey to the final presentation. It's just there to correct and add ideas -
it's the heart of a storyboard.
All we have discussed may have not met your requirements - maybe your needs are
specialized - maybe you need to do more.
This need not disappoint - the main thing to remember is that your ideas are
important - with a little tweaking here and there, you can adapt solutions to
suit you. We are presently discussing only general mainstream requirements, but
there's no reason why you cannot adapt it for yourself.
From Storyboard to Finality
We have to remember that the storyboard is an intermediate stage - concept and
visualization are the beginning stages - completion and delivery are the final
To finish a presentation, you don't need a finished storyboard. In fact a good
storyboard will never get completed. As soon as your storyboard has a fixed
direction, you should begin work on your presentation, maybe even before that.
And some day, when your presentation is over, and you have won accolades, and
some years after that, you may just see your old storyboard. And that storyboard
will inspire you again, once more...