Skip to main content

Review: Storyboarder, Free Storyboarding Software by Wonder Unit

Good Storyboarding software is hard to come by at the low end of the market. So when I heard about Wonder Unit's Free Storyboarder application I was immediately interested.

Springboard has been my work horse storyboarding application for years. It's the cheapest, fully featured storyboarding software I know about, but it's getting old, and hasn't been updated since before I started using it.

Storyboarder is an all new application put out into the world for free by Wonder Unit who say the market for their software is too niche to make money from selling it (I beg to differ but only very quietly because I like free stuff for creatives). Plus they make money from making movies so... there! (Sorry, there's an attitude of quirky jabs within this software and its documentation that's infectious).



First Impressions


Pretty darn nice. After getting through the welcome screen the actual user interface is clean and clear. Right away I can see drawing tools, a timeline, a way to add frames and other details plus there is a play bar. Pausing the mouse pointer over any icon causes a fly-out bubble to appear explaining what that icon does. Great, no need to read instructions I can work right away.

Storyboarder User Interface.

In More Detail


Storyboarder is compatible with Fountain. I'll confess I've never heard of Fountain Script Writing Markup Language until now, but if you use it or, have script writing software that can export in that format, then Storyboarder can import your script and build a storyboard starting point from it.

For everyone else, you'll be starting with a new, blank storyboard.

Do You Like Drawing on Paper?


Importing a hand drawn, paper storyboard.
Despite being drawing tablet compatible, if you still like drawing thumbnails on actual paper, Storyboarder has templates you can print out, draw your scenes on, photograph with your phone, and import right back into Storyboarder, all separated into their individual scenes, ready for you to add text descriptions etc. Drawings are added to the 'Light Pencil' layer of each scene.

I tried this and it works rather well. The templates are customizable, so you can have as many scenes per page as you like, and the import process is easy and straight forward.

That said, it's not a feature I need but a really nice option if you don't have access to a graphics tablet of any kind.

There's also the option to import a whole folder of images into your storyboard if you have already drawn them in some other application (though I couldn't find any way to import individual images into a scene).

Can't Draw Or Just Want Some Help?


Shot Generator
Storyboarder's built in Shot Generator is an amazing feature for a free application. Type in a description of the shot you need and Storyboarder will generate a scene using its own generic human character models. Refine your scene further using the menus until you get something close to what you need. Finally double click the image and that scene is added to the Light Pencil layer of the current scene.

The intention of this feature is to give you some really flash looking guidelines to draw over, customize etc.

Again this is not a feature I'd use a lot but, if I was having a difficult time drawing a specific shot, I'd certainly give this feature a try to generate a base shot that I could draw over.

My only gripe here is that the shot description menu text is tiny, and the light grey on mid gray is difficult to read. Perhaps in a future version there could be an option to either make all the text larger and/or change the UI color scheme for better contrast.

The Drawing Experience


Drawing directly into the scenes with my Parblo Coast 22 Pen Display monitor was fine. Storyboarder kept up with my quick drawing pace pretty well. I like that each of the drawing tools draw on their own layer and, by holding down the button on my pen I could switch to the erase tool and only erase lines drawn on the layer of the specific tool I was using. Selecting the eraser tool will let you erase from every layer at once.

There is supposed to be support for pen pressure but I didn't see any evidence of it. Perhaps it works better with a Wacom tablet however, for me, all the tools maintained the same width as the selected nib/brush size at all times. To be honest, it's not an issue for me. When I'm storyboarding it's all about drawing shapes fast and nothing about how good the lines look.

You could create really nice looking storyboards with the few tools available but everything is geared towards quick storyboarding rather than pretty. However, if you do want pretty, Storyboarder makes it easy to edit your scenes in Photoshop (or whatever default app you use to edit .psd files) and have them update within Storyboarder when you're done.

Beyond the drawing tools you can move or scale a scene within its own frame, and there are drawing guides to help you compose your shot, as well as an onion skin option so you can see the previous and next frames. You can also merge layers up or down should you wish to transfer your rough sketches from the light layer to the pencil layer for example.

I would love to see the addition of a lasso selection tool so you can copy and paste parts of your drawing between scenes, or even just scale and move the selection within the same scene instead of only being able to do this on the whole scene.

Beyond that the drawing interface is very nice. You get a nice size drawing area and it's really easy to switch between frames. There's even a timer, called Sketch Sprint, you can set that will time lapse your storyboarding session into a gif file so you can watch back your progress or share it with others.

5 minute Sketch Sprint Time Lapse GIF output.

What about Dialogue, Descriptions, Shot timing etc.?


For each scene there is a space to record the duration of the scene (for the animatic), dialogue (which can appear as a caption overlay on your scene if you wish), action, and a place to write any mark up notes or other information. Scenes can be marked as a 'new shot' so that scenes that are all part of the same shot will be counted as a series e.g. 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B etc.

At any time you can play through your storyboard using the time line play bar to see how it's progressing. Unfortunately there's no option for audio so you won't be able to add any kind of rough cut sound mix to your animatic.

Exporting Your Storyboard. Fail!


Exporting is where all the awesomeness of this application falls apart. If you never need to export then the software is great. If you do... good luck because the available options are dismal.

You can only export your animatic as an animated GIF with dialogue captions written over the top of the scenes (would have been much better as MP4 with a single audio track for your rough sound mix).

There's an option to export your storyboard to Final Cut Pro X and Premiere but seriously, if you have that kind of software why don't you have ToonBoom's Storyboard Pro? (sorry Wonder Unit that software is not 'shitty' it's just expensive. I'd buy it in a heart beat over Storyboarder if it wasn't subscription based or stupidly over priced for a perpetual license). I assume the idea is to use Final Cut or Premiere to create your animatic but there's no reason this shouldn't be possible within Storyboarder its self.

Export your scenes as images - seriously? Why did I enter all that dialogue and description if I'm just exporting everything as images? May as well have used any other graphics software.

Export as a PDF - this is actually the most important option. Storyboarder nearly gets it right but still fails massively. There's no options to customize the layout, and if you have lengthy dialogue in a scene and/or a lengthy action statements, there's no room to display it, it's simply gets cut off. Useless.

Of all the exporting options, PDF is the most important to get right, followed closely by the animatic. These are the two things any Storyboarding application needs to do well. The animatic gives you a sense of what the final production will look like, whilst the PDF is something you can distribute to anyone who needs to have input on the storyboard. You can't expect everyone to download Storyboarder and learn how to use it. At the very least distribution as a PDF is essential.

The final Export method is to export your project as a ZIP file. This collects up the project file and other related files from the project folder into a zip file. Presumably this is so you can easily send the storyboard to another computer with Storyboarder installed without fear of losing important files.

Final Thoughts


Storyboarder is very well made and has an awesomely designed User Interface. It could do with a little less of the quirky attitude (just hold the mouse button over the undo icon and ask yourself is that colorfully strong description really necessary?). It's also a little buggy and doesn't seem to like multi screen environments (it insists on always opening on my main display every time. I have to move it to my pen display and resize the window each time I start the program).

I'd love to switch over to using Storyboarder but not being able to produce an animatic with audio, and especially failing dismally on the PDF export option is a massive deal breaker for me.

Springboard's UI is dated but the software does far more
and only costs US$40.00.
Springboard Storyboarding software may not be as pretty but for US$40.00 it's more capable, does almost everything Storyboarder can, recognizes pressure sensitivity in my tablet, can produce an animatic with audio and camera movements, and, once you team it with 'Print to PDF' software, gives plenty of options for formatting the final storyboard output... all this from software that, as near as I can tell hasn't had an update since 2013.

If Wonder Unit implements the features I found lacking on a future release, I'd sing their praises and switch to Storyboarder. The application has everything going for it to be as great as Wonder Unit thinks it is, but it's not there yet.

Fantastic start though. Well worth checking out and supporting if you just want a way to storyboard your own projects and don't need to share your storyboard with clients, or anyone who doesn't have the software. It's free too... so there's that.


Comments

  1. Also a major issue is that you can't reorder the scenes, only the shots within the scene.

    ReplyDelete

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

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.

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

My First Anthropomorphic Character with Reallusion's Character Creator 3 (Pipeline) & Reviving My TETAnimations YouTube Channel

Skateboarding Cage Monster - Heelflip. Reallusion's Character Creator 3  is a pretty incredible application for creating any kind of human digital 3D character quickly. Its power comes from the way it can totally deform a standard human base template character into a seemingly infinite number of body types and shapes. While I wouldn't recommended it as a your only 3D character sculpting tool, it is very powerful with just how much you can edit a character's form at the vertex/mesh level. I've experimented a little with CC3's Edit mesh functions, mostly using it to hide areas of an object I don't want seen. Bat Storm's cape is a good example where I used the ability to hide vertices to completely remove the assassin's hood from the neckline up. Just on a whim I wondered if I could create my Cage Monster character entirely in CC3 (with exception to his skin textures which I edited in Krita). The character is basically a stylised human body with a monster

Your First Look at Bat Storm Animated and Launching My Patreon

Bat Storm. Traditionally my Bat Storm character has always been a parody of whichever movie Batman is in the limelight. Back in the GoAnimate days that was Christian Bale, but now we have a new, upcoming Batman with Robert Pattinson. What better way to greet the new guy than with Bat Storm's own 'camera test' teaser just like Robert Pattinson's suit camera test. This is actually the very first public release of my new Bat Storm character model animated. Prior to this it's only been 'leaked' still images (does it count as leaking when it's the show creator deliberately posting images publically?). Anyhow Bat Storm pays homage to two Batmen ahead of their time (Val Kilmer and George Clooney) who had the balls to wear nipples on the Batsuit. Clearly a diversionary measure designed to disarm unsuspecting bad guys with laughter.  If no one is taking you seriously that's clearly an advantage! Visit my Patreon Page for more information. L

#XPPenanimationchallenge - How I Created My Entry for XP-Pen's First Animation Competition

XP-Pen's Mascot, Fenix, in A Change of Art by TET. XP-Pen , the makers of a range of pretty sweet pen display monitors, and Reallusion , the makers of some pretty sweet animation apps, teamed up for XP-Pen's very first Animation Challenge with the theme of 'Change'. Any form of animation was acceptable with entries needing to be a minimum of ten seconds in length. Entries closed on June 16th, 2020 (sorry, this blog isn't really a breaking news site, I probably should've mentioned it back in March when entries submissions opened) so it's too late to enter, but I wanted to tell you the tale of how I ended up creating my entry in a really late evening, the day before the deadline. Watch my entry below. Remember the theme is 'Change' and XP-Pen suggested in the rules that including their mascot, Fenix, somewhere in the animation would be looked upon favorably.   The Ideas Scenes from Skater - My First XP-Pen Competition Idea. This was not my first idea

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

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