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What is an Animation Storyboard?



Animation is a captivating art form that brings characters and stories to life through a series of images or frames. Behind the scenes of every animated feature, whether it's a blockbuster movie or a charming short film, lies a critical component known as the animation storyboard. These visual blueprints play a pivotal role in the animation process, shaping how the final product will look and feel.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the world of animation storyboards. We'll delve into what they are, how they are created, their relationship with animation, and the terminology used in the animation industry. We'll also analyze real-world examples and the role of 3D studios in animation storyboarding, with a special focus on Whizzy Studios, a prominent player in the animation industry.

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Understanding Animation Storyboards

Animation storyboards are the foundational documents that transform ideas into moving images. They serve as a bridge between the initial concept and the final animated sequence. But what exactly is an animation storyboard?

Definition: An animation storyboard is a visual representation of the entire animation or a specific scene, presented in a sequence of illustrated panels. Each panel depicts key moments, actions, and camera angles, guiding animators in translating the script and concept into motion.

Purpose and Significance: Storyboards are essential in the animation process, as they:

  • Visualization: Storyboards provide a visual blueprint that helps the creative team envision the animation's progression and composition.

  • Communication: They serve as a means of communication between the various departments involved in animation production, ensuring a shared vision of the project.

  • Editing and Planning: Storyboards allow for the exploration of different shot compositions and pacing before committing to the costly animation phase.

  • Cost-Efficiency: By refining the storyline and sequences through storyboarding, animation studios can save both time and resources.

  • Client and Stakeholder Understanding: Storyboards help clients and stakeholders grasp the project's direction and make informed decisions.

Animation storyboard template • Courtesy of Micha Buzan

How to Create an Animated Storyboard ?

Creating an animated storyboard is a structured process that combines artistic creativity and technical precision. Whether you're an aspiring animator or a seasoned professional, understanding the steps involved in crafting a compelling storyboard is crucial.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to make an animated storyboard:

  • Script Analysis: Begin by thoroughly examining the script or story that you'll be animating. This step is critical in understanding the narrative, characters, and the flow of the story.

  • Breakdown Scenes: Divide the script into scenes and determine the key moments that need to be visualized. Scenes are the building blocks of your storyboard.

  • Panel Layout: Create a grid or template with panels for each scene. The number of panels in each scene can vary based on the complexity and pacing of the sequence. Consider factors such as shot composition and timing.

  • Sketching: Start sketching the key actions and poses of the characters. You don't need to be a professional artist; the focus is on conveying the intended actions and emotions.

  • Camera Angles and Movement: Plan the camera angles, movements, and transitions between panels. These decisions affect how the audience experiences the scene.

  • Add Dialogue and Notes: Include dialogue, sound effects, and any essential notes in the panels. These annotations provide context and direction for the animators.

  • Sequencing: Arrange the panels in the correct order, ensuring that they flow smoothly to convey the story. Pay attention to the pacing of the scenes.

  • Review and Iterate: Once the initial storyboard is complete, review it to identify areas for improvement. Iterate on the drawings, compositions, and timing as needed.

  • Feedback: Seek feedback from colleagues or supervisors. Collaboration and feedback are essential in refining the storyboard.

  • Finalization: After incorporating feedback, finalize the storyboard. Ensure that it aligns with the project's creative vision and technical requirements.

Story Board Layout

Example -storyboard
Example Storyboard

Tools and Software: Animation storyboards can be created using both traditional and digital tools. Traditional methods involve pencil and paper, while digital options include specialized software such as Storyboard Pro, Toon Boom Harmony, and Adobe Animate.

Creating a compelling storyboard requires a balance between technical accuracy and artistic expression. It serves as a blueprint for the animation process, guiding animators, directors, and other team members in bringing the story to life.

Is a Storyboard Part of Animation?

The relationship between animation and a storyboard is often a source of curiosity. Are they separate entities or intrinsically linked? To understand this better, let's delve into the role of storyboards in the animation process.

Storyboard as a Blueprint: A storyboard is not the animation itself, but rather a visual blueprint for the animation. It serves as a crucial intermediary stage in the production process. Think of it as the architectural plan for a building before construction begins. The storyboard guides the animation, much like an architect's plans guide the construction crew.

Storyboard of Animation

Translating Script to Animation: The storyboard acts as the bridge between the script and the final animated sequence. It helps to visualize how the script's narrative, dialogue, and action will unfold on the screen. Animators rely on the storyboard to understand the director's vision and execute it accurately.

Iteration and Refinement: The animation storyboard allows for iterative refinement. Before investing extensive time and resources into animation, the storyboard can be adjusted, fine-tuned, and perfected to align with the creative direction and technical requirements of the project.

Visualizing the Sequence: Imagine a key scene in an animated movie where a character takes a dramatic leap. The storyboard showcases the character's initial stance, the mid-air moment, and the landing. This visualization informs animators about the character's movements, expressions, and the overall shot composition.

In essence, a storyboard is a foundational element of animation, guiding the process from the conceptual stage to the final product. While it's not the animation itself, it plays a critical role in shaping how the animation will unfold.

animation storyboard
Key Differences Between Animation and Storyboard

Animation and storyboarding are two distinct aspects of the filmmaking process, each with its unique characteristics and purpose. Understanding their differences is essential for appreciating their roles in creating compelling animated content.

Format: One of the most obvious distinctions is the format. An animation storyboard consists of a series of illustrated panels or frames, typically hand-drawn or digitally created. In contrast, animation is the final moving visual content that audiences see on the screen.

Purpose: Storyboards are primarily used in the pre-production phase of animation to plan and visualize the scenes, camera angles, and character actions. They serve as a reference for the animation team. Animation, on the other hand, is the end product intended for audience consumption, delivering the full narrative experience.

Static vs. Dynamic: Storyboards are static images that show key moments within a scene. They don't move or change; they provide a snapshot of the scene's composition. Animation, in contrast, involves the dynamic and fluid movement of characters, objects, and the camera to bring the story to life.

Creative Process: Storyboarding is a part of the creative planning process where ideas are translated into visual form. Animators follow the direction set by the storyboard to execute the animation. Animation, on the other hand, is the technical execution of the visuals as they move and interact.

Feedback and Refinement: Storyboards allow for early feedback and iteration. Changes can be made to the storyboard to enhance the visual storytelling before animation begins. Animation is a more resource-intensive process, making it more challenging to make significant changes once it's in progress.

Timeline: Storyboards are typically created earlier in the production timeline. They help define the vision for the animation project and provide direction for the subsequent stages. Animation occurs later in the production process and involves bringing the visuals to life.

While storyboarding and animation are distinct, they are closely intertwined. The storyboard serves as the foundation for the animation, guiding the entire production process. The two work together to ensure a seamless and compelling final product.

3D animation storyboard

What is a Storyboard Called in Animation?

The terminology used for storyboards in the animation industry can vary based on animation styles, regions, and specific roles. Understanding these terms can provide insight into the diverse ways storyboarding is approached in the world of animation.

1. Storyboard Artist: A storyboard artist, also known as a storyboarder, is a professional who specializes in creating storyboards. Their role is to translate the script and director's vision into visual representations. They play a pivotal role in shaping the visual narrative of the animation project.

2. Layout Artist: In some cases, a layout artist is responsible for the layout or composition of scenes. While their role is similar to that of a storyboard artist, they may work on the more detailed aspects of how a scene will be presented on screen, such as camera angles and backgrounds.

3. Animatic: An animatic is a dynamic version of a storyboard. It's created by sequencing storyboard panels with rough timing and sound. Animatics provide a preview of how the animation will flow and are useful for evaluating pacing and overall storytelling before full animation production begins.

4. Pitch Boards: Pitch boards are storyboards created for the purpose of pitching an animation project to potential investors, clients, or stakeholders. They are often less detailed than production storyboards but serve to convey the project's concept and vision effectively.

5. Visual Development: Visual development is a broader category that encompasses not only storyboarding but also concept art, character design, and background design. It plays a vital role in establishing the visual style and aesthetics of an animation project.

6. 3D Previsualization: In the realm of 3D animation, previsualization (previs) is akin to storyboarding. It involves creating rough 3D models and camera movements to plan complex scenes. Previsualization is particularly essential for scenes that require intricate camera work or special effects.

7. Thumbnail Sketches: These are small, quick sketches used by artists to plan compositions and key actions. Thumbnail sketches are a precursor to the more detailed storyboards and serve as a quick way to brainstorm and plan.

The terminology for storyboards in animation reflects the diverse aspects of visual storytelling within the industry. Whether it's a storyboard artist shaping the visual narrative or a layout artist defining scene compositions, each role contributes to the animation's development.

Raw Animation Storyboard - Final Animation Storyboard

The Role of 3D Studios in Animation Storyboarding

3D studios play a crucial role in the animation industry, contributing their expertise to various aspects of the animation process, including storyboarding and animatics. One such prominent player in the animation industry is Whizzy Studios.

What are 3D Studios?

3D studios are specialized production houses that offer a wide range of services related to 3D animation, visual effects, and computer-generated imagery (CGI). These studios are equipped with the latest technology and a team of skilled artists, animators, and technicians who collaborate to bring visual concepts to life.

The Role of 3D Studios in Storyboarding:

  • 3D Storyboarding: Many 3D studios offer 3D storyboarding services. This involves creating storyboards with 3D models, which allows for a more dynamic and spatial representation of scenes. 3D storyboards are particularly useful for complex sequences, such as action scenes or those with intricate camera movements.

  • Enhanced Visualizations: 3D studios can provide more detailed and realistic visualizations, helping animation teams better understand the intended shot compositions, lighting, and spatial relationships within a scene.

  • Previsualization: 3D studios often assist in the previsualization process, which includes creating rough 3D models and animatics to plan complex scenes. This aids in the accurate planning of camera movements and character actions.

Whizzy Studios: A Leading 3D Studio

Whizzy Studios is a well-established 3D studio that has made significant contributions to the animation industry. They specialize in 3D animation, visual effects, and 3D storyboarding. Here are some key aspects of their role in animation:

  • Collaborative Storyboarding: Whizzy Studios collaborates closely with animation teams to create 3D storyboards that provide a comprehensive understanding of how scenes will play out in three dimensions.

  • Visual Fidelity: With their state-of-the-art technology and expertise, Whizzy Studios ensures that 3D storyboards maintain a high level of visual fidelity, making it easier for animation teams to translate the vision into the final product.

  • Previs Expertise: Whizzy Studios excels in previsualization, helping animation projects plan complex sequences with precision. Their previs work assists in choreographing scenes, especially in 3D animation and VFX-heavy productions.

The role of 3D studios like Whizzy Studios in animation storyboarding is invaluable, as it enhances the quality and precision of the visual planning process, ultimately contributing to the success of animated projects.


Animation storyboards are a critical element of the animation production process. They bridge the gap between initial concepts and the final animated sequences, offering a visual roadmap for the creative and technical teams involved. While they are not the animation itself, storyboards are indispensable in shaping the direction, composition, and pacing of animated projects.

As we've explored in this comprehensive guide, animation storyboards come in various forms, are known by different names, and are brought to life with the help of 3D studios like Whizzy Studios. The examples and case studies highlight the real-world impact of meticulous storyboarding on the animation industry.

Storyboarding, in its various forms, is a testament to the power of visualization and planning in the art of animation. It is the canvas upon which creative visions are first painted, guiding the journey from script to screen.




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