Differences between Storyboarding for Entertainment vs Advertising

Storytelling is the process of visualling a time-based medium, like movies and TV shows to commercials, into panels of images meant to be “read” as sequence. It’s a quick and powerful tool that communicates to directors, animators and other creative teams, as well as external parties like studio executives if it’s an entertainment product, or clients if it’s a advertisement project.

In my past life, I’m a storyboard artist on a Emmy-nominated Children’s TV Show – Oddbods, and worked freelance as a storyboard artists for various advertising studios around the world. In this article, I will share some general tips on how to be an effective storyboard artist. Additionally, I’ll delve into my personal experience as a storyboard artist, shedding light on the diverse applications of storyboarding in the entertainment and advertising industries.

Story and Boarding: The Essence of Storyboarding

Storyboarding, as the term suggests, can be broken down into two main components: story and boarding.

Story

The story aspect encompasses the fundamental process of fixing and refining the narrative. Before creating a storyboard, I’d logically breakdown the story, using tried-and-test frameworks like Blake Snyder’s – Save the Cat 16-beats, gaining an in-depth understanding of its plot devices, narrative arc, emotion arc, and the transformation of the characters. I act as a gatekeeper, flagging any inconsistencies or aspects that don’t resonate with me, and I’d flag them at meetings with the director or showrunner.

For example, if I read the script and I find that a character reacts in a way that’s seemingly unmotivated, I’d seek clarification from the director. “What did they hoped to achieve with that acting choice?”. It usually sheds some light on the directors intent, and I’d communicate what I find is out of place, seek alignment, and look for alternative acting choices that won’t be out-of-character. It’s for the better of the story, and ultimately it’s really for me to get my work done properly. Without a genuine belief in the story, it becomes nearly impossible to effectively translate it into a visual form.

Boarding

On the other hand, boarding encompasses the technical and artistic skills required for effective visual storytelling. Contrary to popular belief, being an exceptional draftsman is not the sole prerequisite for a proficient storyboard artist; perhaps the main requirement for an illustrator.

While strong drawing skills undoubtedly enhance clarity, allows emotive expressions, and overall draftsmanship quality, a great director / story artist can convey emotions and framing even with simple stick figure drawings. However, honing drawing abilities empowers artists to push acting, expressions, and improve clarity for both internal and external teams. We can think of boarding as the grammar and vocabulary for telling a great story, just in a visual way.

Entertainment Boards: Solving Visual Challenges

My journey as a storyboard artist began in the world of children’s entertainment. I started the job cleaning up storyboard panels from senior story artists, and I did poorly in the first few weeks on the job because I was focused on drawing nicely, and didn’t spend enough researching on the lores of the show, the characters, their antics etc.

Working on a non-dialogue show like Oddbods presented a unique set of challenges. Scripts that were not inherently visual, and forces the story team to find visual solutions. One effective technique involved drawing every other panel to suggest character positions, emotional changes, and thoughts. This meticulous process often resulted in hundreds or even thousands of panels, meticulously crafted to convey the desired visual narrative.

Commercial/Advertising Boards: Simplicity with Impact

Storyboarding for commercials and advertisements demands a different approach compared to the entertainment scene. With limited time available for media buy, simplicity becomes paramount. Typically, commercial boards comprise only 12 to 24 panels, requiring concise storytelling. Despite the brevity, each panel needs to be meticulously crafted with high detail, shading, and even color to suggest values. This level of detail is necessary when presenting the boards to marketing executives and CEOs, ensuring a visually compelling pitch.

The Diverse World of Storyboarding

While the core concept of storyboarding remains consistent across industries, the execution varies significantly. My experience in both the entertainment and advertising scenes highlights the distinct challenges and requirements of each. From the extensive panel count of entertainment boards to the simplicity and impact of advertising boards, storyboard artists must adapt their skills and storytelling techniques to meet the unique demands of each project.

Conclusion

Storyboarding serves as a vital bridge between storytelling and visual representation, enabling creators to transform ideas into tangible visuals. By combining the mastery of story development with the artistic skills of visual composition, storyboard artists play a crucial role in shaping narratives across different industries. I hope by sharing my personal experience having drawn storyboards for the entertainment and advertising industry, and actually teaching how to storyboard at schools and aniation studios, you have a better idea on the lesser known side to storyboarding.

To explore my storyboard work, visit my storyboard portfolio.