Storyboarding has been an accepted part of the moviemaking process for a long time.
It enables directors and everyone else to begin the process of turning words on a page into a visual medium.
However, more and more filmmakers are coming to see it as an outdated, cumbersome method with many limitations, and are turning to more advanced techniques instead for planning their movies.
Previsualization involves creating a rough version of the movie - also called an animatic if it’s animated. This gives the director and his team much more useful information than just a storyboard, which is effectively just an annotated comic book. Animatics include three key elements that are missing from storyboards: time, movement and sound. While a storyboard only shows key frames from a scene, an animatic allows the director, DoP and editor to work in detail on camera movement, choreography, and the audio components to a scene, giving them a much clearer vision of what they need to shoot, how it fits together, and what the final result will be.
What’s more, using a 3D tool like Moviestorm gives you a much more consistent and powerful result than hand-drawn or 2D. Because you’re filming in a virtual environment, you can build detailed sets with lighting and have your characters move around the space in a realistic manner.
Your animatic should a collaborative exercise that can be shared with the whole cast and crew. The set designer can create their sets and know exactly which bits will be seen and what needs to be built. Your DoP can see what you want to film and start working out how to achieve that. Your editor can see how everything cuts together and make sure you have enough coverage and that you’ve avoided jump cuts and line crosses. Even the actors can benefit - they can see when they’re on camera and how you want them to perform the scenes, and can adjust their rehearsals and performance accordingly.
Previsualisation experts claim that this technique can save up to 50% of your time (and budget) when shooting a movie, and a further 20% in post-production. It works for all scales of film, from the simplest short to full-length features.
Getting the best from Moviestorm
The key to successful previsualization is not to put in more effort than you need. Decide in advance what you’re trying to get out of it, and only build what you need to support that. Don’t waste time adding in unnecessary detail.
If all you’re trying to do is create a simple storyboard and work out your basic blocking, then use the simplest possible set and stock characters. For an interior, for example, a plain wall, a door, a window, and a couple of key pieces of furniture may suffice. There’s no need to add in lighting, or sound, or additional set dressing. You can put the dialog in with subtitles and then you don’t have to record the voices. If you want, you can simply screen capture the key frames, and you don’t even need to render a video file.
At the other extreme, you can create a complete version of your movie that looks and sounds as much like the finished thing as possible. This will take much longer, but on the other hand, you’ve done most of the creative thinking in pre-production and you now have a complete blueprint for everything you’ve got to do.
There’s a wide spectrum between those two approaches, where you can use placeholders of various types to give you useful information without having to go with final assets. For example, if a scene calls for an avenue of cypress trees behind the main characters, you could easily substitute the oak trees supplied with Moviestorm instead of creating cypress trees, or use a background photograph of a cypress avenue. To get across the mood for a scene, you could use music from your own collection or the Web that has the right feel, knowing that you will replace it later with licensed or original music.
Download our free e-book: The Moviestorm guide to previsualisation
Case study #1: live action feature film
Case study #2: creating a test movie for Amazon Studios
Case study #3: storyboarding for low-budget movies