Get your video story straight

Imagine working your heart out videoing a loved one’s wedding only to forget to capture a crucial moment such as the cutting of the cake, or the throwing of the bridal bouquet. These oversights can be reduced by using a simple storyboard created well before the event.

What is a storyboard?

A storyboard is a sequence of images or descriptions that depict your video project from scene to scene. Directions to be included are how scenes are to be shot and the significance of each scene. Using a storyboard gives you a good overall view of your project, while allowing you the flexibility to follow the action as it unfolds.

The following example for a daytime kids’ party shows some typical directions to be included in a storyboard.

Location 1: Establishing shot Wide Shot of a group of parents discussing what to do with their children, including the kids in the background.

Location 2: Games Medium Shot of one child starting a game with the others to join in.

Location 3: Get the moment Random shots as more children join in. Stay flexible; kids will do the unexpected. A storyboard won’t force you to miss exciting, unexpected happenings. However, it will give you the confidence to include other aspects of an event, knowing that you have a strong storyline to fall back on if your moment of inspirational videoing doesn’t work.

Some people may prefer to have more details mapped out:

Wide establishing shot with profile of Aunty May in front of little Sammy and the poodle. Hold shot for 3 seconds and then make a slow pan to the magic Wonka bar with the gold sheet… Make sure boom mike gets the reaction from the jealous sibling. Side lighting with an umbrella to be placed just out of shot with ambient noise kept to a minimum.

Another example may be:

Get a shot of May, Sam and the dog and then pan back to show Fergal fuming. How extensive a storyboard will be depends entirely on you.

Planning ahead

Important questions that need to be asked at the storyboard stage include: will the video have audio (music or sound), still graphics or dubbed dialogue? Lighting issues can also be considered and addressed before the day. For a wedding, for example, will most of the video footage be inside the chapel or outside? Will extra lighting be needed or will an onboard camcorder light be enough? By working out these issues beforehand, your video work will be more assured.

Don’t worry if you can’t draw; if you don’t want to sketch the scene, simply describe what you want the scene to look like. You may want to break the storyboard sequence into a series of scenes with a column describing the scene and another describing the background ambience.

The following example of a wedding shows a reasonable mix of directions without being too restrictive.

Scene Sketch/Description Video Instructions Audio/Music
Preperation Wide shot of location of wedding from the outside. Classical/Soft Music
The bride getting ready Medium shot from inside bride's area. She's getting ready with the help of bridesmaids. Ambient audio of the Bride and bridesmaids getting ready. Brighter music. Bride's choice.
The groom getting ready Medium shot from inside groom's area. He is getting ready with the help of groomsmen. Groom and groomsmen chatting…use groom's choice of music. Perhaps quiet rock

The storyboard would continue through the bride's preparation, arrival at the church, and walking down the aisle, and the exchange of vows. The final few descriptions provide for a mix of scenes that must be taken, and end with the direction to roam more freely through the gathering.

Scene Sketch/Description Video Instructions Audio/Music
The kiss Close Up on newlyweds as they kiss. Wide shot (moving) as the couple walks up the aisle. Low background classical music
Leaving the church Close up of the cars, tight shot of wedding couple through the window and exit shot as they drive away. Exit music
Well wishers Get footage of guests wishing the couple well and final reactions. Use external or boom mike to get reactions

Another important advantage of a storyboard is that it allows you to shoot your footage out of sequence without losing sight of what you need to accomplish. Remember, the storyboard is a framework for the creation of the video, not the shooting of the video. Experiment with your storyboards to see how much information you need. Some camcorder users may want a simple and succinct outline, while others may want extensive instructions. With some preparation and a simple storyboard, your next video project should be even more compelling and professional.

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Denis Gallagher

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