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Shot Selection: The Key to Storyboarding

Something a high proportion of aspiring directors, DOPs and cinematographers have trouble with when first starting out is the actual shooting of a scene. Not because of a lack of experience, but an inability to narrow down the near-infinite number of shot combinations available.

The truth is there is no clear and direct route to finding the most optimal sequence. It’s a process of elimination and one that a storyboard artist would be responsible for during pre-production.

In this post, the focus is going to be on how the composition of storyboarding panels inform the success or failure of particular shots when filming.

A Quick Recap on Film Language

First off, it seems necessary to clarify what I mean by the terms ‘panels’ and ‘shots’ to avoid confusing anyone who might not be coming at this from a storyboarding point of view.

• A panel is a single (key frame) illustration that aims to capture a desired character movement or moment in the script

• A shot is the continuous footage between when the camera starts and stops rolling during production, or is the continuous footage between two edits or cuts in editing

The common link between the two is that they strive to achieve the same thing and are both vehicles for communicating information visually, without much room for alternative interpretations.

Continuity Breeds Connectivity

As a filmmaker you no doubt want to connect with your audience on a personal level; maybe you have an important social message you want to relay through your project’s central theme? To get this point across to your viewers, you’ll need to be consistent.

When composing a storyboard for a film, the storyboard artist should be aware of the 180-rule and when to break it. Despite being a so-called ‘rule,’ it’s really more of a strongly enforced suggestion.

The imaginary line of the 180-rule keeps characters on their sides of the screen so the audience can follow along without having to perform any strenuous mental acrobatics.

Of course you can deviate from this if it’s in service of the story. For example, if your protagonist is suffering from a psychological breakdown or going through withdrawals and is the only person in the shot, breaking the rule could help to suitably and reliably show this concept.

Ultimately, you want to make sure that all the characters and design elements (whether in the foreground, middle ground or background) are kept in spatial relation to one another. I.e. they do not move around between edits or cuts.

On Establishing Shots and Framing

Any shots that do not contain actors within the frame tend to be more reliant upon interesting camera angles if not interesting subject matter. This is your chance to experiment with creating visual complexity.

A storyboard is one of the best ways to test how different angles would impact the overall flow of the narrative and what angles may be most feasible and achievable when cameras roll.

The MVP of the Pre-Production Workflow

All in all, storyboards are very good at addressing any issues with continuity, pacing and shot variety and there is no such thing as a film that couldn’t have been made better with the advent of one.

Regardless of what kind of budget you have to work with, investing in a storyboard will help not only you, but your cast and crew as well, to visualise the story and present it in the best possible way.

If you’re interested in any of our pre-production services, send us a message and note the details of your current or future film project. We’re looking forward to it!

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