P.W. Creighton

It's The Unanswered Questions That Haunt Us...

Storyboarding Timelines

In any visual composition it's necessary to have a plan of action, a concept that needs to be visualized. Taking that concept to a realized piece requires that certain elements are available for production and the primary means are creating a timeline and storyboards.

It's not possible to produce the conceptualized piece if the material, the shots that are needed to realize the piece are not available.

Recently, I was reviewing my series outline that I had conjured making notes as time passed and I found that the series while conceptualized was missing a number of elements. It was apparent that with three separate timelines and the initial story in the background to contend with, it was fast becoming unmanageable. The outline just didn't fill in the blanks that I was looking for to make sure it was cohesive and not a random series of events. The outline just wasn't working.

Taking the issue out of the strictly literary realm and applying the cinematographers law- 'Storyboard It' the creative issues evaporated.

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The visual approach to storyboarding begins with understanding the full purpose of the storyboards, the intent, who will see them and how detailed they will need to be for those purposes. What many don't realize is how relatively easy it is to create storyboards especially for narrative. These are not going to be an amazing artwork but can be as rudimentary as stick figures so long as the notes are detailed and there is a rough sketch of a scene. The primary difference between using storyboards for cinematography and using the boards for a written narrative is strictly the tools used to create the piece.

After the purpose of the storyboards is established the key scenes are selected. Any composition, any story is a culmination of specific scenes. The largest benefit of creating these boards is the ability to manipulate them physically. It becomes strikingly apparent when the storyboards are actually tacked up on the wall what scenes work, how the pacing and narrative flow work in the composition. It also becomes apparent how the actual timeline will flow.

The timeline in my case, was actually creating the separate timelines stacked in a simple excel sheet. The stories become abundantly clear with dividing points clearly denoted for a series. After the initial timeline was stretched out, the storyboards for the entirety were orchestrated filling in all of the 'missing pieces' that were sadly lacking from the overstuffed outlines.

The composition timeline behaves much like any historic timeline, there are significant events that effect the narrative either directly or indirectly and these are recorded. It's designed to give perspective on the piece.

A narrative composition is an assemblage of elements and often keeping those elements in a cohesive order can become quite unwieldy especially if there are multiple narratives that are layered together for a series. Many techniques can be utilized to organize the concept but creating a timeline with detailed storyboards is easily one of the most efficient means.

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