Storyboards are visual organizers, typically a series of illustrations displayed in sequence for the purpose of previsualizing a video, web-based training, or interactive media sequence. Sometimes they are also used to previsualize a web site or application, although typically in that case wireframes are used as part of an iterative design process.
The idea of storyboarding was developed at the Walt Disney Studio during the early 1930s. Disney credited animator Webb Smith with creating the idea of drawing scenes on separate sheets of paper and pinning them up on a bulletin board to tell a story in sequence, thus creating the first storyboard (Christopher Finch, The Art of Walt Disney, Abrams, 1973). The first complete storyboards were created for the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs (The Story of Walt Disney, Henry Holt, 1956). According to John Canemaker, in Paper Dreams: The Art and Artists of Disney Storyboards (1999, Hyperion Press), the first storyboards at Disney evolved from comic-book like "story sketches" created in the 1920s to illustrate concepts for animated cartoon short subjects such as Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie.
One of the first live action films to be completely storyboarded was Gone with the Wind. William Cameron Menzies. Storyboarding became popular in live-action film production during the early 1940s, and grew into a standard medium for previsualization of films: "We can see the last half century .... as the period in which production design was largely characterized by adoption of the storyboard", wrote curator Annette Michelson in a 1993 catalog for the Pace Gallery exhibit Drawing into Film: Director's Drawings, which featured storyboards of popular films.
A storyboard for video production is essentially a large comic of the film or some section of the film produced beforehand to help directors, cinematographers and television commercial advertising clients visualize the scenes and find potential problems before they occur. Often storyboards include arrows or instructions that indicate movement.
In creating a motion picture with any degree of fidelity to a script, a storyboard provides a visual layout of events as they are to be seen through the camera lens. And in the case of interactive media, it is the layout and sequence in which the user or viewer sees the content or information. In the storyboarding process, most technical details involved in crafting a film or interactive media project can be efficiently described either in picture, or in additional text.
Some live-action film directors, such as Joel and Ethan Coen, used storyboard extensively before taking the pitch to their funders, stating that it helps them get the figure they are looking for since they can show exactly where the money will be used. Alfred Hitchcock's films were strongly believed to have been extensively storyboarded to the finest detail by the majority of commentators over the years, although recent research indicates that this was exaggerated for publicity purposes. Other directors storyboard only certain scenes, or none at all. Animation directors are usually required to storyboard extensively, sometimes in place of doing a script.
More recently the term storyboard has been used in the fields of web development, software development and instructional design to present and describe, in written, interactive events as well as audio and motion, particularly on user interfaces and electronic pages.
One advantage of using storyboards is that it allows the designer to experiment with changes in the sequence before production begins. It can also be a useful way to get client buy-in for linear designs (typically using storybards for non-linear learning activities becomes too complicated to be useful to a client).
The disadvantage of using storyboarding for online learning is that they tend to limit the final product ends up being very linear. In addition, many affordances of online media cannot be easily be captured in the storyboard format. For example if the learning experience adjusts depending on the choices of the learner (typically database driven learning applications) it can be very difficult to display in storyboard format. It is also hard to capture online learning that has social interaction between learners and experts. For these reasons many instructional designers have shifted to using rapid prototyping as a visual representations instead of storyboards.