Nicholson Ren | Cinematographer & Colourist

What's Left Production Diary

Storyboarding: Feeling the story

I always enjoy the night before the first day. There is always an air of uncertainty together with a buzz of excitement about how the whole shoot will go. Most likely there is always some preparation that hasn't finished and for me I still hadn't story-boarded the first scenes. I was warned the first two days would be the hardest because we'd have plenty of child extras and their parents on set. There would be time limits on how long we were able to shoot with them so before we packed it in for the night, I got down to planning.

I don't consider myself a great drawer. Most of my storyboards are non-detailed blocky characters in rough positions with arrows depicting lines of action for characters and camera movements. The design of my sketches come from an old flash game which I used to play and I find using that style makes it simpler to convey the message. Below are some of the boards I did on the night before and in the next post I will show the final outcome together with the set up to get what I envisioned. 


When planning the storyboard I make sure that everything is practical and we have the means of achieving the desired movement or coverage. Time is better spent on achieving the best story with what you have especially on a time constraint. My ideal setup would have had jibs and dolly tracks which would allow more dynamic movement and freedom. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise when we didn't get those things as with just a tripod we were barely able to finish on schedule. Had we gotten my ideal set up, I would've wasted a lot of prep time and without a camera assistant or gaffer, we wouldn't have finished shooting and it would've been all my fault. 

It is best to be flexible because you can just get inspiration on set or find something that you can't have envisioned. I use these boards as guides not rules to follow, they serve as the starting point but the final frame comes from what you see by being in the location. This web-series is quite dialogue focused so many shots were pretty typical and simple to find. The trickiest part was to find ways to frame group shots or wide shots so that they weren't all "regular" but different enough to convey the theme or emotions that the characters felt at the time. Most of those shots were not conceived during storyboarding but by being on set and feeling the story.