Storyboard description guidelines for hand-drawn explainer videos

a year ago marc schwyn

Storyboard Descriptions (SD) are a step in the MinuteVideos production where we describe what the storyboarding artist should sketch for each scene. This is done after the script is confirmed and before storyboarding begins.

Storyboard descriptions are meant to make the production process more efficient by reducing the time spent on storyboarding and revisions. But it's also meant to improve the overall quality of the drawings because coming up with fitting illustrations is a different skill from drawing them well, which is why they should be done by different professionals.

In this article we're describing the basic guidelines for writing Storyboard Descriptions. Some of these are more important for the artist, but it's good if the person doing the descriptions keeps them in mind as well.

Storyboard Descriptions are written in the comment section to each scene with a description for every item. You can see an example in the image below.


In the image above you can see 3 main parts. The script text (which will be read by the voice over), the storyboard image (which is drawn by the storyboard artist) and the comment section on the left (which is used by the storyboard descriptions writer and other collaborators).

In the script text you can see numbers in the square brackets. These numbers are there to show the duration of each image. During the time it takes the voice over reads this text, the corresponding image will be drawn. Then, in the comment section on the right you can see the descriptions that corresponds to each number from the square brackets in the script. Finally the artist will draw the image and add the colorful numbers that you can see in the image above, but of course this doesn't exist when you're writing the storyboard descriptions.

Writing the storyboard descriptions is a tough task that requires a lot of creativity, reading text, seeing images in your head and communicating them well for the artist and collaborators. So here are some general tips and guidelines to help make this task easier and improve the quality of the storyboard.

  1. Develop the scene from the top left to the bottom right.

It's important that the items on the top left are drawn first because otherwise the hand will cover them up when it's drawing the next item. It's very annoying for the viewer when an image that they have already seen gets covered up.

  1. Try not to leave any blank spaces on the scene.

Unintentional blank spaces on the scene look amateurish and lazy. Also, because explainer videos are mostly watched on the phone, on YouTube and Facebook, the space on the screen is precious and should be used to its fullest.

  1. Try to give each element as much weight/importance as the text that corresponds to it. If an image reflects 2 out of 3 sentences in a scene it should also cover ca. 70% of the space. This will help the speed of the animation stay roughly the same. If you draw something very small for a lot of text and something very big for very little text, the big thing will be drawn very fast, which looks hectic and the small thing will look choppy because it's been slowed down too much.

  2. Try to create one overarching theme for each scene instead of many little items. This makes the whole thing prettier and more impressive.

Often this can be done by imagining a scene where many things are happening. and then the individual items can be fit into different locations of the scene.

If you can't imagine a real life scene that combines all the items then you can also connect them with geometric shapes or other design features.