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Filmmaking Guide: Understanding and making a storyboard

Storyboards are used in professional filmmaking work. It visually tells the movie’s story shot per shot using drawings.

For amateur filmmakers or for someone making his or her first movie, a storyboard offers the same purpose. It helps the production in discussing how to mount each shot practically and creatively before and during the actual shoot.

Visualizing Your Shots

A director uses the storyboard to visually say what’s in his or her mind — particularly how the camera shots should look on the movie. It shows a chronological sequence of every shot that happens in the story. For every shot, the scene where it happens is carefully framed like how it should be recorded within the bounds of the camera’s four-sided screen.


A storyboard allows the movie crew to better understand the director’s vision. This leads to more productive discussions on the technical, creative, and financial requirements of the project. It makes it easier to gauge if the resources available for the production are enough based on the movie’s budget.

A storyboard can undergo a number of revisions to ensure that all shots work best for the story. It also helps when listing down the props and the lighting and other technical equipment every shot needs. All these make it much easier to finalize a practical shooting schedule for the production.

Drawing the Storyboard

A storyboard showcases pages of documents filled with drawings and texts. Ideally, the drawings reflect what the camera should capture on frame. Each page typically has about three to four rectangular spaces filled with the images planned to be shot for the movie. Each rectangular space with the drawn shot is labeled or numbered according to the shot order required in the story. It also has the scene or sequence number based on how it appears on the script. For a movie’s opening shot, the format used is typically “Sequence 1 (or Scene 1), Shot 1” or simply “1-1.”

There is no rule on how to exactly make the drawings for a storyboard. Some look like comic book drawings, but even stick figures can be used. Of course, in big-budget projects, the drawings look professional, but sometimes, even these productions turn out working on stick figures for parts of their storyboards. Sometimes, this happens when there are sudden changes in the director’s ideas and there’s no time to call a storyboard artist to make on-set revisions. Interestingly, some storyboards turn out not drawn. They are sometimes made out of cut-outs or even photos shot by the production.

Additional Information

Aside from the actual visuals placed on the rectangular spaces on each page, notes and directions are often written beside each drawing as well. For instance, a remark from the director can be written to explain how the shot’s complicated movements should happen on the scene. A note can also be placed if a particular shot involves using special effects, a particular camera lens or filter, or any additional equipment. Descriptions about a character or any acting or emotional requirement can be included as well.

When there are significant camera movements that are supposed to happen in a shot, arrows pointing to the direction of the movements are included either within the drawing or just outside it. There are also times that a drawing extends outside the bounds of the actual rectangular box on the storyboard. This makes it easier for people to visualize how the scene would look on the set, then the bounds around the drawing denotes how the camera should crop the scene.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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