How we storyboarded an 8 episode youtube animated series - part 2

Storyboarding part 2

In part 1, I covered the value that storyboards bring to the pre-production process as well as some tips for drawing them. Next I'll cover:

  • Photoshop is your friend
  • How we integrated storyboards in our pre-production process
  • Creating animatics from storyboards

Photoshop is your friend

Originally I started out drawing storyboards on paper. But it felt incredibly inefficient because:

  • it wasn't easy to reuse backgrounds, characters, etc from shot to shot.
  • It was time consuming to have to first sketch in pencil, then take another pass with a marker to make them easier to see
  • It was annoying and time consuming to scan the drawings.

Eventually I figured out a much faster process involving Photoshop. Photoshop offered me the following advantages

  • Easily reuse background sketches, props, characters
  • Easily add/remove and rearrange boards from a scene
  • Easily generate a numbered sequence of all of your images. Even if you add new boards in the middle later, you ensure they're always in the right order.

storyboard in photoshop example

Here are step by step instructions on how you can create storyboards in Photoshop

  1. Create a template at the right screen resolution for your video format. Here's the one we use. The screen is represented by the portion inside the blue lines.

photoshop storyboarding template preview

Download the PSD template

  1. Create a new PSD file from your template for each scene of your movie.
  2. Set up the timeline panel.
    1. In Photoshop, go to Window > Timeline to make the timeline visible
    2. Use Frame animation mode as opposed to video timeline mode. This can be toggled in the lower left corner of the timeline panel. Frame animation mode looks like the picture below.

      photoshop timeline for storyboarding
    3. Set the frame delay to 1 second by clicking the arrow beneath each frame.
  3. Draw your storyboards. Add a new frame in the timeline panel for each storyboard you want.
  4. Export your boards as an image sequence so you can share them with others or import them into a video editing program. This process will create an image for each storyboard you have:
    1. Go to File > Export > Render video
    2. Choose an export folder. I recommend using a different folder name each time you revise the boards (e.g. wip1, wip2, wip3)
    3. Render Image sequence at 1 fps
      photoshop render video settings for storyboards

Since we're working in photoshop, it's really easy to avoid having to draw the same thing over and over for each board. Take advantage of layers and move the layer position in each frame on the timeline to convey a character or prop moving. You can also duplicate layers and make quick edits to speeds up the process.

How we integrated storyboards in our pre-production process

After we went through a few rounds of iteration on our script for Dragon Mall Quest and felt satisfied enough that we didn't expect too many changes, we'd begin the storyboarding process.

Once I had a draft of the boards, I pitched them to the rest of the core team (Jason Barbour, Michael Sanchez, Michael Toews, Daniel Hummel). The way I pitched the boards involved showing each board, one by one, and talking through the dialog and actions. We often did this remotely with Go-to meeting or Google Hangouts. I used Windows Photo Viewer and the right arrow key to go through each one since the images are already named in a sequence of numbers. No need to create a powerpoint presentation.

These are the things we'd try to look for when reviewing the boards:

  • Are the objectives of the scene accomplished? (such as conveying certain plot points or making people laugh if it's a comedy)
  • are the concepts conveyed clear? Is it clear what's happening?
  • Is the flow/pacing right in the context of the rest of the episode?

If we haven't met those objectives, we'd revise and repeat the process (re-pitch the boards and get feedback from the team)

Here's an example of a first draft and revised draft. In a scene in episode 5, we wanted our three ninja kids to witness security guards enter a door and have a dialog about it. Initially, we simply showed the guards enter the door, cut to credits, then cut to the three ninja kids, but it wasn't clear that they had actually observed what had taken place in the previous shot (especially since time had passed due to the credits being inserted in between these two scenes).


storyboard first pass

So we revised it. In this cut, after the credits are completed, we re-cap the guards going through the door again, just as they had before the credits. But this time we have the camera behind the kids looking at the guards. Then cut to the shot of the kids from the front so they could have their dialog.


revised storyboard for dragon mall quest


WTF are animatics you say? It's when you take storyboards and edit them together in a video with sound and voice acting. Sometimes they get really elaborate and even include some animation.

Animatics are pretty sweet. With animatics you can:

  • Test out drafts of the recorded dialog with your storyboards
  • Get a better sense of camera movements
  • Work out pacing and timing
  • Again test if things are clear to the viewer. Sometimes things seem clear in the storyboard phase but once we put it together with the dialog we see that it still needs revision.
  • Easily share them with staff, friends, and family to get feedback without having to pitch it live

Below is an excerpt of the animatic created for Episode 4 of Dragon Mall Quest where you can see these concepts brought to life.

dragon mall quest animatic

Here's a few animatic examples I found on youtube. You can see in these examples how you can take things even further than I did by adding animation effects to characters and props in the boards.

In summary we learned:

  • Storyboards are a useful step to save time and money
  • Keep storyboards simple
  • Photoshop has tools available to make the storyboard creation process quicker
  • Animatics are a more convincing step toward seeing your story come to life before investing in final animation

That's all I have for you for now about storyboarding. I hope you've found this article useful (or at least mildly amusing). Here's some additional resources to check out


Do you have any resources or advice about storyboards? Do you have any questions or comments? Let me know what you think! Post a comment in the forums by clicking [post reply] below!