The storyboard is a key tool of visual communication and is used in many contexts to ‘pre-visualise’
projects, such as animation, motion graphics, film, interactive media, websites (such as sitemaps and
navigation links), advertising agencies to plan campaigns, product design, theatrical productions and
business (group brainstorming).
Once a concept or script is written for a film or animation, the next step is to make a storyboard.
A storyboard visually conveys the ‘movement’ of a set of images, and tells a story, kind of like a comic
book. This is the initial step to creating a film, advertisement or website.
A film director can come late to a project; a cinematographer can start on a film the week before it
shoots. But the art department must be there from the onset, deciding what the film will look like. One
of the first people to work on a film is the storyboard artist, charged with providing, at its essence, a
‘blueprint’ for a finished feature film. Working closely with the director, storyboard artists translate
screenplays, or sequences from screenplays, into the first vision of what is to come.
A Storyboard’s first sketches visually describe the storyline’s ‘action’. Artwork is usually drawn by hand,
in a quick sketch format, rather than highly finished art. Storyboards are, by their very nature,
‘progressive artwork’ – they have a flow of the storyline to them, which is essential so the directors and
actors can understand and follow the prescribed action.
In creating storyboard art, there is a storyboard language, such as “zoom”, “fade”, close-up shot”, “wide
shot”, “pan” and “POV (point of view) are terms that describe ways an artist can draw a storyboard.
Nowadays, in the digital age, storyboards are for the most part, still initially executed on paper with
pencil, before progressing onto digital developments. A storyboard artist is expected to not only have
strong drawing skills, and can produce work quickly, but he also needs to have a keen imagination, and
an ability to ‘visualise’ the intended action or scene. The artist may go through hundreds of rough
sketches before they get to the final boards, and even then a scene may be excluded from the finished
Storyboard artists have been at the core of animated filmmaking, which has a looser, less-structured
style than live-action filmmaking. It is believed that storyboard art as we know it was developed at the
Walt Disney Studios in the early 1930s, when artists at Disney came up with the idea of drawing scenes
and pinning them up on a board to tell the story in sequence.
All storyboard artists are just that – artists. They have been trained in art schools, or self-taught, and
they tend to be talented individuals drawn to filmmaking and animation.
While a number of classic storyboard artists are well-known for their styles, even today many
storyboard artists still work without credit for their art – their drawing abilities are only recognized
within the industry, but not by the public who watch the closing credits of a film.