How to Storyboard a Music Video (+ Free Music Video Storyboard Template)
A music video storyboard is a detailed breakdown of your music video, containing the sequence of shots to film in chronological order. In this guide, we cover exactly how to create a storyboard for your video plus include a free music video planning template example. We’ll also cover why you should create one; and, additionally, we provide a detailed breakdown of a popular music video.
How to storyboard a music video? Knowing how to make a music video is one of the most important aspects when it comes to being successful as an artist. Understanding how to make a plan for a video is tough, but we have some tips to help you find out the best ways to make a music video.
Storyboard for music video: If you don’t know how to utilise a storyboard for your music videos, you’re going to struggle to make one that flows. Below are some of the best ideas for how you can create great videos.
How to make a music video as a singer
Music videos – making a music video: After you have recorded your music professionally, and your fan base is building nicely, the next logical step would be to make a music video to accompany the strongest song you have.
However, make sure the timing is right and ask yourself what you want to achieve by doing the music video.
Once agreed it’s the next logical step chose the song you want to use, there are some things you need to decide on first before putting the wheels in motion:
- Know your song inside out! What emotions and feelings does the song bring out when you listen to it? Is there a story in the lyrics that would play out well in the music video? Is the song upbeat, or a slow ballad? Once you have established these facts, you can brainstorm ideas for the narrative of the music video.
- What is your budget? If your budget is tight, going for a lavish, over the top music video is doomed to fail when you can’t afford to carry on production. You need to be realistic. Some of the most well-known songs had music videos created for next to nothing.
- Once you have settled on a budget and narrative, figure out ways to create the music video in accordance with your budget. If you know people who study costume design, for example, ask them if they want to get involved.
- People who know that their work will get noticed by the public for being in your music video are more than likely to be happy to help out! Doing things this way will save you money hiring individuals for each area of the video production. Budgets can easily get out of hand and equipment is expensive so have your budget and keep to it.
- Create a mood board, decide on filming locations. Will it be indoors or outdoors or a mixture? Will it all be in one place or at multiple locations? Be creative! It doesn’t necessarily need to be the area you have in mind.
- More practical locations may look similar or with a few props be just as good. It needs to be an accessible location and one you can access without having any issues. For example, trying to film in a busy high street or inside a supermarket, some of the best videos are the best location ideas.
Filming music videos – how to make music videos
Once you have the idea for your music video and know your budget and where filming will take place, it’s time to create a storyboard for the video so everybody is clear to regarding your ideas and what you want to achieve.
- Storyboards are essentially what a comic book is. Each segment will form a different part of the music video. The storyboard can either following the structure of the song, or is can be based on the narrative you have chosen. We’ll go into much more detail on storyboards later on in the article.
- Once you know what you want to happen and where, you need to listen to the song and decide how to transition between each segment. You are the judge on if what’s happening visually links to what is happening musically. For example, if it were a slow section, having a car chase would not match the audio.
- Pick the crew to film the video. It is beneficial you have people who know what they are doing and have access to good quality equipment. However, of course, the budget will dictate so that’s the compromise. As much as it would save you money having a mate film it on his handheld video camera, it maybe won’t give a professional quality video.
- The people you pick should ideally have experience filming the kind of video you are after. That way, not only will they have the know how to get the best video possible technically, but they may also pitch in ideas to add to the video to help make it even better. Audition any actors you want to use so that you get the best people for the roles you need.
- As long as each section has been detailed in your music video planning template, then filming the video shouldn’t pose any problems. Cue the music so the actors can lip sync in time with the song and so can any musicians in the video. There’s no point in having the guitarist look like he is playing a solo if it’s the middle of a verse.
- Try shooting from different angles in different takes and then mixing it up when it comes to editing. Only use the best takes you have, even the smallest flaw will look unprofessional. Once everything is edited together, and you put the music track over the video, it will be complete!
If you’re wondering how to find extras for your music videos, check out this article here:
How to make a storyboard for a music video
Before you apply any of the above points, once as soon as you have decided on a concept for your music video, a music video storyboard should be the next thing on your list.
It is typically comprised of a sketch of each shot, a rough estimate of its duration, and notes on what is happening.
FREE music video storyboard template
If you’re looking for a great music video storyboard template then please download our free template and follow the steps below to make the most of your storyboard (you can also find more music video storyboard examples with a quick Google search).
#1 Decide on the pace and mood of your video
Music videos for fast-paced songs commonly have rapid frame changes and a fast-moving camera. Music videos for a slower pace song often have fewer frame changes and a slower moving camera.
The best way to establish the right pace is to analyse the tempo of your song. If it’s a ballad, then you’ll probably want a slower pace – if it’s pop, a music video with higher energy may work better. Decide on the pace of your video as early as possible to keep the style consistent.
#2 Define a clear music video concept
Before you begin planning the shots in your music video, it is essential that you are clear on the story you want to tell. Write a brief summary before starting your storyboard.
This doesn’t need to be longer than a paragraph or two, simply explaining the sequence of events.
Make sure you cover the following information:
- The beginning, the middle, and the ending of your story
- What the pace of the video should be
- The video’s mood (e.g. nostalgic, yearning, dreamy, hopeful)
#3 Learn from existing music videos to decide what shots you need
Even if you have some filming experience, creating a storyboard from scratch is hard work and can be paralysing, especially when you’re not sure about the stylistic techniques you need.
Before picking up a pencil to sketch out your storyboard, research existing music videos by artists that have a similar music style.
Watch the first 20 seconds of a selected music video, and break this section down into a sequence of shots. Reflect on how the use of location and type of shots used impact the mood and pace of the video.
Famous music video storyboard — Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl
Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl, an upbeat folk song whose accompanying video combines a live performance with a romantic night out in Galway, Ireland. A simple concept, but with over 435 million views on YouTube, it encapsulates the heart of the song with its sequence of shots.
It starts with a slow pan and the faint sound of screaming crowds.
As soon as Sheeran starts singing, the camera switches to the crowd of fans.
At 4 seconds, we have a shot of Sheeran waving an Irish flag, followed by a shot of him taking a picture of the crowd. These two symbols (the flag and the picture) help punctuate his song with the main theme – a nostalgic look back at his experience in Galway, Ireland.
The camera swoops over [and seemingly through] his head and suddenly we see the world through his eyes. As a viewer, we‘re intrigued not only because it’s a unique way of filming, but also because we are – quite literally – pulled into his subjective experience.
A shot of him walking through the backstage corridor rapidly accelerates (achieved through editing) adding more to the excitement.
This continues until he ends up at the bar where the pace slows down — as he meets his love interest. Before their eyes have met, we know immediately who it is — as she is physically elevated over the cluster of people.
20 seconds: we see Sheeran’s hands write the words “Welcome to Galway” on a post-it note.
Notice how he manages to put his finger on the pulse of the song’s meaning within just the first few seconds.
The simple act of filming himself taking a photo or scribbling on a post-it note not only creates a nostalgic feeling, but it also briefly interrupts the dynamic pace and allows for moments of reflection.
It’s also worth noting that each frame lasts, on average, 2 seconds, so consider this when devising your own shot sequence.
If you’re making a cover of Galway Girl (or any other cover) and you want it to stand out, check out this article here:
#4 Make the first 5 seconds of your music video count
Focus on the first few seconds and make them as gripping as possible. You can’t expect your viewers to stick around for long if you don’t capture their attention early on.
Think of a compelling and unexpected way to launch into your music video.
Galway Girl starts with no music at all. In this case, the silence captivates with suspense which pulls the viewer in.
#5 Create tension and suspense
A guiding rule, to keep in mind, is that you want every shot to have a level of tension — instead of giving everything away at once, aim to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen next.
Now imagine if, instead, you begin the clip with a long shot of a crowded street with the faint sound of guitar strumming, coming from a blurry figure in the background. As the camera meanders through the crowd, we see a young woman standing still, watching the blurry figure in awe.
She moves towards him and the camera follows her, until she is right in front of the young man performing, who is now in full focus.
By creating this perspective and not immediately revealing where the music is coming from, you have successfully created tension and suspense – and therefore, retention of your viewer.
How to make a storyboard for a video
#6 Sketch each shot of the music video
Once you have decided the shots you want to use, start sketching these on your storyboard.
The purpose of a storyboard is only to give you and your film crew an idea of what each shot entails, and it does not require you to have any high-level drawing skills, to save time use stick figures to compose the sketch and carrot noses that point in the desired direction! For displaying movement, use arrows.
If, using the tricks above, you find sketching too difficult, try cutting out pictures from magazines, or using storyboard software like Storyboarder or Studiobinder.
What should be included in a storyboard?
#7 Be as specific as you can in your notes
While the sketch will give the cameraperson an idea your desired shots, it’s equally important to use the notes section to fill in any gaps and bring more context to each shot, as well as a rough estimate of the duration.
Try to include specific guidelines on how you envision the shot being filmed. Instructions like “the camera pulls into a close-up of her face”, or “slow pan over landscape” will tremendously help your videographer and ensure that you get the exact shot that you want.
If you’re not sure about the technicalities, try to describe the mood or feeling you want this shot to capture. The more detail you can give, the better,
What kind of camera is used to shoot music videos?
High budget: One of the most popular cameras to shoot music videos with is the Canon EOS 5D DSLR Camera.
The best camera for shooting music videos is one that’s powerful and versatile. The Canon EOS 5D fits that description because of its 7.0 FPS and full-frame CMOS sensor.
Low budget: If you’re just starting out, the best thing to do, hands down, is to just use your phone’s camera.
In 2019, most smartphones have brilliant built-in cameras. If you’re filming your first music video, there is no stress when it comes to maintaining any previous production value.
The camera on your phone will absolutely do the job, and as long as you can edit the footage well, you can get a brilliant looking music video.
What program use should I use to make a storyboard?
How to storyboard a music video: If you prefer making your plans on computers, rather than using Storyboarder, Studiobinder, or our free basic template, a great program to use is Final Cut Pro X.
Final Cut Pro X contains a collection of generators: ‘generated’ content that you can use in your projects. These include colour solids, shapes, animated backgrounds, and one called Placeholder which can be surprisingly versatile and powerful.
The Placeholder generator is essentially a mini-storyboard generator. It displays greyscale images of people and locations. In the Generator Inspector, you can quickly select how many people and what gender.
You can also decide the framing of those people (long, medium long, medium or close up); one of 14 environments the people are in (e.g., suburban, rural, downtown, beach); the state of the sky; and whether the people are inside or outside.
You can even enable notes to appear on the bottom of the screen. One way to use the generator is as a placeholder for a missing shot; thus the name. But you can also use it to pre-visualise an entire scene, or even a complete story.
It’s a great tool for getting the feel for the flow of the scene, and to communicate to a director, camera operator, actors, and others what you want to see in each shot. Getting the cast and crew on the same page before the shoot can save a great deal of time, money, and frustration.
Further placeholder techniques
You can animate the placeholder images by applying the Ken Burns effect to move zoom in or out or move across the frame of a shot, simulating a camera move. And by combining the Placeholder generator with Ripple Callouts, you can make them even more useful.
Callouts include arrows, circles, magnifiers, and other visual annotation tools that perfectly complement a storyboard. For example, you can quickly add arrows to indicate camera movement.
While your gut instinct may be to just go out and film rather than sit and invest your time in sketching scenes, your music video storyboard will serve as a time saver in the long run.
You’ll have a clearly laid out plan for yourself and your film crew on the day of filming, and won‘t have to face the frustrating situation of having to re-take any shots you had forgotten to make.
Have you ever shot a music video? How did you storyboard your music video? Did you use a downloadable music video planning template or use an example you found online? Or do you have another technique instead of using a storyboard plan and template? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.