How to Write a Storyboard for Animation

When the decision is made to create an animation, the first step is to write a storyboard which describes in great detail the sequence of events from start to finish. In movie parlance, it is analogous to the "script." The storyboard is the foundation upon which the animator brings to life the words and images.

As such, the better the storyboard, the easier the animation process becomes. Because the animator can not telepathically understand what you want, it is best that the client write the storyboard with as much detail as possible. The other benefit of writing your own storyboard is that you avoid having to pay someone else to write it up for you.

This blog article attempts to explain how to write a good storyboard.

Most clients have no idea how to draw, but if you do, the best way to write the storyboard is like a comic strip.

Under each comic strip frame, describe in further detail what is happening.

HOWEVER, if you don't know how to draw, you will have to write out the entire storyboard. The best way to do this is to create a table with the following columns:

• Time (describes roughly how many seconds this particular scene takes)

• Camera Positioning (describes how the camera is positioned relative to the subject matter)

• Camera Zoom (describes zoom level)

• Lighting (describes how much light is present and where it is positioned)

• Background (describe what is going on in the background)

• Scene (describe what is happening)

• Supporting reference images and videos (use YouTube and Google Images to find as close as possible to what you are thinking)

Now you may not need to actually create a literal "table" and provide all these details for every single frame as long as the animator understands what you are trying to achieve. Oftentimes for "Lighting," one can simply say normal diffuse daylight lighting for entire animation and that's exactly what the animator will do... but if the lighting varies, you will need to specify that whenever relevant.

SO... here's an example of an ear surgery made by O2Labz reprinted with permission by Fauquier ENT.

The storyboard used to create this animation is as follows. Please note that the client chose to break up the animation storyboard sequence in 5 second increments, but this is entirely arbitrary. Also note that the final animation sequence ended up being more than 10 seconds shorter than suggested by the storyboard and that's OK! The timing just provides guidance on the overall pacing for the animation.

Lighting is normal diffuse daylight from start to finish. The background should be a plain pastel blue.

0-5 seconds: Start with camera facing subject's left ear which is centered in the screen. The subject is a caucasian middle-aged bald male. The camera than zooms into the ear canal such that the eardrum is enlarged and centered on the screen. [Reference image of the eardrum found on Google is provided.]

5-10 seconds: A perforation in the eardrum is than shown by just appearing. [Reference image of what a perforated eardrum found on Google is provided.]

10-15 seconds: The camera than zooms out away from the ear canal such that the entire ear is again shown. The subject's head is than turned 45 degrees towards the camera such that head is at an oblique angle to the camera.

15-20 seconds: Make the head slowly disappear such that only the inner ear structures are shown. [Reference image of the inner ear anatomy is shown of what should appear at this point.]

20-25 seconds: The camera should than zoom in such that the perforated eardrum is enlarged and centered in the screen.

25-30 seconds: Show the skin on the inferior aspect of the ear canal next to the eardrum (about 1 inch) than lift up and away from the bone (like folding a piece of paper). The skin should remain attached to the eardrum such that they fold up and away together. About 50% of the eardrum and ear canal skin is lifted up. Make sure the skin undersurface is red. Keep the same color for the eardrum undersurface. [Reference image of this step is provided with markings on it where cuts are made. Client used photoshop to crudely depict the markings.]

30-35 seconds: A white rectangular flat strip of paper is than flown in from the side down the ear canal. The strip length is about 2 eardrums long and 1/2 eardrum wide. Once half the strip length passes the eardrum location, it would than fold into an "L" shape such that it lies along where the normal eardrum would be positioned. The other limb of the "L" would remain flat against the ear canal bone. [Reference image of this step is provided with markings of how this strip is ultimately positioned. Client used photoshop to crudely draw in the location.]

35-40 seconds: The eardrum and ear canal skin is than folded back down to its original position. Make sure the perforation opening now shows white depicting the paper strip.

40-45 seconds: A small rectangular block (pastel tan in color) is than made to appear right up against the eardrum on middle ear side where perforation is located. [Reference image of this step is provided showing block size and location. Client used photoshop to crudely show positioning.]

45-50 seconds: Show cotton balls filling middle ear. A few seconds later, show cotton balls filling the ear canal partially. [Reference image of this step is provided. Client used photoshop to crudely draw in the cotton balls.]

50-55 seconds: Make all the cotton balls disappear such that appearance is back to the way it looked at 45 seconds. Than zoom out while making the head reappear. Than rotate head such that the ear is again centered.

The more details, reference images, and even reference videos pulled from YouTube, the better for the animator to help them understand exactly what you want!

Good luck!

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