Tag Archives: semantics

You don’t know what the word “Storyboard” means, do you?

You just said “storyboard” to refer to something that isn’t a storyboard. I’m not sure if you said that because you heard someone else say it incorrectly at some point, but let’s clear the confusion up right away. I’m telling you because I care about you, and I want to save you future embarrassment.

Storyboards are a series of pictures used to pre-visualize a story. They’re commonly used in Hollywood movies, but also are used heavily in advertising, interactive media, and video games. They help by providing a common visual understanding between the director, director of photography, visual effect supervisor, producer and other key creative figures in a production.

Here is a storyboarded sequence from The Amazing Spider-Man:

Here’s what some Dreamworks storyboard artists look like when posing for a photo at work: (usually they look much more tired, and are drawing on lightboards, drafting tables, or something similar.

If you want to learn more about the visual art of storyboarding, you can read one of a large number of excellent books on the topic.

So just now, when you used “storyboard” incorrectly, here are some things that you may have meant:
  • brainstorm
  • script
  • mind map
  • treatment
  • notes
The fact that it has to do with a story does not make it a storyboard! Storyboards have pictures. They take time. They’re often drawn by professionals. They are used for specific purposes.
Would you use the word Gaffer to refer to the person who refills your water while you’re eating at a restaurant? No, because that wouldn’t make any sense. It also doesn’t make any sense when you call your written notes a storyboard.
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