Concept Boards – How to Pre-Visualize Your Video

by Sonya Shannon on October 1, 2012

Here is a video excerpt from a talk I gave at the Colorado Professional Videographers Association (COPVA) on how to pre-visualize your video. This method involves making a “concept board” — a plan for your video — using easy-to-find images gathered from the web. The goal of this method is to create a rough “sketch” or preview of what will ultimately be your own original piece (made from footage, images, and music you shoot or create from scratch). This technique is great for people who can’t draw, need a storyboard or shooting plan for their project, or want a quick visual method for creating a script. If you plan to use pre-existing images, footage, or sounds in your final piece, you must pay a license fee and / or get legal written permission.

Notes About Working with Concept / Mood Boards

If you are working with clients, the mood or concept board may be best used by you and your team. Normally, clients may have trouble understanding a rough concept board — unless they know a lot about the process of making a film or video. Consider carefully before showing the client.

Copyright Concerns

Please note that it is a violation of copyright law to use other people’s images or recordings in your final work. You must obtained written permission and pay appropriate royalty fees to use other people’s photos, artwork, and music. Copyright law applies to any works you create for marketing your business or any products you create, such as a DVD for sale. The good news is that there are many royalty-free or affordable stock images on sites like Getty Images, iStockPhoto, Corbis Images, Shutterstock and others. The concept board or mood board method I describe is to generate inspiration and roughly suggest what you plan to do for your final video. If you use the concept board strictly for reference (as I did), and do not publish any of those images in your final piece, you will be fine in terms of copyright permissions.    Send article as PDF   



by Sonya Shannon on March 30, 2012

Creating a Web Banner

Share this image with someone special!

“PrairieOcean” by Sonya Shannon is now available as a greeting card and a wall poster.


Sometimes a piece of art grows out of a dialogue with a client. Rachel Prairie of PrairieOcean Bodywork communicated with me primarily through email. Sending rough drafts via the internet had two advantages: we could respond on our own schedules, and we could invite others to participate in the collaboration by giving feedback. Below is a journal of what transpired.

Day 1

Client (RP) and Artist (SS)

RPMy business name is:
Prairie Ocean Bodywork
~Inspired by the Well within~

Here is the picture of me that a friend took.

Rachel Prairie on Colorado's Front Range

SSIt is a great image!!
What do you think…if we keep it photoreal, but MORPH between the prairie and the ocean?

Reminds me of the very famous Andrew Wyeth painting “Christina’s World:

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth, 1948

RPDone well, that would be a work of art in and of itself! I would be very excited to see how you could do that.

Day 22

SSI am nearly finished your image. It might be finished, but I always like to show the client 😉 and sleep on it overnight. Here it is:

Prairie Ocean Bodywork - First Draft

RPYou know that face seen earlier this week, the awe-struck-gawk, well, it’s here again, and then some.

I LOVE IT! Captures that love from my childhood of watching the prairie waves! And, it merges well with the ocean waves. You really are an exceptional artist, thank you eternally for the love you have put forth here!

Later that day … Test Group Initial Responses

1This is beautiful!! I am captivated by it — can’t stop looking at it. The imagery of the ebb and flow of pairie and ocean is such a sensual capturing of the rhythms of our bodies, and I am moved by the prairie woman holding onto the one short, but growing tree (of life?). Also love the colors — so peaceful. I think of them as healthy human-tones (pale unblemished skin, bright clear eyes, pure natural hair colors – baby blond & gracefully gray).

2Breathtaking (breath-finding?) and transporting. I love it. It opens me out before I can register what I’m looking at.

3Looks fabulous! I like the way the ocean and the prairie are combined. The wave coming out of the prairie really pulls them together in a dynamic way.

4I like it but I can’t quite see the significance of the green leafed tree unless it means renewal. Is it a tree one would find on the prairies? The dry grassland blending into the ocean works well.

5That’s really cool! !!!!

6I REALLY love this pic. Bringing together all the elements of the plains the mountains and the sea in way that is evocative is unimaginably difficult to me, but you managed to do it well. my only comment is that the relationship between the character and the tree is a little confusing, but that may be due to the fact that I can’t see it at full resolution. It looks like she is holding onto the tree, but that is unclear. Im thinking that if she was standing next to the tree so that the entire trunk were visible and she was more casually caressing the tree about a foot scale distance away (as if she was affectionately running her hand down the upper arm of a lover while they were both watching a sunset), that it would be clearer. Great work. Thanks for sharing!

7I think this is beautiful as many of your comments have stated. The colors are beautiful, calming, like a pastel painting. The transition from the prairie to the ocean and the mountains are seamless. The only thing that seemed out of place to me was the tree or the tree and the woman. I also, do not get the relationship of the woman and the tree … it just sort of looks stuck on not part of the overall picture.
Beautiful job…

Reporting Back to the Client

SSI got opinions back from my test group. Everyone without exception loves the image, is carried away by the morph from prairie to ocean and it is WORKING. Here are two more variations – the tree with golden leaves like autumn:

PrairieOcean Version 2

… and repositioning your figure to show more of the trunk. Thoughts?

PrairieOcean Version 3

RPBefore receiving your latest message I was having questions of my own about the tree. Trees are a powerful symbol … I wondered if there was a specific tree that I wanted to have its medicine represented. How interesting that your test group had similar questions about my relationship to the tree. As I go through images of high desert trees, junipers and joshua trees seem the most abundant, of which, joshua trees I do actually have a relationship with. But … no one really gets that close and personal with them. I began wondering if maybe there was a different item all together that could be in my hands, like a long walking stick. Still a carrier of medicine, yet indicating that there is a journey ahead, possible to reach the mountain, or distant end of the sea. A walking stick might a a simple solution that still carries meaning for me. What do you think?

Later the same night …

SSOkay, thanks! I appreciate knowing more about the symbols that are meaningful to you … yet …I have tried (unsuccessfully!) to use a walking stick, a lone Aspen tree, a stand of trees instead of the lone tree … Whew!

Here is the latest:

PrairieOcean Version 6

Even later …

SSIf you just let go of where we started, and think about the experience you want to give clients when they come to your web site, what about something like this:

PrairieOcean Version 4

Logo is just rough – I did not spend any time yet on typography, and the field where I patched over woman / tree is not smoothed out yet, but it might just give you a sketch…

Day 30

RPMy first instinct is to not be attached to having my “image” on the banner. What you have presented here is striking. I like the openness of the spaces. That feels good to my eyes.

The Final Web Banner

RPAfter thinking it over, I love what the tree brings to the picture, contrast and a break in the vastness that solidifies the depth of the landscape.

SSHere is the final web banner illustration, ready for your site:

PrairieOcean Bodywork Final Web Banner

Please click the link to visit the final implementation of PrairieOcean Bodywork.


Find out how you can get a custom web banner illustration for your site.    Send article as PDF   

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CircleQuest Logo

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How often does a problem that defies a solution in waking life get resolved in a dream?

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Each person has three different minds that inform our creative work-in-progress and our self-image.

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This was my curator’s statement for the Fourth Annual New York Digital Salon in 1996. It was published in Leonardo (MIT Press).

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Trouble starting your website design? Here is a solution for finding a visual starting point—through your own signature!

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Sonya Shannon’s Letter to Vogue Magazine

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Heavy-handed retouching robs an actress of her very character, wit, and genuineness that make her the author’s favorite.

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For all the commotion about how digital photo retouching (“photoshopping”) deceives the eye and causes low self-esteem among women and teen girls, in fact it is only the last of countless “retouches” Western women apply to themselves.

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Pretty Little Villains: Character Design for ‘Evil Ballads’

by Sonya Shannon January 20, 2011
Sarah Townes ‘Evil Ballads’ CD

Designing characters—especially villainous characters—is one of the most fun challenges for an illustrator. Five "bad-girl" flower characters embellish a new CD by singer/songwriter Sarah Townes.

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