To make a commercial without a storyboard is like writing an essay without an outline.  Shooting commercials is a deceptively difficult process, and even the most well-planned scenes can go awry without careful storyboards.  While a script is essential for any commercial, imagine trying to paint a picture using only written instructions. It becomes clear that a storyboard helps commercial directors envision what the writers’ had in mind.

Storyboards serve several functions that a written script cannot:

  1. Establish framing.  What should be depicted on the video, and where should the borders of the shot be located?  The framing of a shot can lead the viewer’s eye to a specific place, emphasize colors or shapes, and otherwise provide visual information to accentuate the action.
  2. Provide blocking and focus information.  Where are the actors in relation to each other?  Who or what should be in focus, and does the focus change?  The scenes of a commercial must be laid out to prevent actors from blocking one another or covering up important elements of the commercial.
  3. Plan actor movements and action.  The motion of actors should be part of the storyboards so that both actors and directors clearly understand what the action of the scene will be.
  4. Plan camera movements.  Storyboards can show the intended pan, tilt, or zoom of a camera, leaving the director with one less decision to worry about while filming.
  5. Demonstrate editing possibilities.  Where to cut in a commercial scene can create dramatic tension or emphasize a joke.  Considering the length of each shot, when to cut, and what the next scene will depict all give the director greater control over shooting the commercial.

Creating a storyboard takes little time and energy, but the results can be clearly seen in the finished product.  Sloppy editing, distracting background action, bland visuals, and even bad acting can all be the result of failing to draw a storyboard.

Designing the Storyboard

A storyboard is like a cartoon of the film.  When you draw your storyboard, imagine drawing a comic strip for a newspaper.  Draw some squares on a sheet of paper or computer drawing program and begin doodling the scene as you imagine it.  It doesn’t have to be great art – stick figures should be enough.  Think of the setting you have selected for the scene, and how best to show the action that will occur.

Thinking of a commercial as a cartoon or other graphical sequence might be difficult at first, but visualizing it in this way will greatly reduce the amount of time spent shooting a scene.  The positive difference in using storyboards will be clear when you complete your commercial.

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Storyboard
Sample storyboard about credit score commercial.

Your Assignment – Tuesday:

Now that you have created a script, creating a storyboard is the next step in developing a commercial. Think of a storyboard as a drawing depicting what will occur in the commercial.

Until recently, storyboards were hand drawn. Lately, there has been a shift to digital storyboards. We will use the latter.

The storyboard must match the script. It should use a variety of camera shots that will make the scene visually compelling. While creating the storyboard, you may realize that your script needs adjustment, so adjust as necessary.

Create a storyboard for a short scene that utilizes a variety of different camera shots, background audio, and narration or voice over. Be creative with your plot and shot selection. What will be a CU? What will be a LS? Don’t use just one shot for the entire scene, as it will bore the audience.

Your Assignment:

  1. Go to storyboardthat.com and create a 6 – 12 shot storyboard.
  2. Screen shot your final storyboard and paste it on the same page, but below the script from last class.