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.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Popular posts from this blog

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

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

Jarrad Wright, The Big Lez Show - Who Would've thought Animating with MS Paint Could Take You So Far?

A friend of mine recommended I should check out The Big Lez Show after I mentioned to him I make animations for living. He said the show's creator, Australian animator, Jarrad Wright , just makes episodes from his home using MS Paint. Somewhat shamefully I hadn't heard of The Big Lez Show, but the fact that it was being made with MS Paint absolutely hooked me into checking out. If you've never heard or seen the show then you, like I was, are probably thinking how good could it be? MS Paint has kind of a cult following of hardcore animators but no one would use it as their primary animation tool on a series, right? WARNING - before going any further, you need to know The Big Lez Show and its humor contains some pretty strong language. By strong I mean it's peppered very liberally with the 'F' and 'C' words and is very every day Aussie, blue collar speak. Unapologetically, all of that, is part of why it's so good. There's a good chance you've

Voice All Your Own Animated Characters with Voice Changer

Voice Changer by AVSoft is real time voice manipulation software that can be used for a wide range of purposes including (according to their website); Voice-over and voice dubbing for audio/video clips, presentations, narrations, voice messages, voice mails, E-greeting cards, broadcasting, etc.; mimic the voice of any person, create animal sounds, change/replace/remove voices in songs, videos,etc. I bought it for the specific purpose of changing my own voice, to extend my vocal range, for voicing characters in my own animations. I was fortunate enough to get this software at a significant discount that made it difficult to refuse, given that I'd never tried it, or even heard of it before. I'm not sure if I would have bought it at the full price given that much of what it can do (for my needs) can also be done with the freeware audio program, Audacity . AV Voice Changer Interface. Voice Changer is relatively easy to install and set up. Once installed simply

Eric W. Schwartz: Cartoonist, Animator and Amiga Die Hard

July 1992 Edition, CU Amiga Featuring Amy the Squirrel. American Cartoonist, Eric W. Schwartz , (whose unofficial Amiga Icon, Amy the Squirrel, is pictured on the July 92 edition of CU Amiga cover on the right) is my only real animation hero. Sure there are the big names like Disney , Chuck Jones , Tex Avery and even Preston Blair whose influences can all be seen in my own cartoons but Eric did what none of the others could. He showed that really great 2D computer animation was within my reach with little more than an Amiga Computer , a copy of Deluxe Paint and Moviesetter . This was at a time when computer based animation was in its infancy (outside of computer game animation) and Flash was something that lights did. There were many great Amiga artists but Eric was really the only one consistently making very funny, traditional style animations. His humor and drawing style is heavily influenced by classic Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons but he managed to build on this,

Animating Warwick Hays Skateboarder Ed Character for Cartoon Animator - Can Ed Kickflip?

Skateboarder Ed. Character by Warwick Hays. Warwick Hays has built quite a sizeable collection of characters, props, and backgrounds for Cartoon Animator that I've yet to really explore, however, being the tragic skateboarder that I am, it was surely fate that I would buy his Skateboarder Ed G3 character as my first purchase. Now I don't know a lot about Warwick but, based on the design of the skateboard prop that comes with Skateboarder Ed I'm fairly certain Warwick doesn't know much about skateboarding, and/or probably didn't use a good reference when designing his skateboard. Bart's skateboard has changed over the years, though curiously, even later versions, barely get closer to what an actual skateboard looks like. To be fair, Warwick's holding up a tradition of animators who clearly haven't seen a skateboard or noticed how skaters actually ride them. Just check out Bart Simpson's flat plank of wood with wheels from the opening int

Real Human AI Text to Speech Voice App by Replica Studios - AI voice actors for games + films

Replica Studios TTS App. Image: Replica Studios It really pays to attend Reallusion's free animation demonstration Webinars. At a recent webinar, host, Kai DeNeve, featured Replica Studio's A.I. Voice Actor system . Replica uses Artificial Intelligence to learn a real voice actor's speech patterns, tone, and inflection, which can then be used with their Text To Speech (TTS) system to produce the most realistic computer generated voices yet (or at least that I've come across). You can even fine tune how individual words are said and more. Their TTS system works through a downloadable desktop app for Mac and Windows. There are also bridging apps if you want to use their system for voices in UnReal and Unity Gaming systems. Sign up for a free account and get 30 minutes of free voice downloads (that's 30 minutes of recorded audio - not 30 minutes to download audio - that you can download a line at a time). After that you can purchase 4 hour blocks for just USD$24.00.