Advertising creatives may find it challenging to convey their more conceptual concepts to their clients. Plus, most filmmakers would agree that planning a video sequence is not second nature.
We need to put in a lot of time preparing. Thankfully, there’s a tool that will help put the ideas in your head onto paper.
One of the best ways to do this is to provide a physical representation that clients can use to visualise your concepts — a storyboard. Whether you’re working on the next cinematic smash or a commercial for an ad agency, storyboarding is an essential element of the pre-production process. In this article, we’ll delve into the process of developing a storyboard that will take your advertisements to the next level.
A storyboard is a visual aid for plotting out a story or outlining its purpose. Storyboards are an effective visual presentation method that may be created using specialised software, or even by hand. Basically, you could think of a storyboard as a “comic book adaptation” of your film, video, or TV commercial — except it’s done even before filming begins.
Whether you’re narrating a story, describing a process, or charting the passage of time, the linear arrangement of the cells is an ideal format. Storyboards are essentially a series of sequential illustrations that highlight important moments in a narrative. Regardless of whether you’re creating a feature film, a children’s animation or your best TV advertisement yet, storyboarding is key to a smooth filming experience.
With the story segmented in this way, the writer can concentrate on each cell in turn alongside the production crew. A strong framework can aid in maintaining cohesion and uniformity in the narrative’s presentation to ensure that everything written on script is translated visually.
Even better, you may show your client the points you want to make during the different frames that you’ve created during this storyboarding process.
While film directors such as Albert Hitchcock were notorious for crafting extremely precise storyboards, that doesn’t always have to be the case. Details such as shot type, characters, camera movement, narration, camera positioning, point of view, among others, should all be included in your TV commercial storyboard.
But you don’t necessarily have to detail every single frame within every single scene the way that Hitchcock did. You can add as many or as little detail as you like, as long as you have the key information. We’ll get into the general idea of how to storyboard in a later section.
A snippet of the original Star Wars storyboard — Credit: The Guardian
There are two conflicting stories about who invented the contemporary storyboard — either Howard Hughes with his 1930 picture Hell’s Angels or Walt Disney with his 1933 animated film Three Little Pigs. Regardless, Hollywood history touts the first live-action picture to be entirely planned out on storyboards as 1939’s Gone with the Wind.
Stories were segmented in those original storyboards, although not much has changed since then. Plotlines were laid out in sequential order on index cards or pieces of paper and tacked up on a bulletin board. Production teams were then able to go over each section individually to discuss, modify, ensure consistency and prepare for the production. Within any type of filmmaking nowadays, the general use of a storyboard remains the same.
The utilisation of storyboards has increased over the past 90 or so years and has even expanded across industries. Drawing on techniques developed in the animation and film industries, storyboards are utilised in the production of theatre, comics and even television advertising. It’s also become common practise in the business sector to use storyboards to simulate the reactions of potential buyers to new products — also known as the “customer journey”. So, it doesn’t look like storyboarding is going any time soon!
There is no limit to the amount of detail that can be included in a storyboard. Don’t feel like you have to stick to a specific storyboard structure if you don’t want to; this is just a tool to aid you in the pre-production phase.
Storyboarding can be done in either a traditional or thumbnail style. The primary distinction between the two designs is the level of specificity used. With that said, here are the two main types of storyboards used today:
Before beginning to shoot or animate, the writer, producer, and director can better visualise their vision through a collection of sketches — the storyboard. Traditional hand-drawn storyboards are still widely used in the television and film industries today. However, “traditional” storyboards nowadays can also be drawn-up using specialised storyboarding tools such as StudioBinder or Boords.
Assisting the animation team or film crew in keeping the sequence straight, these simple rough sketches are accompanied by written explanations of what the characters will be doing in each scene.
The level of information included in classic storyboards varies greatly. Some are extremely elementary, employing rudimentary sketches to show the overall visual flow, facilitate the visualisation of scenes, and clarify important aspects for all parties engaged in the project with no need for any special artistic ability on anyone’s part. For instance, the characters could just be stick figures, while the backdrops and settings would be left out entirely.
A thumbnail storyboard is usually used by a small team–or even a team of one–who already have a good understanding of how they want to visually portray their idea. Hitchcock is notorious for using only thumbnail storyboards for his movies — as you can see with the above snippet of the storyboard for his 1960 film, Psycho.
Storyboards in the thumbnail style are often not written out. Instead, they rely heavily on visuals, demonstrating each and every shot as it should appear in the context of a scene.
Thumbnail storyboards are very quick and easy to create as no text is required and the sketches don’t need to be particularly detailed. However, they’re not the best to use when you want to create a TV commercial and need to showcase your ideas to your clients.
Although storyboards are frequently employed, they are not always necessary for a given task, especially in the realm of advertising. An extended infomercial, especially if it is shot in front of a live audience, is not the type of thing that lends itself well to meticulous pre-production planning. But, for every other kind of TV advertising, storyboarding is essential.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of using storyboards for TV advertising:
Creating a high-quality storyboard may seem like a lot of extra effort, but it will be invaluable during pre-production. The use of a film storyboard can prevent you from spending time and money on unneeded extra video production or even adding special effects to fix filming mistakes.
In order to make adjustments, one only needs to rearrange, redraw or remove a single card on a storyboard as opposed to rewriting an entire illustration or shooting an entire scene from scratch. Time and resources are conserved when it is possible to make adjustments in advance.
Throughout the production of a film, storyboards are utilised as a visual reference tool. With a storyboard, you may plan out how you want to frame the subject, record any action, move the camera ahead of time and ensure the script is followed correctly and recorded for each frame.
When developing a storyboard, be sure that you translate all of the necessary shots for the commercial into drawing form. Then, be sure to execute each shot exactly as intended in terms of framing and shooting — drawing from the storyboard as a guide.
Shot lists help you stay on top of a complex shoot and get the footage you need before you even dive into initial filming. Organising this information in the form of a storyboard provides you with an even more useful resource for handling a demanding shoot day.
There is no hard and fast rule on how to storyboard or how detailed your sketches need to be. If you’re just starting out, a few stick figures and arrows will do just fine for your storyboard. It doesn’t matter how you organise your storyboard as long as it serves its purpose. That being said, storyboarding does have a starting point — you don’t need to go in blind.
If you’re keen on drawing up a storyboard for your next TV advertising project, here are the basic steps to get you started:
The overall framework of your video advertisement should be understood even if you are using a pre-written screenplay. The basic format for creating a great advert includes a hook (usually within the first moments), a problem, a solution and a call-to-action (CTA).
These five elements of an advertisement work together to pique a customer’s interest and encourage them to make a purchase. When outlining the sequence of events for your commercial, keep this format in mind.
What kinds of shots fit into each sequence here? Which way does the story go for the commercial? What about lighting? You should think about these things when you draw-up the storyboard for your commercial and fix any problems that arise.
Create a rough plan of how the action will unfold throughout your commercial through a series of squares on a blank page — whether physical or digital, it’s up to you. You don’t need to go crazy with the description, but do give a sense of the setting, the characters, and the rough idea of the how the shots should look.
Then, make a list of all the shots you will require as raw material and sketch out those shots in the storyboard’s squares. Use simple forms and stick people on paper if you’re not an artist. However, if you aren’t happy with the results, a storyboard artist can help you make adjustments or sketch out a new plan.
Underneath each sketched shot, you can write down some notes and the accompanying script lines that will be said in that shot. Adding information about camera placement and movement, cutaways, and other production and post-production necessities can also be added here.
Storyboards should include details such as the action taking place in each scene, any script a voice-over artist or actor is following, the names and descriptions of any major characters, a list of any necessary items, timings for the advert and a breakdown of any text that will be displayed and where it will be displayed. Any other production or post-production notes, such as camera angles, movements, and cuts, can also be included.
Much like writing a TV commercial script, it’s important to get feedback from your team as well as your client about the storyboard draft. The great thing about storyboards is that they’re relatively easy to manipulate and change if needed. Once everyone is happy with the way the rough idea looks, you can move on to the next steps in creating your TV commercial!
The best way to get started with any project is to have a look at some examples, so you have a rough idea of what you need to be doing. This is especially helpful when it comes to storyboarding for the first time. We’ve got you covered!
Here are three of our own storyboards that we’ve drawn up for our various clients over the years:
MrQ wanted to do TV commercials for the first time and reached out to us to partner up. After the great success of the first CGI advert, they came back for more!
Our second collaborative effort was the first-ever live-action BRTV campaign, “You Win Some, You Lose Some,” which premiered in April 2022. Within six months, FOTW assisted MrQ in transitioning from a Direct Response campaign to a Brand Response campaign on television, taking the company from no TV exposure to a market share stealer.
Another brand that has teamed up with FOTW to launch their first TV ad is Explore Worldwide. They wanted to dip their toes in the water with a three-month campaign at first, so we had to get resourceful. The advertisement’s story needed to be compelling in order to steer those who were on the fence about their next trip in the proper direction.
After a successful three-month trial of being new to TV, Explore Worldwide has proceeded with its always on TV strategy! It definitely goes to show how effective TV advertising is, even in this day and age.
If you have a script, you know how your project is supposed to progress. So, why do you need a storyboard? Well, converting that momentum and fresh concepts from text to visuals is the real challenge. You should add enough detail in each image on your storyboard so that someone who hasn’t read your script can still understand what’s going on just by looking at it.
But you don’t have to go at this alone. Partnering with a great creative TV ad agency is the best way to put your brand out there through the medium of TV.
Keen on seeing what TV advertising can bring to your brand? Get in touch with an experienced advertising agency who’ll be able to help you get the job done!