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Storyboarding on a Tablet

Man sitting at a desk with a storyboard drawn on a napkin that is recreated on a tablet using storyboarding software

Storyboarding goes digital. Tablet computers have been taking a growing role in the business world, and they are now making a splash with filmmakers, changing traditional tasks into fun and accessible ones, while adding the power to create, edit and share on the fly.

Creating videos of any scale requires organization and planning. A careful process to make sure that a desirable end result is achieved. The bigger the project, the more complicated the process becomes. To make sure nothing is missed and the story is told as originally envisioned, filmmakers use a process called storyboarding. While most of us know more or less what storyboarding consists of, let’s do a quick primer just to get everybody onto the same page.

What is Storyboarding?

Storyboards are images – drawings, illustrations, graphical representations – of shots or scenes, which are arranged in sequence to pre-visualize how a video, motion picture, motion graphic or animation will play out. Sometimes these are drawings on small cards arranged on a pinboard so that they may be moved around, and sometimes they are done using a piece of software. Either way, the process allows a preview of how a sequence will work, and helps organize thoughts on audio, dialogue, shot type, and an overall feel and flow.

In the last few years, the tools available to a filmmaker have changed drastically. Professional equipment has become more accessible, and consumer gear has been used in more professional applications.

Take, for instance, the tablet computer. Usually between 7 and 10 inches in display size, a tablet offers more power and screen real estate than a phone, while being much lighter, more portable and touch-friendly than most laptops. Along with convenience, the tablet offers an interesting way of delivering it’s capabilities. Like smartphones, tablets use apps that generally carry out one or a few small, specific tasks. Fortunately for us, storyboarding is one area where there are plenty of apps to help.

Why Use a Tablet to Storyboard?

There are great reasons to storyboard a project, but why choose a tablet for the job? There are quite a few good arguments for using a tablet versus a traditional drawn storyboard. Arguably, the biggest reasons are the ability to have it a touch away at all times, and the freedom to share and edit it on the fly. Heck, carrying a tablet beats lugging binders around a set all day.

It’s also possible to use photos taken on set or in a studio to base the storyboard scene on. Most tablets and smartphones include decent cameras, so to have a camera attached to a storyboarding app can make for a powerful duo. In fact, with apps for production forms, scripts and contracts, a well-organized tablet can become an invaluable tool for the production team. It doesn’t hurt too much that clients may be impressed to see everything managed digitally either.

In this article, we will look at some of the top contending apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. At the time of writing there were no solid contenders for Blackberry OS10 or Windows RT or Phone 8. Of course, since there are new discoveries daily with apps – please tell us your experiences with any apps we missed by emailing editor@videomaker.com, posting it in this article's comments section, on our Facebook page at facebook.com/VideomakerOnline or by tweeting us at twitter.com/videomaker.

Storyboard Composer

(iOS, $1)

Cinemek has created a unique app that will run happily on just about any touch-enabled iOS device bigger than a nano, be it an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Based mostly on photos taken on location, Storyboard Composer wants the user to take a picture, drop in character information for the scene, and add in the camera or scene direction. The cool part is that once you’ve created a sequence of scenes, it’s possible to play back the storyboard as though it were the finished product, further enhancing the filmmaker’s ability to envision their production before committing to shooting.

The dealmaker? The app has the ability to share the file with other Storyboard Composer users.

Paper by FiftyThree

(iOS, Free, Draw only with in-app purchases available)

Maybe one of the better deals in the App Store, Paper is a free app that allows users to create and express their inner artist through sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings.

With an absolutely beautiful interface and simple controls to create and share, Paper may not be a dedicated storyboarding app, but it is one that is totally capable for the purpose of developing and sharing scene drawings.

Storyboards, Storyboards Premium & Storyboards 3D

(iOS, Free, Free & $15 respectively)

Storyboards, in it’s various forms, is a full storyboarding solution. It allows users to generate entire scenes without having to do any drawing.

Photos can be inserted into scenes to form a custom background, and characters, props and decor may be chosen from, to fill out the scene. Shot choices range from extreme closeups out to high angle shots, and characters have a choice of outfits, positioning and facial expression.

Storyboards 3D has the ability to record audio and play it back while viewing the storyboard, this solution will get filmmakers a solid idea of what their production will look and feel like when completed.

Artemis

(iOS and Android, $30)

Producer taking a photo using a tablet next to a screen capture of the photo with animated people placed in for shot setup.
Screen shot of the Artemis storyboard software.
When planning shots, it’s often difficult to predict exactly how a shot will turn out through the eyes of the camera. For years, directors, cinematographers and other film pros have carried a traditional director’s viewfinder; a small tool a director can look through to determine roughly how a shot will frame up. Chemical Wedding has taken this simple concept and developed it for today’s devices.

By leveraging the camera on an Android or Apple tablet, Artemis allows you to simulate various cameras, lenses and aspect ratios. It allows a filmmaker to compose a shot with the same field of view as the camera being used for the shoot.

With camera fields of view ranging from common Canon, Nikon and Pentax DSLRs all the way up to RED EPICs, ARRI ALEXAs and 16mm film cameras, it is pretty likely a filmmaker will find a preset that represents the camera they’re using.

To give an example, it is possible to simulate a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using a Canon EF lens at 50mm, then quickly switch to an ARRI ALEXA XT Plus using a Zeiss/ARRIFLEX 65mm prime lens.

Shot Designer

(Android, Free – more than just storyboards)

Hollywood Camera Work has another important piece of the pre-production process covered with Shot Designer.

As the name describes, Shot Designer includes tools to design a shot, from floor plans to lighting setup and camera moves.

Shot Designer is truly fully-functioned, not only allowing Directors and DPs the ability to create an entire scene, but to also animate camera moves with actual lighting setups so that they can see how the scene feels and flows.

Like Artemis, Shot Designer includes a director’s viewfinder tool as well as the option to import a storyboard. And like Storyboard, it includes a growing set of props and furniture to help fill out a scene.

For those of us who need a bit of help planning out lighting and camera setups, Shot Designer has a set of factory templates to help us get started.

Storyboard Studio

(Android, $5)

In the tradition of other storyboard tools, Storyboard Studio by Sean Brakefield sticks with doing one thing and doing it well.

Options include specifying aspect ratios, image importing, arrows and characters to build scenes, and tools for artistic input like paint brushes.

An interesting feature of Storyboard Studio is the support for layered scenes. This allows the user to keep foreground and background elements truly separate and turn layers on and off as necessary. Adding to this power, the image export feature includes the option to export to Photoshop.

Conclusion

It’s definitely a time of change in the tech world, whether it relates to a computer company turning into a tablet company and taking over the music industry, or the majority of the population walking around with a 1080p camera built into their phone.

For those of us interested in creating video, progress simplifies processes and knocks down cost barriers to allow more of us access to the incredible tools of our trade.

As we get better and more efficient with production, pre-production will take more of a spotlight position. Producers will focus on planning, scripting, storyboarding, framing, and blocking to determine how a shot is going to look, feel and flow.

Fortunately, the storyboarding apps discussed here take one or more traditional tasks and make them easier, more accessible, simpler to share, and endlessly editable.

Search around the app store for your device and you may be surprised at the number of tools there are to take tasks, forms, releases, schedules and more from a 15 pound binder and put them into an 20-ounce tablet.

Ahh … progress.


SIDEBAR

WHY SHOULD I STORYBOARD?

Modern storyboarding as we do it today was developed in early 1933 at the Walt Disney Studios, and first used for a whole film with the production of Three Little Pigs.     

The technique is credited to Disney animator Webb Smith, who first drew pictures on small pieces of paper and pinned them to a bulletin board to tell a story in a sequence.

Once these story sketches created a number of memorable shorts, including the well-known Steamboat Willie, the technique spread to other studios, and in a few years all major studios were using storyboarding. One of the first live action movies to be entirely storyboarded was the industry-redefining Gone With the Wind

Whether you work on major motion pictures, animated shorts or conservative corporate videos, planning, scripting and storyboarding your production will help you deliver better, more consistent results.

As an industry, we are visual thinkers, and as such, nothing gives us a better sense of a look, feeling, or rhythm of a scene or series of scenes quite like standing back and seeing how it progresses in relation to the big picture. With a properly executed storyboard, you will have an accurate preview of what your end result will be like, as long as you stick with your storyboard.

As we always say here at Videomaker, plan your shoot and shoot your plan!
 

 

Russel Fairley owns a turnkey video production company presenting 200+ videos a year, featuring Web videos, TV commercials, and live event coverage.

Tags:  November 2013
Russ
Fairley
Thu, 09/26/2013 - 12:00am

Comments

Russ Fairley's picture

Hey there,

 

Which one did I get the price messed up on? Maybe I can track down a deal for you!

 

Write me at russ (at) rfpvideo.com

 

Thanks!

 

Russ