four tips for successful storyboards

The storyboard is the blueprint for live action and animated videos. It’s important to create one that captures the essence of your video in tone and content, so your client can appreciate (and approve!) your vision, and your team can execute your ideas.

Here are four tips I’ve developed over the years for creating efficient and effective storyboards.

Tip 1 – Work fast

I don’t labor the on first few frames – I throw lots of images and ideas into my storyboard and clean it up later. This approach keeps me on my toes – creative and spontaneous. And I know I’ll spend 80% of my time tweaking the last 20% anyway, so there’s no need to get bogged down at the beginning. Working fast helps me keep the creative process moving.

Tip 2 – Don’t send it

Just when I think my storyboard is ready to send to the client…I don’t. Instead, I share it with colleagues, friends and family…other MK3 creative directors and often, my wife and kids. I usually get great input and discover new ways to look at things from the audience’s perspective.

Tip 3 – Send it with a “friend”

When I’m finally ready to deliver the boards to the client, I sometimes send it with a “plus one” – another creative element like a music track I’m considering, a voiceover audition I’m leaning towards, or an animation test I’m playing with. I don’t always have choices like these made in the storyboarding process, but when I do, they really help communicate the creative tone I’m looking for.

Tip 4 – Be ready for feedback

I used to “cling” to my storyboard ideas. Now I’ve learned to be more open to feedback, even if it means rethinking some of the creative. Client feedback means they’re invested in the content and care about the vision, so relevant actionable feedback helps ensure they’ll get the video they’re looking for. And that doesn’t mean you can’t surprise them. I always try to overdeliver with unique effects and enhancements – so the project springs from the storyboard but takes on a life of its own.

There are lots of ways to make a great storyboard, so whether you’re creating one or receiving one – hopefully these tips will provide a bit of insight on building the blueprint for a successful video.

 

John Lawrence

DE&I at MK3 Creative

Dear Client,

As our commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion continues to evolve, we want you to know that we’re determined to make the crews we hire, the talent we cast, and the voices we record as inclusive as possible. Ensuring that we are tapping into talent and vendors with a wide variety of perspectives is critical to delivering valuable work that’s representative of broader audiences.

DE&I has emerged as a growing concern in our marketplace. Whether it’s building a diverse organization or supporting minority-owned businesses, the work to respectfully engage diverse audiences is expanding. This is part of MK3’s goal of continuous improvement, awareness and education.

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact info@mk3creative.com.

 

Joel Kaplan

there’s no place like the office

After years of working at your kitchen table, on your couch or in your spare bedroom, many businesses are transitioning from remote working to hybrid and in-person office work. And as “scary” as that may sound, it could also be a great opportunity to rebrand, redefine and reinvent your office “ambience.” The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our perception of what our work environment can and should be – perhaps forever – so now is a great time to refresh your workplace, improve morale and help everyone adjust to the adjustment after the adjustment. 

Updating your office’s interior design is an easy place to start. Giving the place a literal and figurative “new coat of paint” can help welcome returning colleagues and employees. Breathe new life into your workspace by introducing greenery. Bringing in plants or refreshing the ones you have can be a great first step, and colorful succulents are a low maintenance way to brighten up the office. 

Energize your team by planning events like themed group lunches or office breaks and outings. Bringing people together at work for something other than work always boosts camaraderie, and nothing makes people happier than free food. Planning outdoor or out-of-office activities introduces new ways to reduce stress and learn more about each other in ways that work doesn’t always allow. 

Good work starts with a good work environment. It helps make everyone feel more comfortable and confident with themselves and each other. And while a bustling workplace reintroduces the distractions that go along with it (office chatter, ringing phones, hallway interruptions), when it comes to getting work done, nothing beats an energized and enthusiastic workforce.

 

Jackson Megar

displaying empathy and connecting with your teams

Being prepared and present has always been at the core of good leadership. As some of us return to the office while others continue to work from home, it’s important to not only be an organized manager but to ensure you make an emotional connection.

How do we switch gears to foster relationships equally across your entire team? The key is to leverage best practices of communication that work for in-person and remote teams simultaneously.

heard it all before

The biggest mistake you can make during a meeting is to multitask, assuming you know what people are going to say because you’ve “heard it all before.” Take the time to be present, don’t assume or judge. Showing genuine interest and participating will naturally connect you with the team and lead to productive discussions.

Tip: Don’t assume or judge – remember to be present and participate.

positivity

Never underestimate the power of positivity. It’s amazing to see how a “can do,” “we got this,” and “how can I help?” attitude motivates people and turns around a stressful situation. Positive energy is not only reflected in what you say but in your expressions, tone, and body language. Remember to smile and lean in towards your speaker – even if your conversation is over the phone. Just doing these physical acts will increase your positive energy. There’s nothing more disheartening than to see or “sense” our colleague’s disapproval or frown on video or at the other end of the line.

Tip: Remember to smile with open and friendly body language. 

get it right

Make sure you walk away with accurate information after a meeting. Not getting things right after people take the time to communicate wastes time and creates frustration. If needed, reach out to recap what you heard. It builds trust when people know that you care. 

Tip: Get the information right after a meeting. 

Following best practices for communicating with teams in the office or remotely helps build strong emotional connections. Always treat people with empathy and be respectful of the boundaries between work and life. Making yourself present and communicating without judgment will position you as a trusted leader on the team.

 

Mary Poluikis
Group Program Director

there is no “one size fits all”

It was second grade, and I was asked to stand up in front of my class and talk about a current event. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I couldn’t catch my breath, but my teacher kept smiling and saying, “You can do this, just be you.”

The nerves that come with “public speaking” can be crippling and hinder not only your career growth but how you communicate and build confidence. Everyone has something they are working on, but the key to moving forward is diving in and doing the work! Presenting is like a muscle in your body – whether it’s your first time or your 100th, the more you do it, the stronger it gets.

And it all starts with breathing…wait, what??? It sounds so simple but it’s the first thing to go when your mind and nerves take over. Stop and focus on your breath for 10 seconds, right before you go on stage, camera or Zoom. When you breathe it lowers your heart rate and centers you. It will also slow you down, so instead of rushing through your content to “get it over with,” you can take your time so that people can better absorb your content.

And speaking of content – ask yourself a few questions. Why do you care, why should your audience care, and what do you want them to do or feel after your presentation? This is a great way to put your content in context, because if it doesn’t feel like you care, neither will your audience and you’ll lose them quickly. Bring your personality to the presentation and think of it as an engaging conversation rather than a verbal dump. If it’s just about the content – save yourself some time and send the presentation deck!  But if you really want to move people, it’s about how you bring that content to life.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The only way to bring your content to life is to rehearse – A LOT! Out loud, in front of the mirror, to your pets, in the car and anywhere in between. The presenters you admire don’t just “wing it,” they rehearse it!  Know it backwards and forwards but don’t rely on memorization alone. When you rehearse, you add muscle memory to the mix, helping you learn it better, faster and do more than recite – you’ll be able to adapt and think on your feet.

I didn’t know all of these things when I was in 2nd grade, but when I heard “just be you,” I realized I didn’t have to worry about what other people did. Overcoming anxieties and improving how you present is a process, but it starts with simple things like passion, breathing, slowing down and bringing your best “you.” We’re all different, and when presenting, we should embrace our differences rather than thinking there’s only one way to do it. There’s no “one size fits all” – be remarkable and be remembered for being you!

 

Alexandria Hunter-Whalen

the art of feedback

Feedback is an important part of the creative process, and receiving “negative” notes from a client or co-worker can be discouraging. But just because the feedback feels bad doesn’t mean that you’re bad at what you do. As you navigate the workplace, it’s inevitable that you’ll receive feedback, so here are a few ways to help take it less personally.

Swap your shoes

When you receive negative comments or change requests on your creative work, take the emotional element out of it by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Instead of asking yourself “Why don’t they like it?” try asking yourself a different question, like “If my coworker or friend received these notes, what advice would I give them?” This shifts the focus from you to the work itself. Problem-solving mode is engaged and you’ll be able to take an objective look at the work rather than letting your confidence take a hit.

Plan a pause

When we are critiqued, it can threaten our ego or identity – it’s human nature to take it personally and have an immediate emotional response. Prepare yourself for creative feedback by building time into your process to pause and absorb the information. A walk outside or a trip to the kitchen for a cup of tea can give you the time you need to calm your mind and assess the notes more objectively. 

Look at the bigger picture

Before you let negative comments impact your self-worth, try to avoid looking in the rearview mirror and instead focus on the road ahead. Consider the opportunity you now have to practice your skills and make your work better, rather than dwelling on mistakes. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can I use this feedback to improve and grow?” 

Criticism is a double-edged sword. While feedback allows us to grow and understand when expectations aren’t met, it’s hard to stay creative and motivated when every critique eats away at your confidence. Hopefully these tips can ease the post-review panic and help you find the positive in the negative.

 

Alex Miller

what’s your story?

Hey you…!

Yes, you…the one reading this. Come closer. I’d like to let you in on a little secret.  Story Matters. And telling stories helps create memorable content and drive brand awareness. Okay…so maybe it’s not that big of a secret…but it’s worth repeating. “Story” has become one of the most important communication elements in business today. So much so, that the word “storytelling” for a creative director like myself has almost become an “eye roll” cliché. But just because something is cliché, doesn’t mean it’s not true. And now that grabbing and holding audience attention continues to be our fastest growing commodity, a good story is more important than ever. But what makes a good story? And what stories should we be telling? Let me tell you more about it.

Let’s start by outlining what a good story does. Stories help us understand people, places and processes. They help you connect with your audience. Makes sense, right? The hard part, or at least the part many people struggle with, is communicating this idea in a way that captivates and resonates. The world’s largest brands are successful because the audience identifies with their story. They understand what their audience needs from them – not what they need from their audience. In other words, they tell stories that stick. And doing this effectively starts with telling the right story.

According to Kindra Hall, author of Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business, telling stories is “one of the most powerful means we have to influence, teach and inspire. An organization’s stories, and the stories its leaders tell, help solidify relationships.”  And her book outlines 4 unique stories all businesses should be telling:

  • the Value Story, to convince customers they need what you provide;
  • the Founder Story, to persuade investors and customers your organization is worth the investment;
  • the Purpose Story, to align and inspire your employees and internal customers; and
  • the Customer Story, to allow those who use your product or service to share their authentic experiences with others.

So, if all businesses have these stories at their disposal, the question is – what separates a story worth remembering from the forgettable rest? 

It’s not just about telling an effective story, it’s about telling the right story in a way that captivates and creates value for our audience. In my experience, we often tell the right stories, but weigh them down with too much information, instead of organizing them around the 4 main components every story needs.

As outlined in her book, they are:

  1. Identifiable Characters
  2. Authentic Emotion
  3. A Significant Moment
  4. Specific Details

Now what good would this blog about storytelling be without actually telling a story?

“Once upon a time, a young man left his glasses on an airplane. He tried to buy new glasses, but found them very expensive. ‘Why is it so hard to buy stylish glasses without spending a fortune on them?’ he wondered. He returned to school and told his friends. ‘We should start a company that sells amazing glasses for prices that aren’t insane,’ said one. ‘We should make shopping for glasses fun,’ said the other. ‘We should distribute a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold,’ said a third. Eureka! Warby Parker was born.”

Now that’s a story. And it’s a Founder’s Story, #2 on Kindra Hall’s list of story types…not driven by information, but by her four story components: the company’s founding, what makes it unique and its mission.  In 100 words or less, Warby Parker paints a picture that’s both relatable and easy to understand.

As we know – all good stories come to an end, and fortunately, so do blogs. But what have we learned? That we all have stories to tell and we can all be great storytellers. And that if we identify who our audience is, understand what they are looking for, and follow a few easy-to-remember tips, we can tell the right stories.  Good stories that are effective,  differentiate our brands and captivate our audiences. “Stories that Stick.”

So…what’s your story?

 

Mark Di Tondo

finding inspiration

We all need inspiration to do good work. And when it’s your job to be creative or turn out creative work, you’ll need a good supply. For me, inspiration comes in two forms: passive and active. Passive inspiration is when you see a movie about hiking and you’re inspired to go on a hike. You weren’t looking for inspiration, but it found you and you acted on it. Active inspiration, on the other hand, is more of a learned skill. It’s how we combat the “blank page” syndrome when we have an assignment due, or find a new way of telling a story when we need to stand out from the crowd. If you google “inspiration,” you’ll find all kinds of top ten lists. You’ll see items like “yoga and meditation” make the list. I find them enjoyable but they don’t give me the kind of inspiration I’m looking for when I need to be creative on demand. So this is my personal list of ideas on finding inspiration that work for me, and perhaps you’ll find some are inspirational to you.

steal like an artist

There is a great book called “Steal like an Artist” in which author Austin Kleon presents the theory that all art is borrowed or stolen…but when stolen ideas are combined with other stolen ideas, something new is created. Pablo Picasso is widely considered the most unique, innovative and influential artist of the 20th century. Yet he found inspiration from so many sources that there is a book devoted to it called “Picasso’s Variations on the Masters.” I’m not endorsing plagiarism of any sort – but if you borrow themes and ideas from other art or media and apply them to your project, your inspiration can drive you to create something new. And once these ideas pass through your copy editor or animator’s hands, they will usually take on a unique shape of their own.

look at other media

Many great creators borrow from other forms of media. Musicians turn to art, writers turn to music and painters turn to current events for inspiration. When creating videos, I used to turn to other videos or films for inspiration. But more and more, I may refer to a colorful Matisse painting when communicating my vision of a set, or the music of Thelonious Monk when describing a rhythm to video editing. When you are stuck for inspiration, try looking beyond your chosen field or media.

change your routine

This one isn’t for everyone because some people thrive on routine. But have you ever been forced to drive a new route to work or take a different train? Do this on purpose and concentrate on being observant. You’ll see color in a mural on a brick wall or advertisements at bus stops that you haven’t seen before. How could some of these items find their way into your work? This has worked for me in the past – particularly if I’m paying attention during my revised routine.

ask others

I’m fortunate to have three seasoned creative directors to brainstorm with here at MK3. But sometimes we find ourselves thinking the same way or coming up with big ideas that might be missing something. I learn a lot when I share my projects with my wife or talk about them with my kids or a friend outside my industry. Sometimes people give you a new perspective, a lightbulb goes off and it becomes a fresh source of inspiration. 

write it down

Always try to be open and ready for inspiration to strike. For me, it used to happen when watching football on a Sunday. I’d see a great commercial, be inspired and forget about it later. Now I always keep a notebook handy to jot down the notes needed to find the commercial after the game. Inspiration can be found anywhere, though, so keep a notebook handy in your car or even when you go for a walk. And it doesn’t have to be as “old school” as a notebook – you can also use the “Notes” feature in your phone. The point is to write it down and create an inspiration “stash” that you can review when needed.   

I hope these ideas help you to get inspired, stay inspired and do great work.

 

John Lawrence

redefining productivity

Working with a team “gone virtual” can sometimes feel like you never leave work. When working from home, people have access to their “office” 24/7 which makes it tempting to send late night emails or feel obligated to respond to one. While this may seem convenient, the lack of separation between work and home hours can have some serious long-term effects on productivity. To avoid burnout, it’s important to step back and find ways to keep your team energized and productive.

set expectations

When your whole team is together on-site, desk drive-bys and set “office hours” make it easy to be aware of what others are working on and when people are available. At home, availability is seen as more “flexible,” which can make it feel like you always need to be ready to jump in. To avoid blurring the line between work and play, set boundaries for yourself and expectations for your team. Weekly meetings and recurring check-ins can help your team gain a better perspective on the group as a whole. When people have a better understanding of what everyone else is doing, communication is more efficient, reducing the need for frantic midnight emails and round-the-clock availability.

recharge with rest

Without the commute to bookend the workday, or the lure of leaving the office for lunch, it’s easy to forget to take a break while bulldozing through your to-do list. When you’re working in an office, there are natural breaks built into the day — stopping by a coworkers desk for a chat or spending a few minutes at the “water cooler” catching up — while at home it can feel like you’re drowning in an uninterrupted stream of work. Keep your head above water by consciously building breaks into your day. Taking just ten minutes in between video calls to stretch can make all the difference.

shift your focus

Though we’ve all been learning and adjusting over the past year and a half, many still feel they are living and working in an uncertain environment. Under conditions like these, setting large outcome goals can be daunting and leave people feeling overwhelmed…which can lead to…you guessed it — burn out!  It’s easy for a team to be discouraged when unforeseen problems wreak havoc on schedules and cause projects to pivot. Instead, try setting smaller weekly or monthly goals for your team as checkpoints throughout a project. These more bite size, cumulative accomplishments can help keep your team motivated and feeling successful, while still leading you to reaching your ultimate goals.

The structure of the workplace is continuing to change at a rapid pace, and looking forward, we predict many of these changes will remain in place. Some companies have given up office spaces entirely while others are implementing practices to get their team back to their communal workspace. Here at MK3, we’ve adopted a bit of a hybrid model, with the majority of our team working remotely while a few choose to come into the office. Regardless of where you feel most productive, we need to continue to adapt and work together, even while we’re often apart. 

 

Alex Miller