Storyboards for video design and review

I’ve just created two short instructional videos, introducing specific aspects of our APIs to developers. I used a storyboard as a way of outlining the video content, illustrating my ideas about the flow of the video, and requesting a review from my colleagues.

A colleague, Rachel, introduced me to the idea of storyboarding a while ago. This is the first time I’ve tried it.

What a storyboard looks like

This is what the storyboard looked like when I sent it out for initial review comments:

My first storyboard

My first storyboard

To get started, I looked at the examples Rachel had given me of her own storyboards, remembering her very useful comments about how she used them. Then I looked online to see what other people are doing. I found two examples that gave me more good ideas on how to represent my video design in a storyboard:

  • Storyboards, from the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design. I like the Hunting Sequence from the Jane Animation Project.
  • Storyboarding, from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The sketches at the bottom of the page are appealing, and show how different formats of storyboard are useful in different situations.

The design of my storyboard is a conglomeration of ideas generated by my colleagues examples and the two sources above. I shared my storyboard template with members of my team, and suggested they may like to use something similar when designing videos. They like the idea, and each person adapted the template to suit them. This approach works surprisingly well.

What a storyboard is good for

For me, the primary goal of a storyboard is to share an easily-absorbed way of representing the flow of the video.

This is what I wrote at the top of my first storyboard:

This storyboard is a precursor to a script. It’s an illustrative way of outlining the video before we start in-depth development of code and script. Note: All visuals are just mockups to give some idea of what’s happening, and are not intended to be the real thing.

Building out the storyboard

As time passed, I fleshed out the script on the storyboard, replacing the outlined content with the words I was planning to say during the presentation. So the storyboard evolved continually during the scripting of the video, the flow design, and the planning of the visual aspects such as screenshots, demonstrations and annotations.

A number of colleagues responded to my requests for review. After a few revisions, my script was ready to move to a separate document for final tweaking and practice runs. This is what the storyboard looked like at that point:

The storyboard ready to be transformed to a script

The storyboard ready to be transformed into a script

The resulting video

This is the very first instructional video that I’ve ever presented! (Apart from videos shot during conference presentations.) It’s short by design. The target audience is developers who are using the Google Maps Android API to include maps in their Android apps.

Producing the video

I could write an entire blog post about the process of filming the video. So for now, I’ll just show you a couple of photos of the video production studio.

The first photo shows me sitting in the hot seat, with the green screen behind me. In the foreground are the two video production screens, with ATEM Television Studio (the input stream switcher) on the right and Wirecast (which we used to define the video format and control the flow) on the left.

In the hot seat in the video production studio

In the hot seat in the video production studio

The second photo is a panoramic view from the hot seat, showing all the lights that glare down at you. The production centre in the middle at the back.

The view from the hot seat

The view from the hot seat

Conclusion

A storyboard is a good tool for solidifying my own ideas about the video, showing them to others, and conducting a collaborative review.

I’d love to hear your ideas about storyboarding, the format of the storyboards you use, and how you find them useful (or not).🙂

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 18 January 2014, in Android API, Google Maps, technical writing, videos and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I’v been lurking your blog for a long time but now I finally have something to contribute.🙂

    I know from first hand how difficult these 3 minute videos are. I’ve done a couple (about 10) of them ( f.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmRRAQbrtDY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9SVoV_C77s) and at the beginning we always started with a storyboard but when we (1 director, 1 content supervisor, 1 actor = me) now shoot a video we are no longer using a storyboard. We noticed that if we had a storyboard and a script that in most case we couldn’t limit ourself to 3 minutes as we tried to add as much detail as possible. Now we don’t have s a script which makes it more natural. We do know the big lines we want to tell of course but there is no pre-written script. Also my job as an amateur actor is much easier as I don’t need to know the lines by hard. If you know them by hard, you can’t stop thinking about what the next line is and it kind of breaks the flow.

    When we shoot our video we do a rehearsal without the camera rolling. This gives us an idea of the story. Next we shoot each piece of text twice (closeup and in wide view). Text is created on the spot (like as we would give a presentation). We also take a close up of each action (f.e of a hand inserting a cable). This allows us to cut and past and adjust the flow much easier.

    Shooting the video normally takes about 1h-2h and mostly we end up with a 5 minute video (rough cut). Next comes the job of cutting away pieces (things we thought were important but when seeing the full movie it sometimes is better to have less (less actually is sometimes more)).

    • Hallo Wimpers

      What a great comment! Thanks so much for sharing so much learned from experience. It’s interesting to hear that you have a background in amateur acting. That must help a lot. We use a teleprompter to help remember the script. It’s an art in itself, being able to control the teleprompt software and speak at the same time. I think it’s good to speak off the cuff when you can. That works especially well when you have two or more presenters in the show.

      I’m looking forward to improving technique as I go! Thanks for your insights, they’re very useful indeed.

      Cheers
      Sarah

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