Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Storyboarding whaaaat?

Our last item for Harris Burdick: storyboarding! This is best used in conjunction with a Reading Cinema unit from John Golden's Reading in the Dark (Get it. Use it. Love it.).

You could get the most out of this if you've already talked to students about film terms like camera angles, camera movements, lighting, etc. Even if your class hasn't covered those yet (or don't intend to) you can still use basic terms students already know based on their casual film-watching (close-up, soundtrack, low lighting, zoom in/out).

OK, so here's the idea. Somewhere in your standards, you need to have students dissect visual media for mood/tone/conflict/theme, right? So, take it one step further and have them put it back together again! Here's the basic setup for a storyboard:

...and repeat! The box includes a rough sketch of the scene. Above the box, identify which shot it is - is it the beginning of the movie, shot #1, or is it towards the middle and #23? Sound includes any sounds of the scene like traffic, people talking, etc. or the soundtrack. Encourage students to describe the soundtrack - is it low, quiet, tense strings or is it loud, exciting rock music? The lighting - is it a natural, sunny day or dark, low candlelight? Camera movement - does the camera zoom in/out or sweep over the landscape? It may remain still, too. That's okay. All of those different items are going to contribute to the mood/tone/conflict/theme. It's difficult to express a sinister mood with bright, natural sunshine. Students have probably seen many films - tell them to follow their instincts!

You have a blank storyboard, ready to go. Choose one of the Harris Burdick pictures


and inform students that this is the illustration of one of their storyboards.
Model how to complete the storyboard by completing this together as a class. Ask students to (roughly) copy the picture into a box (give them a nice big box to work with), reminding them that you aren't expecting Leonardo da Vinci here. Once they complete that, flesh out the scene a little more. Start first with sounds of the scene (water lapping pier, roar of engines, etc.) and then invite students to come up with a soundtrack. Move on to lighting - Dark and shadowy? Bright and open? Where/what is the light source? Is it clear light, yellow, red, blue? What about camera movement? Do they want the camera to zoom in/out from here, scan the landscape or remain still?

Once you have satisfactorily completed the first installment of the storyboard, set them free to now take the next step. Tell them to number the scene you just did as a class, but they can all have different numbers. If Susie wants this scene to start her movie, she would assign it #1. If Chris thinks this occurs towards the middle, he might number it #23. Now they get to create a new storyboard. They can choose the scene just before or after and number it appropriately. (Susie's would be #2; Chris's might do #22 or #24) Give them about 15-20 minutes to create, and then share!

From here, see if you can get students into groups and blend or combine their practice storyboards into about 5-10 scenes for a short film.

As a closing activity, ask them to look at their storyboards and briefly explain how they think the sound/lighting/movement create a mood/tone/conflict/theme, challenging them to draw out those abstract ideas from the media.

Extra Credit: Here's an explanatory video about storyboarding. It's a bit long, so perhaps you could just show a portion. And if you want a little bit more background for your teaching purposes, check the Wikipedia page on Storyboards.

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