How to Make a Storyboard for a Music Video

By Scott Shpak
Storyboards may help you anticipate technical challenges unique to your music video.

Even modest music video productions can involve a number of people, including the band and actors, extras and technical crew. Keeping everyone on the same page and working toward a common goal requires communication, and effective use of a storyboard provides an essential, visual point of focus when production decisions are made.

The Storyboard as Your Production Manager

As well as giving the earliest visual shape to your music video, your storyboard is an organization tool. With a three-minute song, for example, the storyboard shows how that time is allotted visually, with titles, scenes and transitions. The storyboard serves as a to-do list as well, reminding you and your crew which shots remain and which are "in the can." When you focus your efforts on a specific series of scenes, you are less likely to spend time and money on unused footage.

Starting Your Storyboard

Storyboards range from simple and hand-drawn, to extensive with detailed illustrations, but there is no single format to which you must work. Printable storyboard templates are easy to find online, or you can use storyboard software. Products such as Storyboard That, Storyteller and Toon Boom Storyboard are free or have free options. Each storyboard panel should include visual descriptions of the desired scene and a time reference covering how long the scene will last, perhaps with lyrics from the song.

Expanding Your Vision

With a basic sequence of images on your storyboard, you can now think about how these images will move and interact with other shots and scenes. Camera movement is generally indicated with arrows within a single storyboard frame, and motion is implied using simple lines to suggest velocity. Using multiple frames with similar content can suggest flow of camera or actors' movements. Notes accompanying the storyboard frames also include camera instructions, visual effects and transitions.

The Next Steps

With your music video storyboard complete, you're ready to copy or print it to share with cast and crew. The storyboard helps you scout locations, plan wardrobe and makeup and determine equipment needs, such as lighting or special effects lenses needed to create the shots you've planned. You can also use the storyboard to create a shot list. Since your storyboard follows the chronology of the final video, the shot list lets you group shots by location for efficiency, while the storyboard keeps track of scene sequence for editing.

About the Author

As an operations and technical projects manager in the photofinishing industry, Scott Shpak is also an experienced audio engineer and musician, as well as Editor-in-chief, feature writer and photographer for Your Magazines Canada.