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  • Writer's pictureRavi Swami

Storyboard Or Storybored...?

Reflecting on relatively recent storyboarding assignments for both commercials and long-form projects, one thing comes to mind as I work on a test scene for a potential long-form project.

First of all, commercials and long-form narrative require different approaches when storyboarding, since commercials aim to compress narrative down to either a series of vignettes or a very economic, stripped-down form of visual narrative that assumes that the viewer is sophisticated enough to understand, often referencing other visual forms like pop-videos.

Storyboarding can be an enjoyable process if you "jam" with it, ie allow for the full-flow of ideas on a first reading of script without worrying about the technicalities of camera placement, more so in animation where you're not constrained by such limitations - in live action I very often work closely with the director to head off any such issues before going to floor, something that is absolutely essential in the fast-moving world of TV commercials.

In long-form, and where, for example you are dealing with situations and characters that are animated but still quite "realistic", in 2D, 3D CGI or stop-motion, do you need to follow the same considerations that apply to live-action ?

Yes and No is the answer - it depends very much on issues like technique, turnaround, budget or if the work is being outsourced for animation.

Stop-Motion is very like live-action in that cameras need to be moved around and sets built etc - in CGI there is the perception that there are no limitations but in fact early on in the evolution of CG animation it soon became clear that flying a camera around often worked against coherent narrative and established film language like cuts.

However, sticking too closely to live-action approaches can result in very dull narrative in CGI films that are long-form, as I discovered on a job where the director impressed on us the need to be aware of camera placement and number of cameras in a scene when boarding, not surprising since he came from a stop-motion background - interesting angles and dynamic motion were ditched in favor of a pedestrian narrative that seemed more crafted toward getting the project made and fitting production pipelines when budgets and schedules were tight.

It's clear that for series work some level of restraint needs to be followed, with tight economic narrative that keeps in mind production and pipeline issues, but in a feature for example, it can become an irritating limitation that stunts creativity.

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