Response to Lambert’s “Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community” – Chapter 8

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the fifth post within a series of critiques on various readings that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

Book CoverDigital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community – Chapter 8: Storyboarding, by Joe Lambert

This chapter was quite short and full of relatively basic information, so instead of using the traditional prompts provided by our instructor, I’m just going to write about my key takeaways!

Lambert starts the chapter by explaining what a storyboard is:

“…a place to plan out a visual story in two dimensions.  The first dimension is time: what happens first, next, and last.  The second is interaction: how the audio – the voiceover narrative of your story and the music – interacts with the images or video.”

He then writes about storyboarding in the film world and how it’s a “high art” that brings life to the vision of a scene.  What’s wild to me is how much emphasis is put on the “art” of storyboarding in the film industry.  I don’t mean it’s wild in that I doubt its necessity, but wild that I have never given any thought to that aspect of film-making whatsoever!  I make storyboards at work all the time for the eLearnings I create and for my own project management sanity.  But I didn’t know there were such things as storyboard artists who must have in-depth knowledge of not only stage business and cinematography, but also knowledge with illustration and artistic design.

I agree with Lambert’s assessment on the importance of storyboarding.  Organization is key!  Storyboarding can save an enormous amount of time, energy, and money when it comes time for the work to be produced.  And as he stated, especially for novice storytellers, it helps clarify what is and isn’t needed and helps eliminate any unnecessary tasks like shooting, designing, or recording elements that don’t actually fit into the story.

But I feel that I am a part of a large percentage of designers (whether we design instructional materials or elements of a more artistic nature) who use a storyboard as more of a “loose” guide rather than an step-by-step visual account of how things will go.  Sometimes I can’t even get through a whole storyboard before I have to just start on a project and see where it takes me.  I work in Articulate Storyline at work and once I actually get into Storyline to begin building an eLearning module, it changes drastically from my storyboard because actually building it is different than laying it out in theory.

I’ve created a brief summary of Lambert’s suggestions for best practices for storyboarding using his example of six photographs and a short video clip shown below (click to enlarge image):

  • The ideal length for any still image to appear on a screen is three to four seconds.
    • If it’s too short, then it’s hard for the viewer to recognize what’s being shown.
    • If it’s too long, boredom sets in.
  • Each line of narration takes about six to ten seconds to speak so make sure you thoroughly consider your lines of narration and make sure they fit with the proper length of time that the image is on the screen.
    • If you feel the narration may be too long, ask yourself:
      • Can the script be cut down?
      • Can the image be utilized to fill in for the missing words?
      • If the text remains long, can more than one image illustrate the essential words?
      • Could you use some effects to extend the viewer’s interest in a single still image?
    • The best effect of all is to let images speak for themselves…and use words only to say the rest.


These are Lambert’s suggestions for physically making a storyboard:

Ways to Make a Storyboard

Side note:  I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again.  But for crying out loud, someone please get this author an EDITOR!  The grammar errors in this chapter drove me up a #$%*@#$ wall.  How is this book in its fourth edition and it still has so many errors in it?!