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Concept Boards – How to Pre-Visualize Your Video

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 If you use the concept board strictly for reference (as I did), and do not publish any of those images in your final piece, you will be fine in terms of copyright permissions.

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  • Sarah October 13, 2014, 11:33 pm

    Great visual idea for the early stages of filming projects. Thanks a lot – really appreciated the presentation.

  • Sonya Shannon October 16, 2012, 8:45 pm

    Thank you Kristina!

    Yes, it is possible — and in some cases advisable — to make a video from a mixture of still images and video clips together. The Ken Burns Effect is a well-known technique for adding drama and intensity to narrated still images. You have probably seen Ken Burns’ historical pieces about the Civil War, Brooklyn Bridge, etc. on PBS.

    Another idea is to work with animated text and special effects using software such as Final Cut Studio’s Motion or similar tools. This is the “flying logos” technique, which took off in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The most important thing to consider in translating words and still images to video is: What motivates the movement? If the goal is simply to get viewer attention, then simple movements like flashing on and off can attract notice, similar to billboards in Times Square or neon lights in Las Vegas. If the intention is to deliver a deeper message, the movement should dramatize the meaning. For example, zooming in on an object of interest makes it larger in the screen and therefore closer to the viewer. This closeness creates intimacy and importance in the viewer’s mind. Or animating the word “breathe” by gradually expanding the space between the letters increases the meaning of the word.

    Animating stills, text, effects, and video is called “motion graphics” — an art form which interpolates graphic design and cinematic language. Movie titles can be a form of motion graphics; so can web banners. When motion graphics are used to communicate a longer idea, style and choreography become important. What I mean by this point comes from my training in classical animation, which often begins with music. In music, there often exists a theme and variations that build in intensity or complexity over time, forming a metapattern. I find the metapattern approach to be helpful in structuring complex motion graphics that convey a message in a video such as you describe.

    I hope this is helpful!

  • Kristina October 8, 2012, 12:45 am

    I can’t stop watching this video / presentation! Your clear instruction and explanation are so motivating to those of us sitting on the edge of creativity. Pre-visualizing the final product through concept boards is so helpful and gives me some much needed confidence. I am truly inspired to attempt making a brief video to promote a professional development program that I conduct. Do you think it is possible or advisable to make a video from a mixture of still images and video clips together? Thanks so much for your ever-enlightening and educational ideas!

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