Storyboards are graphic organizers such as a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of previsualizing a motion graphic or interactive media sequence, including website interactivity.
The storyboarding process, in the form it is known today, was developed at the Walt Disney Studio during the early 1930s, after several years of similar processes being in use at Walt Disney and other animation studios.
According to Christopher Finch in The Art of Walt Disney (Abrams, 1973), Disney credited animator Webb Smith with creating the idea of drawing scenes on separate sheets of paper and pinning them up on a bulletin board to tell a story in sequence, thus creating the first storyboard.
One of the first live action films to be completely storyboarded was Gone with the Wind. William Cameron Menzies, the film's production designer, was hired by David Selznik to design every shot of the film. Many large budget silent films were also storyboarded but most of this material has been lost during the reduction of the studio archives during the 1970s.
Storyboarding became popular in live-action film production during the early 1940s, and grew into a standard medium for previsualization of films: "We can see the last half century ... as the period in which production design was largely characterized by adoption of the storyboard", wrote curator Annette Michelson in a 1993 catalog for the Pace Gallery exhibit Drawing into Film: Director's Drawings, which featured storyboards of popular films.
In creating a motion picture with any degree of fidelity to a script, a storyboard provides a visual layout of events as they are to be seen through the camera lens. And in the case of interactive media, it is the layout and sequence in which the user or viewer sees the content or information. In the storyboarding process, most technical details involved in crafting a film or interactive media project can be efficiently described either in picture, or in additional text.
Some live-action film directors, such as Joel and Ethan Coen, used storyboard extensively before taking the pitch to their funders, stating that it helps them get the figure they are looking for since they can show exactly where the money will be used. Other directors storyboard only certain scenes, or none at all. Animation directors are usually required to storyboard extensively, sometimes in place of doing a script.
This allows the animators and directors to work out any screenplay, camera positioning, shot list and timing issues that may exist with the current storyboard. The storyboard and soundtrack are amended if necessary, and a new animatic may be created and reviewed with the director until the storyboard is perfected. Editing the film at the animatic stage can avoid animation of scenes that would be edited out of the film. Animation is usually an expensive process, so there should be a minimum "deleted scenes" if the film is to be completed within budget.
Often storyboards are animated with simple zooms and pans to simulate camera movement (using non-linear editing software). These animations can be combined with available animatics, sound effects and dialog to create a presentation of how a film could be shot and cut together. Some feature film DVD special features include production animatics.
A "quality storyboard" is a tool to help facilitate the introduction of a quality improvement process into an organisation.
Design comics are a type of storyboard used to include a customer or other characters into a narrative. Design comics are most often used in designing web sites or illustrating product usage scenarios during design.
The process of visual thinking and planning allows a group of people to brainstorm together, placing their ideas on storyboards and then arranging the storyboards on the wall. This fosters more ideas and generates consensus inside the group.
If drawing by hand, the first step is to create or download a storyboard template. These look much like a blank comic strip, with space for comments and dialogue. Then sketch a "thumbnail" storyboard. Some directors sketch thumbnails directly in the script margins. These storyboards get their name because they are rough sketches not bigger than a thumbnail. For some motion pictures, thumbnail storyboards are sufficient.
However, some filmmakers rely heavily on the storyboarding process. If a director or producer wishes, more detailed and elaborate storyboard images are created. These can be created by professional storyboard artists by hand on paper or digitally by using 2D storyboarding programs. Some software applications even supply a stable of storyboard-specific images making it possible to quickly create shots which express the director's intent for the story. These boards tend to contain more detailed information than thumbnail storyboards and convey more of the mood for the scene. These are then presented to the project's cinematographer who achieves the director's vision.
Finally, if needed, 3D storyboards are created (called Technical Previsualization). The advantage of 3D storyboards is they show exactly what the film camera will see using the lenses the film camera will use. The disadvantage of 3D is the amount of time it takes to build and construct the shots. 3D storyboards can be constructed using 3D animation programs or digital puppets within 3D programs. Some programs have a collection of low resolution 3D figures which can aid in the process. Some 3D applications allow cinematographers to create "technical" storyboards which are optically-correct shots and frames.
While technical storyboards can be helpful, optically-correct storyboards may limit the director's creativity. In classic motion pictures such as Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, the director created storyboards that were initially thought by cinematographers as to be impossible to film. Such innovative and dramatic shots had "impossible" depth of field and angles where there was "no room for the camera." At least not until creative solutions were found to achieve the ground-breaking shots that the director had envisioned. It is very important that the director not be limited to what is just "possible" or "normal" to the cinematographer. Technical 3D programs can sometimes help the cinematographer plan what challenges the director has created for them to achieve complex storytelling shots.