What is Storyboarding for 3D Animation?

Storyboards for 3D Animation Projects

Professional animation studios rely on a structured workflow known as the storyboard (or the animation production pipeline). A storyboard for 3D animation is carefully outlined and executed step-by-step. Storyboards are an essential tool for the early steps of outlining a 3D advertisement such as a commercial for a new product line or for showing the inner workings of a machine, product, or equipment.

The storyboard is typically divided into three main stages: 1.) pre-production, 2.) production, and 3.) post-production. In this article, our artists will cover all the fundamentals of 3D animation storyboarding and our own approach to this process.

Table of Contents

Here are the main topics we’ll be discussing in relation to the storyboarding process:

  1. What is a Storyboard in 3D Animation?
  2. Pre-Production
  3. Production
  4. Revision
  5. Conclusion

What is a Storyboard in 3D Animation?

After conceptualizing a great idea, crafting a story, and writing a script, the next step is creating the actual storyboard.

A storyboard is essentially a series of drawings based on the script, serving as a visual guide throughout the animation production process. A standard storyboard typically includes three main categories of information:

  • The sequence of scenes to tell the story
  • Visual and audio elements the viewer will experience
  • Technical details for each scene


Pre-production encompasses the following key steps: idea generation, story creation, scriptwriting, storyboarding, animatic development, and design.

Among these, storyboarding is a crucial part of the animation process where the script is transformed into visual sequences for further development. This initial visual representation of the script is essential and should never be overlooked in any animation studio.

Storyboards often incorporate early ideas about camera staging, transitions, visual effects, audio notes, and key character poses or events. This tool is invaluable for the entire team to understand the envisioned final 3D animation’s look and feel.


During the production stage, there are two primary approaches to creating storyboards for 3D animation:

  1. Writing a full script first
  2. Storyboarding directly from the idea or story

While some directors in the past started storyboarding without a script, this method is not advisable today, especially for 3D product animation due to its complexity and potential resource wastage.

However, smaller productions with limited resources might find it practical to skip the scriptwriting stage. The choice of approach depends on the project’s specific needs. Generally, for larger productions with extensive teams and multiple clients, writing a full script first is more effective.

Storyboards can range from simple sketches to detailed digital creations. The complexity of the storyboard depends on the project’s requirements. Some may use color palettes, while others may stick to greyscale. Typically, storyboards include panels, titles, and captions to convey camera moves, actions, dialogues, and staging.

At FUSE Animation, we use a 6-panel single-page template for most projects. Each panel includes scene and shot numbers, dialogues, actions, and staging details. Captions, arrows for camera movements, and color differentiation enhance the storyboard’s clarity.

Related: Guide to 3D Graphic Design


During the planning stage, resources are assessed, and a schedule and deadline are set. Storyboard artists then create the storyboards based on this plan.

Revision involves versioning storyboards to incorporate minor or major changes, with all versions kept for reference.

The primary goal of storyboarding is to visually convey the script/story as accurately as possible to the final 3D animation. It helps identify and address weak points in the story early on, making changes easier compared to later stages. This is where the revision stage comes in.

Related: Ditch Photography for 3D Rendering

Storyboarding for 3D Animation: Conclusion

Storyboarding is a powerful tool that bridges the gap between the script and the final 3D renders and animation.

It is a vital part of the pre-production stage, facilitating production, aligning the team, and preventing flaws. A well-crafted storyboard by a professional 3D animation studio is essential for knowledge sharing and ensuring a smooth production process.

Every storyboard should include the sequence of scenes, audio/visual elements, and technical details for each scene, helping to create a cohesive and efficient animation production pipeline.

Contact FUSE to explore the possibilities for your 3D animation and commercial projects!