Creating a Storyboard: Considerations for Voice Over

Ultimate Guide To Hiring Voice Actors

When you’re in the pre-production stage of a project that enlists both audio and visuals, such as a film or video game, creating a storyboard can help showcase how the two elements will work together.

The practice of creating a storyboard harkens way back to the golden age of cartoon animation, where visual gags were drawn by illustrators instead of written into a script.

Voice over performances are enhanced when an actor has a visual basis to draw upon. When a voice actor has been hired for a project that’s destined for the screen, be it a video game, cartoon, or commercial, that actor relies on a storyboard to visualize the content and bring their delivery to life.

What is a Storyboard?

A storyboard serves as a basic visual portrayal of your script. It’s made up of a series of still images, segmented into frames and typically no more refined than hand-drawn sketches. It plainly conveys the narrative arc of your work from a visual standpoint. Each frame exhibits the key components of each frame, including characters, props, setting details, camera movements, and the type of shot (close-up, establishing, etc.).

Storyboards include as many frames as necessary to convey the visual sequence of events. They predominantly rely on visual illustrations to tell the story, using words only when necessary. However, depending on the medium the storyboard is being produced for, some frames need to include extended notes, clarifying what certain frames are meant to be depicting, while never overpowering the visuals. Think of a storyboard kind of like a comic book.

What is a Storyboard Used For?

Proof of concept

A storyboard functions as evidence that you and your creative team have a clear vision that you know how to execute. This can come in handy when you’re trying to bring stakeholders up to speed with your latest ideas and developments. Especially when it comes to animation, apps, and video games, it can be far more effective to prove your concept’s visual palette or interface than to simply rhapsodize about it. A robust proof of concept can mean the difference between receiving support for your project or not.

Outlining budget requirements

The budgeting for projects that use voice over can range from the minuscule to the gargantuan. Sometimes it takes a visual layout to determine which side of the scale your project is leaning toward. Mapping out a storyboard featuring shot lists will help your team identify just how much time and effort will be required to produce each shot, in a comprehensive manner that just can’t be achieved by merely flipping through the screenplay.

Let’s say your sci-fi pilot features a scene description that reads: “The alien cyborg touches down at her intergalactic space station.” This scene could be visualized in a number of ways, but sketching it out in a storyboard provides an explicit view of what the audience is intended to see onscreen. The storyboard rendition of this scene could reveal that the viewer should only glimpse a close-up of the alien cyborg’s face, which could be easily achieved through a solo close-up shot. Alternatively, the storyboard could indicate that the shot calls for a VFX-laden panoramic video of the alien passing by the backdrop of an elaborate space station, which would call for hours upon hours of art direction, production design, compositing, and CGI.

Confirming the narrative makes sense

Oftentimes, when you’re still immersed in the scriptwriting stage, you can get bogged down in the story and dialogue, and lose sight of the work at large. Storyboards help to break down the flow of images that the audience will lay eyes on, ensuring that it makes sense on a fundamental shot-by-shot level.

A line such as: “The seagulls are lifted by a gust of wind and vaulted off into the horizon,” while perhaps reading like a pleasant image, doesn’t precisely impart what the viewer is meant to see. Is this an image that is meant to unfold only in the background, or is the viewer placed up close, airborne, alongside the seagulls? A storyboard helps clarify the script’s intentions.

Identifying problems at an early stage

Mapping out all of your project’s visual cues helps you to identify potential problems before you begin to animate, shoot, or construct 3D models. This is a priceless step in the creative process because it forces you to plan and interpret your story in an entirely different way than if you were to jump straight into the production process purely based on a written script.

Developing a storyboard gives you the chance to make mistakes and troubleshoot them before sinking a great deal of time and money into crafting the perfect shot or scene.

Animation Storyboard

The whole practice of storyboarding originates back to the early 1930s with the Disney short film Three Little Pigs, so it should come as no surprise that storyboarding is central to the animation process. In traditional animation, it can take a team of diligent animators months of work just to produce a few minutes of screen time, so it is imperative that every frame is carefully coordinated well ahead of time.

When it comes to mapping out an animation storyboard, it can be helpful to use descriptive words (i.e. fade, shrink, slide, expand) to communicate your characters’ actions, and arrows to signify camera movements.

One valuable exercise that you may decide to put into action is producing an animatic: a sequence of storyboard frames edited together into a video to demonstrate the rhythm and flow of a scene. Compiling a mock-up like this is a great way to set your storyboard into motion and gauge whether the visual arc will have the power to hold a viewer’s attention.

If you’re casting voice talent for animated work, you can read up on a number of elements that should factor into your decision.

Video Game Storyboard

Creating a storyboard is a worthwhile step in the creative process of developing a video game. Video games are intricate and multifaceted by nature, and routinely take place in invented worlds.

A video game storyboard can harness its various frames to represent different levels of the game. They can also detail characters, scenes, character meetings, actions, action sequences, gameplay functionality, and more.

How Creating a Storyboard Will Help Enhance the Work of Voice Actors

How will providing the voice actor you’ve hired with a copy of your project’s storyboard help improve their understanding and delivery of the script?

For one, it will enable the voice actor to visualize the appearance of their character and the look of the project, offering more layers to their interpretation and portrayal of the character.

A storyboard transforms your script from a hazy concept into a fully formed, identifiable visual idea. It causes your actor to grow more invested in both the role and the finished product.

Creating a storyboard also gives you something to present to your voice actor that will aid in communicating the vision behind your project.

Having a visual rendering of your story handy may also influence the casting process. You can seek out voice actors whose sounds align with your characters’ appearance and the way you want them to sound.

Once you understand the purpose of a storyboard, and you’re ready to map out the visuals for your next project, conducting a simple online search will reveal a wide variety of free resources and templates that you can download and use to create your own storyboard.