Storyboarding

Storyboarding is no substitute for filming and editing, but it’s a very useful tool for getting students to plan and visualise their ideas and to ensure that they do make use of a variety of shots and angles. Many Primary school teachers consider it vital for developing pupils’ understanding of narrative.

Learning from comics

Your students can learn a lot about storyboarding by analysing comics frame-by-frame to see how they use lighting, framing and viewpoint to tell their stories. Older students can look at high-quality ‘graphic novels’, Japanese ‘manga’ or French ‘bandes dessinnées’, which often use visual language in sophisticated and subtle ways. (You need to be careful in selecting these – ‘graphic novels’ can contain very graphic violence.)

You can then look at scenes from TV dramas, advertisements or opening sequences to see how they use the same techniques. Stilling the picture and sketching what is in the frame can help.

Redrafting

It’s important to distinguish between the two main uses of storyboarding. Working storyboards are for planning and working out sequences, and presentation storyboards are for ‘selling’ the final sequence to a client. For the first type, students need to be willing to draft and redraft. One way to encourage this is to get them to draw each shot on a separate small piece of paper before sticking them down, so that they can amend and reorder their sequences without having to completely redraw them from scratch.

You don’t have to produce a neatly finished presentation storyboard if you’re just making a storyboard to work out how a sequence will be filmed, though even a rough storyboard should show how framing differs from shot to shot.

Going further

The obvious thing to do with your storyboard is to use it to make a film!
But if you don’t have easy access to a video camera or editing facilities, there are other things you can do. Your students can take photographs based on their storyboards. If they shoot on slide film, you can make a tape-slide from them (with an accompanying soundtrack). Picture Power II (see review by Rob James)  allows your students to experiment with storyboarding using their own pictures and soundtracks and to create a ‘slideshow’ on the computer.

You can also use storyboards to make ‘animatics’. Here, you use the macro setting on your video camera (mounted on a copy stand or tripod) to film each shot of the storyboard in sequence. This can be useful in its own right, but it’s also a good way of checking how well a sequence works before you go out to film it. You can use the ‘audio dub’ on your video camera to add a soundtrack.
in a box:

The storyboard

A storyboard is a series of pictures which shows how each shot in a scene will be filmed.
Look at

  1. comics
  2. a scene from a TV drama

to see how they use different kinds of ‘shots’ to help tell their story.

These are some of the different kinds of shots a film director might choose:

Wide shot

This is the name for a shot which is taken from a long way away. People look quite small in this kind of shot. It’s often used at the beginning of a section, so that the audience can see what sort of place the scene is set in.

Long shot

This is closer than a wide shot. You can see the person from head to toe, but you can still see what’s around them.

Medium shot

This shows someone from just below their waist to just above their head. When you use a medium shot you are close enough to see people’s expressions, but you can see what they are doing with their hands as well.

Close-up

This shows just the head of the person being filmed. You can use this sort of shot when it’s important to see someone’s expression: for example, if they are scared or angry.

You could make your storyboard more interesting by filming the action from different positions. If you want someone to look big and threatening, draw the shot as if the camera is fairly close and pointing up at them. If you want them to look small and scared, the camera should be further away and pointing down at them.

© 2001 Media Education Wales

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