Making an entire animated video only to hate it is both soul-crushing and time consuming. Your script contains scene descriptions, but reading a scene and seeing a scene are two different things.
That’s why between every great video script and great animated video comes a storyboard.
(Or at least this is how it should be).
This post details the storyboard process for animated explainer videos. Let’s dive in!
The 3 Phases of Video Production
Making a video is a collaborative effort because a lot goes into producing a video. There are 3 phases:
Phase 1: Pre-Production
Anything that happens before you start producing a video is in this stage. All your planning, the scriptwriting and the storyboard are pre-production tasks.
Phase 2: Production
Here is where you produce your video and it’s components (like narration) in whichever style you’ve chosen.
Phase 3: Post-Production
You do any editing, tweaks and additions post-production. If your video is using a voice over, syncing the voice over (and adding music) is also part of this stage.
The Storyboard Stage
Storyboarding is the second planning stage for your visuals. This is where you take your scene descriptions in the script and turn them into images. Usually, it looks like a bunch of boxes on a page with images inside.
This storyboard template from Boords is a standard storyboard format.
A video script has scene descriptions to describe what we see in words. The storyboard should be based off of those descriptions.
As a scriptwriter,–I say with every fiber of my body–the script is the most important pre-production task. It’s the most important aspect of a video.
Why is a video script important? The script drives every other stage. So, a weak, vague, or unengaging script will mean your video sucks. No visuals will hide a poorly-written script. The script is the first stage of planning and the storyboard is the second. When you storyboard, you turn the video script’s scene descriptions into images.
This video by Micah Buzan gives an excellent overview of storyboarding from an animator’s perspective:
He describes the storyboard as “the blueprints for film”, which is a spot on description.
What kinds of explainer videos should I create a storyboard for?
Most people think of animated videos when they think of storyboard, but you should storyboard all of your explainer videos.
A storyboard is like a visual outline. You can apply it to animated explainer videos, live action or even screencast videos.
Successful videos have good planning. Your storyboard is a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. This outline will save you time during production.
When you produce your own video, it’s easy to jump right into production. Then, you realize you have no idea what you’re doing.
Or, get caught up on details that don’t matter in the grand scheme of your video. Or worse, make an entire video that sucks and have to start over.
Maybe you’re working with a production team. The storyboard is how you and your animator or cinematographer see if you’re on the same page. Video production isn’t cheap. Don’t wing it!
Create a storyboard. It guides your visuals, keeps you on track and prevents you wasting a ton of time (and money) on footage or vectors that are useless to you.
Do I have to be good at drawing to make a storyboard?
Break out your stick figure art..unless you’re aiming to be a professional storyboard artist. Then you should be good at drawing. You need zero art skills to storyboard your animated explainer video.
This here. It’s a person carrying a book. I spent a minute on this in Illustrator.
Remember, storyboards are pre-production. You just need an idea of what the scene will look like.
Storyboard Your Short Explainer Videos
Yes, you should storyboard short videos. 60 seconds (or less) explainer videos have the highest retention rate according to a case study by Breadnbeyond.
Length isn’t the real question here.
Time, cost and the purpose of your video are. You can go into production without a storyboard and wing it. You’ll probably waste your time and money though.
And if you want your 30 second explainer video to convert, don’t wing anything.
Successful videos have good planning. Planning includes making a storyboard.
Create your storyboard.
How to Make A Storyboard For Your Explainer Video
Step 1: Choose your method
The first step is to choose your storyboard method.
There are a lot of options.
- You can hand draw your scenes
- Good old fashion pencil and paper works great.
- Digitally draw with a program like Adobe Illustrator
- This might take more time at first, but you can copy and paste vectors as you go. Digitally drawing your storyboard also makes exporting a viewable file easy.
- Use online tools like Boords or even Canva
- I haven’t used either, but they look like template tools. Unless you’re a storyboard artist, a template is fine for planning.
- Video storyboarding
- Use your phone to film the scene and reference the footage during production
- Use existing images like pictures
- You’ll see this often with AV scripts. The AV script format is used for commercials, explainer videos, and other video content. Software like Celtx has a 3-column AV script so you can upload pictures.
You can storyboard through words too. It looks like a simplified scene description.
- There is the “who” or “what” of the scene.
- Where the objects, character or person is in the frame.
- And the camera shot CLOSE UP.
I use this method when I make Vyond videos. While a great tool, the Vyond Studio has some serious limitations that make some scenes difficult to produce.
So, my storyboards have enough detail that I (and my clients) know what to expect, but there’s enough room for flexibility.
Step 2: Read the Video Script
Read through your script and get a feel for the story. Choose the video style that matches your script, purpose and branding best.
Step 3: Brainstorm your scenes
After you’ve read and felt the story your script is telling, it’s time to create the images.
But, you should brainstorm some ideas before you commit to one. Sketch out a few options for scenes.
If you’re doing live action, use your phone to plan your camera angles, lighting and your b-roll footage.
Step 4: Draft, Edit and Finalize
Draw up a first draft of your storyboard. Make edits and then finalize your storyboard. You’re now ready to enter the production phase with a solid visual plan.
You don’t need to be an amazing or even a mediocre artist to storyboard effectively. You don’t need to even be an artist. You just need to make a plan using whatever tool you and your production team understand.