This is one of those things that a lot of people know happen for movies, but maybe they aren't sure what the deal exactly is. It makes for cool art to be bound into expensive “behind the scenes” books to sell to collectors later, but what else?
It's definitely important. It takes time, but it's worth it.
So you've gone through the script, and it's yielded a lot of good general information. But you need specifics. Again, it's all about pre-planning. Why waste hours trying to visualize a scene on set while you're shooting it? Figure that out ahead of time. And if you're not the camera guy, they will need a visual reference to help them see what you envision. Really, YOU need it too, to help remind you as you're shooting.
So you storyboard. Basically, a series of thumbnail sketches that lays out the visual progression of the film, kind of like a comic book. You can get as detailed or as general as you want. As long as you are giving yourself a clear vision of what you want the film to look like, that can be used as a reference when your setting up your shots.
Generally, most storyboard templates will allow a little space for description of the basics too: lighting, sound, actor movement, camera movement, etc.
Not only will this be essential later, but it is GREAT for helping you pre-determine specifics about the scene. What kind of lighting do you want for a scene? That will tell you what lighting you need to acquire and the shooting schedule will tell you when you need it. Any fancy camera movements? That will tell you if you need a special rig, or dolly, or jib, or what have you.
And, when you're done, you'll have a good technical vision of the film in your head. This means you will go into each scene knowing how it needs to look, and some general idea of what you need to have or build to accomplish it. That's the most helpful thing I've found about storyboarding. It REALLY makes me stop and think about shots. Rather than vaguely having an idea of what I want it to look like, I can plan shot progressions and visually tell the story exactly the way I want it to go.
There's a difference between theory and practice. That's why Kevin and I are planning on going one step further.
It takes a long time to translate a scene from storyboard to reality. It takes a long time to set that up. ESPECIALLY on a film like this. We want almost every shot to be like a beautiful portrait. So our plan is to go through the scenes before we even shoot, and set them up to test as much as we can. That way, we'll have a great shorthand for when it comes time to set up for the shoot itself. Where to place the lights, where the camera should go, generally where the actors will play out the scene, etc.
Cool! But what else?