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Storyboarding for Virtual Reality Training

September 10, 2020

Many training units are turning towards VR training to achieve better learning effect and optimize expenses in their business units.

What most „immersive“ or Extended Reality training managers are struggling with (including us) is the lack of best practises how to do storyboarding for extended reality learning formats.

What’s storyboarding?

Storyboarding is the „design“ phase where training content creators mix didactic know-how with knowledge and 3D data to produce a „plan“ document, a „blueprint“ referred to as the „storyboard“ that allows the VR/AR creation experts and developers to actually build the immersive training.

Why is storyboarding a must for VR training creation?

Planning ahead allows to increase the quality of an outcome without creating time & resource losses.

Poorly storyboarded and thought through VR training projects cost a multiple of the planned budget and never finish in time.

This can easily mean 3x the expense and time consumption as optimistically planned.

If you haven’t found your own methods already you should make use of the XR Storyboarding Canvas for Training: It’s free, it’s industry proven and it has been optimized in tons of XR training projects.

How to storyboard

We’ve researched, analyzed and compared different ways how to storyboard VR training creation and will show you WHAT worked for us and WHY.

The perfect storyboard is

  • Easy to create
  • Easy to work with
  • Has maximum instructive value for creation/development
  • Derives its form from the function and resources at hand
  • Flexible across different projects and use cases

Storyboard 1: The Disney

Default-aligned image Walt Disney in the making of Pinocchio | © Disney Family Museum

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The original storyboarding process became famous when Walt Disney introduced it as the best practise for internal publications inside his young organization. For the art of creating animated movies, working with highly visual hand sketch animations and short descriptions of the scenes meant gaining a good overview of the overall gestalt of the entire story.

The storyboarding method has also become a core way how experiences are created at AirBnB, introduced by Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of AirBnB who as a design student incorporated some of the methods and best practises from the field of arts and design into other business areas.

Its form makes a lot of sense derived from key visual hand sketches and teams where visual thinking was at the core for producing quality outcomes.

Furthermore, when creating plans for (=designing) spatial experiences a 2D representation of a spatial scene as an alternative to the 2D scribble are highly recommended. Vincent Curley has shared his way of storyboarding which is featured here and you can combine Walt Disney's storyboarding method with the VR template in case you're working on explorative or custom VR experiences.

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Get the full guide to VR experience storyboarding by Vincent Curley

Mike Alger has introduced this method in 2014. If you're designing/prototyping new experiences for VR you should definitely check out his guide as it includes additionoal scientific insights which help you make more usable and ergonomic decisions.

When designing for Augmented Reality Head Mounted Display I also recommend you using our internally developed method with a non-rectangular screen and an optional background image. The template is also inverted in color maintain awareness that transparent wave displays used in Hololens 1+2, Magic Leap One or NReal are additive lighting and therefor cannot "darken" which assists when sketching in 2D.

Default-aligned image The non-rectangular image helps design without aligning content to non-existent borders as field of view in AR is generally smaller than the actual FOV of the user. Just copy paste this image.

Default-aligned image A background image of the template helps see interface contrast weaknesses earlier on in the process. Just copy paste this image.


➕ Clear linear overview for the end result

➕ Doesn't get lost in details

➕ Visuals could be created with 3D screenshots or photos


➖ Virtual Reality training storyboards are highly unlikely to be hand-drawn or scribbled

➖ Existing tools like docs/word, excel/spreadsheets, powerpoint/slides don’t use this layout and would make it time consuming to create storyboards in this fashion.

➖ Design tools or special software can easily create such storyboards and require advanced skills

Storyboard 2: The Video

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Some hands-on work processes already have video footage available that can be used as a reference for what has to happen at which step. Additionally the screenshot can link directly to the point in the video so that the 3D creator can replicate the experience based on real world behavior.


➕ high instruction density leads to lower additional communication during development

➕ short-links / time codes improve information density- video footage is rarely available.


➖ The exact video for a VR training instruction is rarely available.

➖ Creating a video just to have a good storyboard is uneconomical in most cases

Download Free VR Storyboard Template:

Storyboard 3: The Photo

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Unlike the video where movement and human-machine interaction can be observed and replicated, a photo is missing the dimension of time.


➕ Description and photo taken when close to a machine can be done relatively fast, so make use of such opportunity in case you have it

➕ Allows fast storyboard creation


➖ You will have to describe your intention and goals of the scene thoroughly and still it will often be unclear and cause multiple iteration steps raising cost and delaying publication time

➖ Time savings creating this way doesn't make up for the additional iterations in development

Download Free VR Storyboard Template:

Storyboard 4: The Manual

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Given you are converting a manual to an interaction you will have both images and text available for briefing.


➕ Fast creation

➕ Title and description in the last column can be taken from the manual


➖ Manuals mostly don't capture the exact step-by-step process including every action and interaction with the product and therefor need to be enhanced

➖ Didactic goals might not be covered by written manuals and therefor require adjustment, which is added into the storyboard document in the description section which then leads to additional development effort caused by unclear instructions

Download Free VR Storyboard Template:

Storyboard 5:
The Model and the Expert

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AKA "the beast and the beauty." Having 3D assets available always gives you a headstart for storyboarding. In such case you will highlight or manipulate the model for the specific step and describe the interaction goals together with it. The trainer and knowledge expert helps you not only as a source of knowledge, but also gives you valuable insights into what might be irrelevant and neglected while putting the most important didactic goals into focus.


➕ No new content creation necessary

➕ Direct visual translation between model screenshot and 3D creation+ remote creation throughout the process

➕ For complicated steps you can even create short voice

➕ Screen recordings describing the goal and intent of the step- requires 3D software and skills to arrange the model for the storyboard


➖ if you’re already in the 3D software, why go back to a storyboard if in the next step the 3D expert uses comparable 3D software to create and develop?

Storyboard 6: The International

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Converting training materials for international distribution?
It's possible to involve translation services at this stage. While involving translation effort does not make the process leaner in the beginning, you can prevent publication delays by kickstarting the process at this point in the creation cycle.

Who’s responsible for storyboarding

Before this day we would have always recommended to work with a service partner who can manoeuver you through the process. Now, with the templates and guidelines provided, You are. There’s no faster way getting things done. Communication ways are shortest internally. The XR Project Manager is responsible. Additional stakeholders include an

🧓 IT contact who supports on the 3D asset side
👩‍🏫 Didactic roles to have all the access to data and knowledge
👩‍💻 A contact to your AR/VR service provider or developer who sets the requirements for delivery

Download Free VR Storyboard Template:

Download the free VR storyboards

Storyboard 2:

Storyboard 3-5:

Storyboard 6:

Last Edited on September 11, 2020, 11:00 PM.

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