What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards.

      12 Comments on What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards.

That’s not a question.

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with your storyboards.

Not as much as you think.

So to help out, I’m going to tell you what the wrong stuff is. The mistakes you might be making that I would make you fix, without argument. Because they’re wrong.

Here we go:


I could write a whole post on this. And I probably will (I sense a series coming on).

You have to know what the 180 (or action) axis is and why it’s wrong to cross it.

A proper definition is: “An imaginary line drawn through the center of an action. A sequence of scenes can only be shot on one side of the line; otherwise the audience’s point of view will be disorientated.” (Thank you Shamus Culhane).

I’ve seen live-action movies sometimes get away with crossing the line and switching screen direction. I still think it’s wrong, but sometimes it works (or slips by us). They usually use some ‘artistic’ excuse for doing it. Which means they probably screwed up the shot and used it anyway hoping no one will notice. I think live-action is more forgiving for this.

But in animation, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. It looks wrong, it feels wrong, it is wrong. You must learn this principal so you can avoid doing it. Next post.


Ever see a film where the guy is holding a full drinking glass, then in the next scene the glass is almost empty? That is bad continuity.

Again, for live-action films it is very often forgivable or overlooked. I could show you a bunch of examples where I hadn’t even noticed until it was pointed out to me. That means I was concentrating on the story instead. That is a good thing. It was shot that way, so the editor had no choice and it was put in the film. It was wrong, but in live-action situations, sometimes it can’t be helped.

In animation, it can be helped.

This is the storyboard artist’s job. You must make sure continuity mistakes don’t happen. You do this with the hook-up pose. Which is visual continuity between the cutting of two scenes involving the same character.

Short version is, if the guy was scratching his head in the long shot, when you cut to the close-up, he should still be scratching his head in the hook-up pose (the first pose). Then he can lower his hand. I will devote a whole post to hook-ups too.


This can be a gray area. Is a bad cut, a wrong cut? Yes, sometimes it is.

I’d say the closer in similarity two shots (cutting to each other) are, the more chance you have of it being a bad cut that must be changed. If it creates a ‘not for dramatic effect’ jump cut, it’s wrong.

Say you have a wide shot of three people and you cut to the next shot of the same three people and that shot is just a little closer, you probably have a jump cut on your hands. Change it.

Again, a post (with samples) on the horizon, addressing the jump cut and bad cutting.


If you numbered the scenes wrong. Wrote ineffective action notes. Have lots of spelling mistakes. Put the wrong name on some dialogue. All that kind of stuff.

Those are mistakes that should be fixed. That’s the easy stuff.

More information on proper labeling of a traditional storyboard in the future as well.

That’s pretty much it.

Those are the main areas where I would tell you, “That’s wrong and it must be fixed.”

Learn to do all that right and nothing will be wrong with your storyboards. But before you start giving yourself high-fives, there’s much more to that statement than meets the eye. Yes, when storyboarding, there are relatively few things that can actually be called wrong.

But can your storyboards still suck?

Yes. Yes, they can.

Because all the rest of it is choice.

Shot choice. Camera choice. Acting choice. Posing choice. Timing choice.

And you just might be making some crappy choices my friends.

Choice is harder.

Choice has many, many possibilities. If it’s not wrong then how do you know if you’re making the right choices?

That’s the tricky part, ain’t it?

Yes, there’s definitely a series ahead. πŸ˜‰

UPDATE: Here are the posts of this series.

1. How to Not ‘Cross the Line’

2. The Art of the ‘Hook-Up’

3. Are Your Cuts Making the Cut?

3. Back to School Wisdom and a Few Labeling Tips

Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email to see the rest of this long-ass series.

12 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Your Storyboards.

  1. Friar


    …bad Continuity…it can be helped”

    Sorry to laugh, I”m just thinking about Rocket Robin Hood.

    Obviously, this principle did NOT apply to the creators of that show. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    The only reason they got away with it was that it was the late 60’s and by default that was the best Canadian cartoon on TV.

    (You know..they still show it on the Cartoon network about 8:30 and 10:30 PM). Worth checking out, for those of you who didn’t grow up with the show.

    Rocket Robin Hood should be a MANDATORY viewing for all animation students. ..To demonstrate what NOT to do.

  2. Lorin

    Great post. I agree with pretty much everything you mention specifically from a live-action stand-point. If it’s the intent of the story and filmmaker (and there are only a few who can successfully pull this off, in this viewer’s opinion) to manipulate the audience by tossing out the established rules of visual storytelling, then cool. One more tool at your disposal.

    On the other hand, I have also seen many-a-flick where everything was put together by someone having a seizure (ie: any given Rob Cohen film…just my opinion). Fortunately, most cartoons are aware of this; I assume because the format is less forgiving of such obvious disregard to the guidelines. That and you have to draw everything.

  3. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Friar

    Yes, I think in the day of ‘re-use everything we possibly can’ TV animation, continuity flew right out the window. It was all about cost and they did the best they could to get the thing done. Or they were just lazy asses. πŸ˜‰

    Modern painting techniques and Flash have helped. It’s a crap load of work doing things all hand-drawn.

    I always remember the Friar (ha!) eating about 100 chicken legs and the pile never went down. It bugged me as a kid. I’ll be reading that post…haven’t seen that one! πŸ™‚

    @ Lorin

    The live-action directors who do it well and on purpose probably *knew* the rules well before ‘breaking’ them. That’s the difference. If you just never bother to learn them and do it in the name of ‘art’, well…give me a break.

    LEARN the rules before throwing them away, folks.

    And yes, it doesn’t fly in animation *because* every single shot is planned out and ‘edited’ before the animation is done. So there should be no mistakes like that. Follow the rules because you can. Don’t lose your audience.

    And the ‘artsy’ breaking of those rules *rarely* work well in an animated piece. My opinion. πŸ™‚


  4. Boots

    Um… Karen? When did TV animation NOT become all about cost?

    This is an important post. I hope all future board artists pay close attention to your follow-up series. (See: now you have to do it.)

  5. Friar


    It wasn’t just chicken legs.

    The rotation of Friar-Food included (not necessarily in this order) sausage, grapes, apple, chicken leg…sausage, grapes, apple, chicken…

  6. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Boots

    Yes, of course. *slaps herself in face*
    How silly of me. TV animation is ALWAYS about costs. Yesterday, today and forever more. πŸ˜‰

    But I think you know what I meant. If you guys had to hand paint KvK, you’d be skimping WAY more than you had to now, don’t ya think?

    Mind you, that high expectation of ‘quality vs cost’ has gotten a little out of hand because of computers. It’s still a crap load of work people!

    (And yes, I will be doing the follow up. Thanks! πŸ™‚ )

    @ Friar

    Yes, of course. *slaps other side of face*

    I realized the additional cuisine after I read your post. The grapes! How could I have forgotten the grapes??

    That overlay and animation paid for itself over and over and over… πŸ™‚

  7. Dan S

    Hey Karen,

    Guess i’ve been missing for your last post, i took a little vacation myself to Disney world and universal studios in Florida for a week so….
    haha sorry not to brag, it was a good time though.

    About your post, i remember you talking about all that back in class, i try and keep that all i mind when i do my own boards ( for fun in most cases) and i even have your little ” karen’s super, oh-so-detailed storyboard reference sheets” posted up on the side of my desk πŸ™‚

    About your last post, totally agree with the points there, and its funny since i hear that song at least once a day on the radio while i work, and its fairly catchy to say the least, i think if you have a solid story and it can relate to people in some sense, with well developed characters and somehow manage to combine well with good timing you have yourself a blockbuster right there.

    Laughs rocket robin hood….check out the old sonic the hedgehog show too ( not so much for these points but for just being silly)

    looking forward to your next post!

  8. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey Dan,

    Glad to hear you took a fun vacation…hmm…but I thought you didn’t *like* taking vacations…. πŸ˜‰ See how good they are? Keep ’em up!

    Will probably be updating those reference sheets in the near future. Still like that title though. Might have to keep it. πŸ™‚

  9. Pingback: Film Directing Tips » Blog Archive » What’s wrong with your storyboards? Karen Lloyd gives you tips on how to improve your storyboards

  10. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Thank you Lisa! Glad to have you and glad you found me. And hey, you’re in Vancouver! Your work has a really nice style.

    If you ever have any questions, just let me know.

    I’ll look forward to your return. πŸ™‚


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