On the heels of the release of the newest Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker (aka Episode IX), let’s try a thought experiment: how would you explain the original Star Wars (A New Hope, or Episode 4) to someone who had never seen it? Naturally, you’ll mention what happens in certain scenes, like the bar scene in Mos Eisley, rescuing Princess Leia or destroying the Death Star, but, there’s so much more to these scenes than just advancing the plot. The way these scenes are shot, for example, the angles, atmosphere, emotion, setting, lighting and dialogue/delivery, all combine in a way that creates a more developed, immersive, and more enjoyable story; however, these seemingly subtle attributes don’t happen by accident – they’re all part of today’s word, storyboard.
By definition, a storyboard is a sequence of images/drawings depicting camera angles, direction, and dialogues in order to visualize the progression of a film, animation, or work of visual media. The term originated through the compounding of the words story, defined loosely as ‘an oral or written narrative of some happening’ and board, which came from a tablet or extended surface of wood, later used for posting/displaying information.
As could be expected, seeing as how our term is related to visual media, it should be no surprise that it dates back to the earliest days of the motion picture, with early 1900s French illusionist and film director Georges Méliès being among the first to implement storyboarding, in order to perfect special effects in his films.
Though the idea had already been in use for some time by pioneers like Méliès and in the animations of the Walt Disney studio, the first usage of the term took a bit longer. It can be traced back to a March 1941 issue of the periodical Popular Science, writing that: “Reese thinks nothing of sitting down in the morning prepared to fit sounds to 80 photographs of scenes laid out before him on a story board.” While the word may have lagged behind the concept, it quickly became essential to envisioning visual media: this can be seen in the August 16, 1967 edition of the Chicago Tribune where, writing that: “Commercials must be written, storyboarded, rewritten, and approved.”, our work was transformed into a verb of itself.
Living in a world where most of us rely on several different screens and receive the overwhelming majority of our news, communication, and entertainment visually, storyboarding has arguably never been more important; however, in a global economy with multiple languages and customs, conveying the correct message can prove difficult. Assuring that everyone is “on the same page” when it comes to storyboards created and localised by a reputable LSP can save time and money by preventing misunderstandings.