Storyboarding Workshops: Mapping out Words and Space

Storyboarding Workshop

Over the last few weeks the Ties to the Tay group has been meeting in order to discuss and develop our storyboards for filming various short stories and poems from the wonderful Watermarks collection.

In many ways storyboards provide a ‘map’ for plotting out where scenes will be filmed, the chronology of images, how these match with text (or not in some cases!) and what audio may also accompany the visual components, especially in relation to emphasizing particular sentiments or associations with characters and settings.

In essence, storyboards provide a helpful tool for planning out filming and what comes next. They also help to transform the written word into, well, a visual and audio world!

During our discussions, one of the things we’ve explored is the ways in which visual Storyboarding Funimages provide a shorthand for whole sections of written text–and also the ways in which certain events, histories, and perspectives can be hinted at through the perspective of the camera (or multiple cameras). A good example of the latter is shown in the short clip below–where the narrator discusses angles and the use of perspective in terms of how the viewer determines their relationship with central characters.




In terms of documenting how we imagine the films to take shape, we had a diverse range of approaches taken, including collage, dialogue and animation.

Storyboarding Draft 1

Storyboard design by Bet McCallum.

This diversity provided further fuel for thinking about the key elements of the stories and what parts could be adapted further.

storyboarding image 2

Storyboard design by Bet McCallum.

University of Dundee Archives

University of Dundee Archives

Along with moving images, we have also been investigating the use of still photographs and relevant pictures held in local archives, such as the University of Dundee Archives, which host a wide range of material, including photographs, manuscripts and maps.

This investigation has led to fascinating discoveries including hidden histories and geographies of local institutions, such as St. Ronan’s home for unmarried girls in Dundee–the setting for one of the stories.

So there’s lots of activity going on, with our next storyboarding meeting in a few days, and the scheduling of our next set of soon-to-commence filming days–where there will be lots of “Lights, Camera, Action!”

And, in the very near future, the Nethergate Writers can be seen and heard at the Dundee Literary Festival at 5.30pm on Saturday 25 October in Bonar Hall (on the University of Dundee campus)–please come along and enjoy!


City River: Day 3 on Location

Nethergate Quay_Group

Last Thursday we completed our 3rd day of ‘location scouting.’ This one was actually more of an evening trip (than a day trip), and began with another mini-workshop in the Geography Department here at University of Dundee, and gave us another chance to get more familiar with the use of our iPads. Chatting with everyone during the workshops has been really helpful in terms of thinking about how we will plan out our ‘for real’ filming and what opportunities/limitations there may be in terms of the types of shots, audio, and stills that we can use.



Since this was the first scouting trip for a few people, we used The Law again as a starting point to orient ourselves and the impressive views–particularly a striking sky!–gave us some interesting inspirations.

While up on The Law we got chatting about the sort of length of film each of us may want to create: we’re thinking in the range of 3 1/2 to 5 minutes–enough to tell a story, but not so long that we start to become a bit too river-like and needlessly meander! There’s a lot you can do in 5 minutes: a look at the BBC Film Network – Films shorts section, gives an idea of the variety of content and approach a short film can incorporate. So our next meeting, sketching out our storyboards, will be a good opportunity to focus on the key points in each story and poem we will be using as a basis for our first set of films.


On location at City QuayAfter The Law we headed down to the City Quay neighbourhood of Dundee’s waterfront. This is an area that has seen significant social, economic and material changes during the past century–from a shipping centre linked to the whaling and jute industry, to the current transformation as a creative arts hub (and lots of other things inbetween). Some vestiges of old harbour structures remain alongside more recent hotel, retail and apartment developments, as well as a waterfront walkway. The area adjacent to City Quay is also going through a substantial transformation as part of the Dundee Waterfront redevelopment, incorporating the high profile V&A Museum of Design, Dundee.

Filming the Unicorn at City Quay

As we walked through this area we were joined by Nethergate Writer, Ward McGaughrin, who took some great photographs of our activities and has kindly allowed us to include several of these here.



The Panmure Passage sculpture, a granite structure that inhabits the 1901 slipway site of the RSS Discovery, provided a catalyst for even more photographs and (arty!) film shots as well as conversations about how this landscape has changed.

The Panmure Passage sculpture by Marion Smith at the City Quay, Dundee.

The Panmure Passage sculpture by Marion Smith at the City Quay, Dundee.

This was then followed by a short walk along the City Quay waterfront and a chance to practice some River Tay shots, before tracking down all of our group (!), hopping back on to the bus, and heading back to the campus.

Travels along the Tay: Day 2 on Location

Top of The Law

Yesterday we completed our second ‘location scouting’ trip–visiting possible filming sites for a selection of the Watermarks poems and short stories. We even had glorious sunshine to set the scene!

We started our day with some ‘hands-on’ introductions to the iPads and iMovie–which we will be using during the project–and have learned that feet and thumbs tend to feature quite a lot in our out-takes (we like to think of this as ’embodied’ impressionistic filming)!


After our mini-iPad tutorial, we headed up The Law and chatted about how we can use this expansive view as a broader scene-setting location. We then travelled back down to the River Tay and the Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial. The Horn Cafe once again provided fuel for the rest of the trip, which took us back to Perth City Centre.


Perth BridgeThe River Tay has been a prominent feature in Perth, connecting it to people and places near and far. The Perth Bridge (shown here) features in one of the Watermarks stories, and the author–Stuart Wardrop–along with the rest of us, were collaborating to come up with ideas for some special sound effects linked to a dramatic point in this particular narrative. More updates are to follow on these technical discussions!



Glass Ceiling--Perth Museum and Art Gallery

The Perth Museum and Art Gallery  provided us with some wonderful artistic inspiration, including a highly acclaimed exhibition by Alison Watt.

Eagle of PerthAfter a wander around the galleries–including the very informative Geography/Nature learning exhibition designed to be accessible to children–we walked along part of the nearby, and recently launched, River Tay Public Art Trail. Including a range of stand-alone sculptural pieces and a series of designs carved into the embankment walkway wall, the trail provides another platform through which to creatively experience the River Tay and its surroundings. The guide to the trail notes, “The River Tay is the longest river in Scotland and the most powerful river in Britain. It flows through the City of Perth and it is to the river that the city owes its existence–having grown up in the middle-ages around the lowest point that the river could be bridged” (Perthshire Public Art Trust, 2014).





IMG_0516We completed our trip with an impromptu visit to The Old Council Chambers at 3 and 5 High Street, Perth, where we were kindly given a unique opportunity to admire its intricate nineteenth century stained glass windows. The chambers host many marriage, civil and naming ceremonies, and provide an atmospheric venue–a hidden gem, not at all obvious from the street below.



Nethergate Writers on the Minibus

It was then back to the bus, and the competent hands of Alan Long, our intrepid photographer, field technician and minibus driver!

Out and About: Getting Started with ‘Location Scouting’

View from The Law

Ties to the Tay project members admire the view and discuss filming ideas.


Following some discussion about how to begin our journey of documenting and exploring the stories produced by the Nethergate Writers, in relation to the River Tay, a group of us  undertook a ‘story/field’ trip yesterday.

View from The Law


We began at The Law, an extinct volcano–a striking feature of the Dundee landscape, and a great location from which to view a panoramic Tayside vista. The trip was an opportunity to think about what kind of images, text, and voiceover we may want to use when producing short films set in the surrounding landscape. It also provided us a chance to explore what limitations there may be and what new opportunities we may discover as we create our stories.


The Tay Rail Bridge From The Law we travelled west to Riverside Drive and the Rail Bridge, visiting the recently unveiled memorial to victims of the 1879 Rail Bridge Disaster. The Rail Bridge is an especially iconic feature of the area’s landscape and bound up in stories of loss, hope, accountability, remembering and love.


The Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial



The memorial includes the names of those lost on the fateful journey when sections of the first rail bridge collapsed, and include a poem by Ian Nimmo White.




McGonagall WalkwayMcGonagall WalkwayWe then explored another feature of this literally literary (!) landscape: the walkway adjacent to the River Tay and Rail Bridge, where William McGonagall’s poetry is engraved in the pavement. Loved by some and critiqued by many–McGonagall’s poems seem an appropriate addition to this Tayside location.

Following the walkway provided an opportunity to reflect on the rail bridge disaster and newer changes to the surrounding built environment. The River has been the central player in a range of dramatic events.



The Horn Cafe

After a sudden shower and recuperation at ‘The Horn’ cafe, a wee local culinary treasure (if you look closely you can even spot a very geographically inclined cow!), we headed out to our final stop at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) Visitor Centre, at Fair Maid’s House, Perth.


At the Visitor Centre Communications Officer, Alexa Martin, and Collections and Information Covenor, Margaret Wilkes, generously provided a route through the diverse maps, collections, exhibitions and activities with which the RSGS is currently involved. We also learned that the RSGS currently has a Writer-in-Residence, Hazel Buchan Cameron, who will be utilising the collections as a source of creative inspiration. This is exciting news–and hopefully we can connect with Hazel, and establish further connections and collaborations with the RSGS in relation to our Ties to the Tay project.

Ties to the Tay at RSGS, Perth

Some of the Ties to the Tay project members with Alexa Martin of the RSGS (2nd from left).

Welcome to the Ties to the Tay Project

University of Dundeeteh River Tay from the Tower Building

Welcome to the Ties to the Tay blog. This  site provides information about activities and ongoing research related to the Ties to the Tay project, which is a collaboration between an interdisciplinary group of academics at the University of Dundee, the Nethergate Writers, artists, and community organisations.



The project aims to explore the changing relationships with, and representations of, the River Tay and its surrounding environs. Drawing on the work of creative writers, artists, film makers and many others, we hope to engage, document, create and celebrate diverse Ties to the Tay.


Watermarks-Nethergate Writers


Through the process of storytelling we will investigate how we produce and challenge connections to places, and how we formulate new relationships with various landscapes. To begin this journey we are drawing on Watermarks–a new collection of poems and short stories related to the theme of the River Tay–produced by the Nethergate Writers. (The Nethergate Writers Blog provides further information about the group, as well as their related Nethergate Writers Twitter feed.)




The project is coordinated by Susan Mains, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Dundee.




This project has been made possible with financial support from Geography (School of Environment, University of Dundee), the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR, University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute) and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

Carnegie Trust for the Universities of ScotlandCECHR Logo