Skip to main content

Springboard - Fast Digital Storyboarding on a Budget

Storyboarding an animation is one of my least favorite parts of the creative process and yet it's also one of the most important after writing the script. It's where the planning of the visual representation of the script takes place.

The Problem....

I've struggled with storyboarding because I knew there had to be a better way than drawing tiny thumbnails on a sheet of paper with script and camera direction notes crammed underneath - an example of which can be found in my post for my music video animation, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. This method isn't exactly client friendly as my handwriting scrawls can become unreadable even to me over time.

The other technique I employed was using the storyboarding features of Celtx Script Writing Software. Celtx allows you to import your scanned thumbnails (or any digital image) into its storyboard where you can add text and camera direction into scrollable text boxes below each image - and never run out of room. I employed this technique for my business clients. You can see an example in the blog post I wrote about the animation I created for My Network One.

The trouble with Celtx is, if you hand draw the thumbnails, whether on actual paper or in a graphics software program it introduces an additional step of importing the images into the software. Celtx also doesn't have any way to export storyboards either. Thus I had to resort to taking screen grabs - rendering those scrollable text boxes useless if they needed to be scrolled to read their full contents.

What I wanted was software that would let you draw directly into the storyboard panels (using my graphics tablet - or you could use your mouse), let you enter any amount of text and then let you export it all into a easily viewed presentation for clients.

Toon Boom Storyboard Pro... Overkill!

I knew the makers of industry standard Toon Boom Studio had a solution with their Toon Boom Storyboard Pro Software but that costs US$899.00 (even the basic version is US$199.00). It's also a fairly complex program with advanced drawing tools. In short overkill for my modest needs.

Springboard... Easy, Cheap and Powerful

I started Googling for an alternative and what I found was Springboard, a free to try digital storyboarding tool that I decided to pay up the US$39.95 for within hours of installing and trying out. However, if you wish to try it longer, the free trial lasts for 30 days.

Springboad 1.03 screen shot.
Springboard is suitable for both large and small film and animation projects. It can break up larger projects into sections so that you're not saving the entire project every time you make a small change here and there.

The screen shot above right pretty much shows you everything you need to see when it comes to using the software.

Program Layout and Features...

On the far left you have the Story Tree where you can sort everything into Acts, Chapters, Scenes, Sequences or Shots. Below that you have the properties for the selected item in the story tree.

To the right of the Story Tree you have some basic bitmap and vector drawing tools. It's not the most sophisticated drawing program you'll ever use but it does support layers and transparency. If you have a Wacom tablet it'll also support some basic functions of that such as turning the pen around and using the eraser.

The drawing tools palette includes some additional storyboard specific tools like arrows for adding directional information such as camera movements. There is even a camera tool that you can use to actually simulate camera movements when you come to compile your board into an animatic.

If you do have a favorite drawing program then there is some support to link it directly to this program so you can edit a drawing externally and have it automatically updated inside Springboard. Something you might do if you're creating high quality presentation storyboards for a film pitch to a client or studio.

The main part of the screen is filled with the storyboard panels themselves. You can adjust the resolution of these before you begin depending on what kind of quality you need and how big your project is. I set mine to size of 640 x 360 pixels (16:9) ratio. Not only can you draw directly onto the panels you can also import images into them, like a logo for example to include as part of your drawing.

The nice thing is that you can edit a story board panel at any time, whether you're zoomed into it or not, making it easy to work across two or three panels at once. Shifting panels around is as easy as dragging and dropping them within the storyboard tree.

Across the bottom of the screen is the text box for the selected panel. You can enter as much text as you need here as the program will format your text neatly next to your panel should you need to export your boards for any reason. Currently you can export just the images to various image file formats or the entire storyboard, including text to a customizable but neatly formatted HTML web page (perfect for uploading to a website host and showing online clients or you can format the pages for printing from your browser).

Just above the text box (not shown in the screen shot) is where the controls and timeline pop up when it comes time to edit, record and preview your animatic.

Animatics with Sound...

Animatics can not only include camera movements but also you can import audio as uncompressed .wav files. You can even record sound directly into the program with your microphone. Springboard will let you export just the audio track as a .wav file, so you could use Springboard as a way to develop a master audio track for projects too.

Free to Visualize...

I've found that Springboard takes the monotony out of creating storyboards. I can simply divide my script across however many frames I think I'll need then start drawing. I can draw just the frames I have ideas for or add in extra frames if I need them without destroying the flow of the page. Trying to cram in text under each frame is no longer an issue. I'm completely free to just concentrate on visualizing my story.

Unfortunately it's not all great. I did manage to crash this program, losing a number of panels in the process. I'm not sure how I did it and haven't managed to repeat the problem. As a result I'd recommend saving your work often.

That aside this software is excellent value, easy to learn and ideal for short film or animation projects. To see an over view of the software the video below by Youtuber drawtips runs you through most features. Note that he's a little slow to get started but stick with it as it's a really good overview.



Comments

  1. Hi went through your article which is informative.

    Could you share more info on the budgets allocated for storyboards by you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not really sure what you mean. 'Budget' in the context of this article means when you don't have a lot of money to spend on Storyboard software and need a low cost alternative.

      Delete
  2. Sorry for asking: are you still using SpringBoard? It looks like it stopped development about on 2011. Is it still worthwhile to try it in your opinion?
    Thanks! Umberto

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I'm still using Springboard. Whilst it may not be receiving updates it's still a very useful piece of software if you want to storyboard with something that isn't going to break the bank. The next equivalent piece of software that I know of is five times the price. At the very least I recommend you download the software and try it out for 30 days free.

      Delete
    2. I contacted the developer and he confirmed that he still gives support to the app. Then i tried it and i was hooked (immediate buy) in half an hour of test. This is really a wonderful little gem app, hope the developer will give again some love as it deserves it!

      Delete
    3. Thanks for taking the time to let me know and post here. It really is a great piece of software for the price. If you team it with a graphics tablet it pretty much frees you up from ever drawing storyboards on paper again.

      Delete
  3. Maybe you can help me. I just bought Springboard and wish to storyboard a video based on PNG files someone else created. However when I import the PNG files, they're blurry. I can not figure out how to import them so they're crisp and clear.

    Ideas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could try increasing the size of the individual frame canvases. The default is 320x180. I personally set the canvas size to 640x360 and maintain relatively sharp image imports.

      You can also try using 'Scale to frame' when you import an image instead of using 'Resample'. This should give you a sharper image but uses more memory as it retains all the resolution of the original image - where as resample will shrink larger images resulting in a slight blurring of small details depending on how much smaller the resampled image becomes (hence the suggestion to use a larger canvas size).

      Delete

Post a Comment

I welcome, read, and respond to genuine comments relating to each post. If your comment isn't that save me some time by not posting it.

Popular posts from this blog

The Ultimate Independent Animator's App and Resource List 2019-2021 - Animation and Video Life

Image created with Cartoon Animator 4. Being an independent animator is not like a studio animation job. There's so much more to do that is indirectly related to the actual task of animating. Over the years I've sought out many apps, tools, and services that can help me achieve that one single task, expressing myself through animation. Below is my Ultimate Independent Animator's Resource List for 2019. It started out as a list of free or low cost apps that could help you in every stage of producing either 2D or 3D animation, and then just kind of grew from there. You may not have been looking for a Time Management App as much as you needed something to get you started in 3D animation but when those commissioned projects start coming in you'll have a head start on maximizing your time. All the apps and services on this list had to meet two main criteria: They had to be useful and relevant to an Indy Animator/artist. The base app/service had to be US$200.0

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

The Extraordinary Tourist Classic Coat outfit created using Reallusion's Toon Designer for CC3. I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996. It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it. But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm ). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs . Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures , and Toon Hair , designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker. The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that w

Three Image Overlay Apps. Do More with Your Reference Images While You Work

PureRef's image overlay in action with Cartoon Animator 4. One thing Cartoon Animator 4 still does not have in stage mode is the ability to onion skin previous and next frames.  For those complete animation newbies among you, onion skinning is the ability to see through the current frame to your previous and/or next keyframes so you can see the progression of your character or object's movement as you create and adjust each keyframe. Usually the previous and next frames appear lighter so your current frame remains the key focus. This prompted me to look for a tool that could overlay an image over my work to use as a reference while still allowing me to work on the app underneath the overlay. I had seen, and even used such apps in the past but it had been some time so I decided to see what was out there, preferably free and/or open source, with versions for Mac and Windows. Overlay 2 There are actually a number of apps that do nothing more than overlay an image but the only one

Run Your Favorite Android Animation Productivity Apps (and Games) on Your PC or Mac with BlueStacks

BlueStacks Android Emulator for PC or Mac. There are many free and low cost mobile animation productivity apps for Android in the Google Play Store that would fit right into your workflow if you could access them directly from your PC/Mac  desktop (or laptop) computer. Even if those apps can save their output to the same cloud storage you use with your PC or Mac, just the divide of using a separate device makes them inconvenient and disruptive. Worse yet, what if your Android device is underpowered for the apps you want to use, or worse still you don't own any Android devices because someone convinced you Apple Mac's, iphones, and ipads are 'cool' (they are, but you pay for 'cool'). BlueStacks is a free, open source Android emulator for Windows or Mac (currently only BlueStacks 4 can be installed on a Mac but BlueStacks 5 for Mac is coming soon). If you're not aware of what an emulator is, it's basically a piece of software that mimics another devices

Artbreeder - Using AI created Character and Background Content in your Animations

A selection of User/AI generated images from Artbreeder. If you're looking for an endless supply of 2D character and background images for your animations then Artbreeder , an online Artificial Intelligence (AI) that generates image mash-ups you can tweak as much as you like, could be the ultimate content library. What is Artbreeder? Artbreeder is free to use though there are various paid plans, that give you additional features, such as higher resolution download images or more settings to play with. All images created on the site are Public Domain (CC0 License) and can be used in commercial projects. Using Artbreeder's online app you can generate head shot portraits, full body characters, landscapes, and other scenes simply by choosing two or more existing images to mash together then, using a series of sliders, to select which traits from each image you wish to lean toward in the final image. Photo Comparison - Top is my original uploaded photo. Bottom is Artbreeder's ap

Stylish Stick Figures for Cartoon Animator 4.2 - New Characters by TET

Stylish Stick Figures by TET. Animating stick figures is almost a right of passage for any animator who has ever made an old fashioned flipbook or discovered the free stickman animator app, Pivot Animator . There's also the hugely popular viral stick figure animation, Animator Versus Animation  and its sequels by Alan Becker that continue to inspire variations more than 12 years later. Back when Vyond was GoAnimate they had a stick figure theme that was popular site wide despite having many other themes with much more refined Saturday morning cartoon style characters. I even had my own stick figure series, Harry Chalk , on GoAnimate. Long story short, I was looking through the Reallusion Cartoon Animator Marketplace and discovered there really weren't any well designed, traditional looking stick figure characters. That's not to say there weren't any at all but I wanted something similar to GoAnimate's stick figures which included full facial features and male and

Review: CrazyTalk Animator 3 vs Moho Studio Pro 12

Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator 3 or Smith Micro's Moho Studio Pro 12. Which of these 2D animation applications is right for you? Regular readers of this blog will know I'm a strong supporter, and fairly proficient user of CrazyTalk Animator since version 1. It's a great piece of software for producing 2D animations from purchased content quickly and, with version 3, is easier than ever to create animations from your own art. Lesser known is that I first purchased Moho Studio Pro 12 (then known as Anime Studio Pro 9) back in October of 2012 and have been upgrading it to the latest version ever since because I believed in it as an application for creating great 2D animation to TV quality standard. As such, it's a much more complex application than CTA3 that I only got around to learning properly late last year. I'm still in the process of blogging my progress . Despite this I feel I've learned enough of Moho to compare it to CTA3 to help you determ