A movie that has a story to tell — in contrast with most Youtube movies, that don’t get any further than the videoclip stage — needs to be planned ahead. It requires a written story that tells where each character will be at any specific time, the design of the rooms, the location, etc. To sell the movie to a producer or even at a later stage, it helps if a storyboard exists. A storyboard usually shows an animated timeline translating the script so people can have a better idea as to what the movie will look like. StoryBoard Artist 7 is a storyboard application specifically developed for movies.
Not all storyboard applications are created equal. My own experience is limited to Toon Boom’s Storyboard Pro, an advanced professional storyboard that serves the animation industry as well as the movie industry. StoryBoard Artist 7 on the other hand, is specifically targeted at movie production. Whereas Toon Boom’s product requires the storyboard designer to be able to draw scenes, action and characters, those skills are absolutely not needed to use StoryBoard Artist 7.
The whole application is built on libraries of pre-existing, professionally crafted 3D objects, scenes, buildings, male, female and child characters, etc. The storyboard artist — no pun intended — doesn’t need to know more than drag and drop those library objects to the canvas. The focus of the “storyboarder” therefore can be entirely on the storyline itself and on the creation of the timeline on a frame-by-frame basis.
To this effect, the StoryBoard Artist 7 user has an impressive array of tools to his/her disposal that determine how a character is positioned, consisting of arrows and other “annotation” utilities that show how a character or object should move through each frame of the movie. Frames can be animated through the timeline as well — so-called animatics — so the viewer gets a good idea of what the finished movie will look like, how the story unfolds and which actions the actors need to take from scene to scene.
Important storyboard features of StoryBoard Artist 7
The newest version of StoryBoard Artist 7 has a new interface with an easy access to the Toolbars from the work area. The Frame Window and Timeline are resizable and the new version imports new file formats, such as Autodesk (.fbx), H.264 and many other movie formats. There is a new Animate Object Transition to track the movement of an object between one frame and the next. Camera Pan and Camera Dolly Controls let you frame your scenes with more realistic camera controls than was possible before.
Most importantly, StoryBoard Artist 7 imports from applications such as Final Draft so you can import your script and immediately start storyboarding. When you start a new project, the first thing you set is the movie’s aspect ratio and target duration.
Export capabilities are fine too. You can export to multiple formats, including a movie, printed sheets and even XML. I tried to import that XML into Final Cut Pro X, but it proved to be impossible. For XML export to Final Cut Pro X, you’ll need the more expensive StoryBoard Artist Studio.
And that’s also my main criticism of this application: it’s quite expensive. I understand that predefined everything costs a lot of man hours and must be reflected in the price. However, the version I reviewed costs upwards of 400 USD — with basic libraries included; others can be purchased separately. The Studio version costs a whopping 800 USD — and those are discount prices. Toon Boom’s competing product costs 456 USD but includes Final Cut Pro X XML, EDL and what have you export.
Still, if you can’t draw at all, or lack the time to draw all those characters yourself, or want to focus on the movie’s storyline itself, StoryBoard Artist 7 is probably your only option.