50 times? 100? 500? I don’t even remember how many times I’ve said that integrating videos into your marketing plan for anything you’re doing online is VITAL in this day and age.
People love watching videos. Instead of reading a long user manual to figure out how to use that new gadget they bought, they watch a 1-minute video uploaded to YouTube by a teenager from Kentucky. Instead of reading a recipe book, they go to Buzzfeed’s Tasty Facebook page to browse through the videos. If we land on a new software product’s homepage and there isn’t a video to briefly explain what it does it, we feel that the company is wasting our time (cruel bastards!).
As consumers, we appreciate videos, and it would be crazy to not see the potential in using them for growing our online business and engaging, educating, and charming our customers.
The trouble is that, like anybody who decided to create a video to use online to promote a product, in the affiliate marketing space or another niche, I too saw that the script isn’t enough to get the ideas in your head out in the world in video form.
The script helps you figure out WHAT you want to say, but with video, that’s only 50% of the output. When relying on video to drive business growth or engage an audience, HOW you present your message is just as important.
That’s exactly why we need to talk about storyboarding. A storyboard is a draft of the video. It helps you visualise the scenes in your video before starting to film or creating an animation.
Storyboarding is used by movie directors, animation studios, video game creators, TV advertising professionals, etc. If people playing with millions of dollars are using storyboarding, then you and I, who don’t have those huge budgets for video production and need to stretch every dollar when creating our content, definitely need to take advantage of this to make sure we’re spending our time and money creating something valuable.
I know you agree with me on this, and I also know you have questions about storyboarding. I’ll do my best to answer all those questions.
Why should I use storyboarding in the first place?
The shortest answer I can give is that it helps you communicate what’s in your head, but there are many advantages of using storyboarding:
It lets you see everything clearly and powerfully
Instead of wandering through writing a promotion, or delivering a message you can avoid all of the fluff, know clearly what you want the outcome to be and then create that.
It helps you see the script in a different light.
Think of it this way: when you write your script you’re inventing a new recipe and you kind of know that the ingredients you listed work well together. Creating the storyboard is like testing out the recipe in your kitchen. Now you can taste it, smell it. You can figure out if you need to adjust the quantities or remove ingredients altogether.
It helps you improve your script.
Seeing the action unfold will offer you new insights into what would make things more entertaining or clearer to your audience. For example, you might use various descriptions in the dialogue in your script, but only when you create the storyboard it becomes clear that there’s no need for those since the setting fulfils that role.
It levels up your game as a producer.
Pre-production for a short online video you plan on using to promote an affiliate product is just as important as it is for a new Netflix series. In pre-production, you figure out what props you might need, what tools, how many actors, where to film, what style you want to adopt, how much it’s going to cost every little thing, etc.
Looking at the storyboard you can make a list of all those things so there are no “oh, I forgot we’ll need a hat for this shot” or “oops, I should have bought something to use as a backdrop”.
It saves you from missing a shot you need.
Imagine you’ve filmed all day long and you’re preparing to send the raw footage to your video editor/videographer and that’s when you realise you don’t have any shots of you holding the product you’re selling. That sucks! If you would have seen the storyboard you would have figured out you need to also add in that shot.
It helps you avoid creative blocks.
If you’re paying someone to create an animation for you, there’s one thing you don’t want when checking their progress – to find out that they’re stuck, that while they were animating your script they hit a creative block. By going through the script and creating a storyboard you can make sure they’ll always know what the next scene will be.
It improves your communication with team members and contractors.
Some people don’t fully understand certain things unless they see a visual representation. At the same time, sometimes it makes more sense to just draw something than describes it in 500 words.
When everybody in your team is on the same page of what needs to happen in your online video, work is more enjoyable, there’s less room for mistakes and misunderstandings, and you can wrap up the project faster.
I can’t draw. How do I create a storyboard, huh?
A good storyboard doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be helpful. You can interpret your own drawings no matter how bad they are, and if you’re working with a team, you can decide on a design system to better represent what should happen on screen.
If you want to hide behind the excuse that you can’t draw – ignore this next part
There’s such a huge temptation to use excuses to hold you back from greatness (seriously… what is that!!!)
Please – stop doing that. It’s not good for you, your business – or people who could be inspired by what you can create.
If you can’ t draw there are a lot of different options – here are a few:
1) Use Google image search and tracing paper.
This is actually how many people working with storyboards day in day out do it. They go through the script, imagine the scenes and then go on Google to search for images as similar to what they had in mind as possible. Then they print the images and use tracing paper to copy the rough shape of the characters or objects in the pictures. The end result is a storyboard that makes sense, drawn in a particular style, that can be kept on paper or transformed into digital illustrations using Adobe Illustrator’s Image Trace function.
2) Cut and paste pictures from magazines.
Well, yeah, it won’t look as pretty as something an artist drew, but it will get the job done. You need to remember that the final product – the actual video – is what matters. There’s no shame in cutting out models from the pages of your favourite fashion magazine and use them to create scenes for your storyboard.
3) Use stick figures.
Everybody knows how to draw a stick figure. It’s something super simple but highly effective. “But, all my stick figures look the same, I won’t be able to tell characters apart!” Wrong! You can use different colours for your stick figures, each character having its own colour. Problem solved.
4) Use post-it notes.
Post-it notes are amazing for storyboarding. You can draw one scene/shot per post-it and move them around with ease, but the best part about them is that you can ruin the drawing of a scene and not feel bad about it. If you need to redo a scene you just replace the poorly scribbled one with a better one, without having to redo an entire sheet of scenes.
5) Use Cloud Create to create storyboards (and animations).
If you’ve created live-action videos and animations before and you have your own recipe for telling a story that will sell the product you’re promoting, you can jump directly into software designed especially to help you create short animation videos. Cloud Create will let you select settings and characters and even animate a wide range of elements and texts. You can use it to create a storyboard to share with your videographers or animators, in case you want to use a specific style or branding, or you can use it to create the animation yourself.
On a storyboard, each scene has the following components:
– the storyboard base, which is usually a 16:9 ratio rectangle; this is what appears on the screen.
– an outer red frame, which shows things that are off-screen in that scene; it’s used to signal when a new element is about to enter the screen or can be used for annotating.
– a text area, which is usually in the bottom; which is used for comments, instructions, notes.
– the scene number; used to make it easier for everyone to discuss one particular scene.
– use arrows to show movement, both for characters and objects.
DOWNLOADABLE STORYBOARD TEMPLATES
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What can I do to rock this storyboarding thing and sell more products?
Creating video marketing content isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but if you follow some common sense rules you should be alright:
#1 Adapt your script to the medium.
You need to know where your video will play. YouTube lets you get people to click on buttons while Facebook does not. Instagram stories break down your video into scenes. On mobile, people usually see the videos with the sound off. You also need to know where the social networks/platform’s branding will be. Your storyboard should reflect all of these things.
#2 Set the scene as quickly as possible.
Take full advantage of the fact that an image is worth a thousand words. The very first frames should make it clear where the story is set and what’s the overall mood.
#3 Make your scenes progress inward.
This little film-making trick makes viewers perceive the object you’re zooming in to as more important than anything else in the scene. It’s a great way to make people to pay attention.
#4 Always know what is the most important thing in a frame.
Make a conscious decision what/who will be the hero in every frame. Don’t let people’s eyes wander around the screen in search of the hero. Make the hero the product, a line of text, a person. Don’t let important elements compete for people’s attention – which will happen if you crowd the screen with too many elements.
#5 Create custom thumbnails.
Figure out how the platform you’re using selects the thumbnails to use for your video. On Facebook, for example, you can upload a thumbnail or select one from stills the social network is creating based on your video. If the platform selects the thumbnail from a time in the video, add it to your storyboard so you could have control over it.
Video or animation creation can eat up many resources, especially your time and money. Of course you want to be proud of the end result. Pre-production planning can help you get the most out of a script and really figure out what frames will make the product you’re promoting shine.
Let me know in the comments what video marketing project you’re currently working on and what questions you have about creating a storyboard. What tools do you use to create your own videos and animations?