Okay, this is Part 12, so we’re all experts now. Still, there are a number of things you can do to up your game. Today let’s talk about one of them: planning your video with an organizational tool called storyboarding.
Briefly, a storyboard is a visual tool, a series of drawn frames with written dialog that’s very similar in appearance to a comic strip. The order of the frames is identical to the order the viewer sees in the final video.
You might think then that the image in each frame looks much as the actual video does. But the opposite is true. It’s created with as little expense as possible (compared to the cost of the final video).
Storyboards were traditionally drawn and redrawn by hand, so a movie director would sit down with the story, a sketch artist, and one or more writers. The storyboard was the most basic tool to help the director plan where the camera should be and what it’s looking at for each scene in the story.
If you don’t use a storyboard or similar planning technique, your video is going to suffer the typical result of a lack of planning: greatly reduced cohesion between its parts, including repetition, distracting conflict in what’s seen or said, and missed opportunities to reinforce your theme.
But if you’re not storyboarding, what are you doing? I used to keep the script in one file, graphics in another, and recorded audio in a third, with the actual video being the very last thing I created. It works, but it’s not ideal.
The advantage of the storyboard approach is that it puts all these things together, not in the professional manner you would expect of a finished product, but a draft form that everyone can see, costing little to create and costing little to change, allowing you to improve everything in any order before you make a more expensive commitment. If on the other hand you try to immediately make a polished video, you run the risk of incurring significant costs to redo everything whenever you change your mind or make a mistake.
While you can always download software specific to storyboarding (here are a ton of Google hits for “storyboard software download”), why not use something you already have and know how to use? PowerPoint works great, allowing you to put all kinds of multimedia and rearrange it at will.
Storyboarding is even more essential if you plan to have a video shot with the videocamera in multiple positions. Will a graphic be too big to fit in the space available? How long will it take to talk about each main point? How long will the entire video take? Can you fit in everything you want if you have a time budget? Will all the parts fit together?
These are the kinds of questions that planning and budgeting can help you with. Since you’re bound to change things (nobody is perfect), why not iron out as many of the bugs as you can before you commit serious resources?
Above you can see an example of the very simple storyboarding I do while planning out a video. I used PowerPoint to create a set of multiple views of a person sitting at a desk with a few background fixtures. Each slide represents one camera angle, and I type the script directly on the slide. At the same time, I either record my voice or use Text-To-Speech to create the audio just for that slide.
If there are graphics or screencasts that go on a slide, I just add them to powerpoint. The bigger they are, the farther I’ll have to move the picture to one side or the other, and so when it comes time to record the actual video, I’ll know in advance where to put the camera.
In terms of my time, this is an incredibly cheap approach, allowing you to create a full draft video in the time it takes to write the script and gather a few screenshots or bad graphics (sometimes at the beginning I even use just words instead of making draft graphics).
I can then show the draft to stakeholders, and even refine it several times, before ever shooting a single frame. Now that’s what I call thrift for the win.