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Storyboarding software programs and successful methods


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#1 David Gottlieb

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 07:36 PM

Hi - I have had some unique experiences both as a DP and as a Director where the lack of communication ended up stalling the project on set, and I think a major area that contributed was unclear, messy, or non-existent storyboards. I was wondering if anyone out there knew the different options for storyboarding software (or an alternative route perhaps, but I can't hire someone to draw them) so that on my future projects I can make sure that there is a clear communication of intent with a shot. Sometimes a director can just say 'I want to see this in the frame' but for important shots many directors have a very specific angle or camera move they wish to use that they aren't sure how to quickly explain to the DP, leading in some cases to instructing for as long as 20 minutes, or in some extreme cases where time was lacking, them actually positioning the camera and shooting it themselves. While most times frustration has been non-present, some hairy situations always seem to come up, so if you have any suggestions for clear storyboarding (I personally can draw mediocre at best) because when a director has only a shooting list with no visual representations or storyboards some shots have been difficult. Any suggestions and experiences with software and storyboarding that did and did not work for a project would be appreciated! Thanks!
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#2 Josh Bass

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 12:01 AM

Oh dude, have I got some software for you. . .

Check out frameforge 3D, for PC or Mac.

http://www.frameforg...om/download.php

This software is the shizzle mcwizzle.

It's all 3D based, and has prebuilt characters, environments, and poses. You can tweak anything in the shot, and further edit each storyboard frame in a paint program, like Microsoft Paint or Photoshop.

I have the demo, and if you don't want to spend $300 for the full version, it's a good thing to have. It may not be Kosher, but the demo lasts forever, and the limitations are a watermark across each storyboard frame, a limit of 12 objects at a time on your set, and some of the objects are not available. There's workarounds for all that stuff. It's a good program though. Time consuming, sometimes, to make the shots look the way you envision them, but super clear, and easy to alter.
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#3 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 01:20 AM

Oh dude, have I got some software for you. . .

Check out frameforge 3D, for PC or Mac.

http://www.frameforg...om/download.php

This software is the shizzle mcwizzle.

It's all 3D based, and has prebuilt characters, environments, and poses. You can tweak anything in the shot, and further edit each storyboard frame in a paint program, like Microsoft Paint or Photoshop.

I have the demo, and if you don't want to spend $300 for the full version, it's a good thing to have. It may not be Kosher, but the demo lasts forever, and the limitations are a watermark across each storyboard frame, a limit of 12 objects at a time on your set, and some of the objects are not available. There's workarounds for all that stuff. It's a good program though. Time consuming, sometimes, to make the shots look the way you envision them, but super clear, and easy to alter.


I have to agree with mr. Bass here,
Frameforge is a really nice software with all the formats and lenses available.
Dimitrios Koukas
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#4 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 02:20 AM

More Traditional Programs like "Lightwave 3D" and "maya" will also work. Althought you might have to do some minor modeling to get your characters.
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#5 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 02:50 AM

PS) You could also run out and buy a copy of "the Sims 2"... and just use the "In Game" movie mode. Instead of stationary storyboards, you can get live action animated storyboards.

This would work for basic films, like a good "Scary Movie" or something, but for a more fantasy driven film, this probly wont work.

Just an idea for the "Cheapies" like me out there.
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#6 Marek Stricek

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Posted 27 November 2005 - 03:47 AM

As for the 3D animation and modelling programs I would add Blender http://blender.org - it is available for free (you can sponsor the development by buying printed documentation) on all computing platforms.
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#7 dgdoinggood

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Posted 15 December 2005 - 12:28 PM

I tried to get the software but the download doesnt work.
Is there any other way, or another program, that wont
break my budget?
thanks
DG
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#8 Jeremy Lawson

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:58 AM

Learn to draw.

http://www.amazon.co...duct/0823013952
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#9 John Allardice

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 05:08 PM

Learn to draw.

http://www.amazon.co...duct/0823013952


Heh, I'd love to see you draw the difference between a 21mm and a 27mm prime, or a 35mm & 40mm.

J
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#10 Scott Squires

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Posted 22 December 2005 - 07:36 PM

If the focal length is that critical a directors finder or camera on the set/location is the way to go.
For communication pursposes simple drawings work fine, especially if you don't have to sell anybody.
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#11 John Allardice

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 09:40 AM

If the focal length is that critical a directors finder or camera on the set/location is the way to go.
For communication pursposes simple drawings work fine, especially if you don't have to sell anybody.


Most of the guys that I made my living by doing previs for over the past few years would disagree with you. Try telling Fincher. " Oh, a sketch'll do for now, we'll just work it out on set."
That smacking sound would be the door hitting you in the ass on the way out of the studio. :)


J


BTW...is that ILM Scott Squires?
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#12 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 12:54 AM

I tried to get the software but the download doesnt work.
Is there any other way, or another program, that wont
break my budget?
thanks
DG


Did you download it from thr German site? I Just did and it wors perfectly.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 02:10 AM

Somehow people managed to make movies for 100 years without computer-generated previz...

For the average non-efx movie, a drawing is fine. In fact, it's inaccuracies and exaggeration can be a positive thing sometimes because it can convey the emotional intent of the shot.

If you draw an over-the-shoulder shot, whether you use a 40mm or 50mm on the set to achieve it is up to you -- there's no particular reason to nail down the lens choice that specifically the majority of the time.

I'm talking about the typical storyboard of a basic dialogue or action scene, not a drawing of a master shot where a computer would be helpful to tell you what focal length is needed to get the whole room in the shot, etc., which in turn may help in constructing the sets.
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#14 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 03:55 AM

David, I gotta tell you, I became inspired by Hitchcock in that he would storyboard ever single scene whenever he made a film and once asked someone, I forget who, if they'd like to see the film I believe it was the Birds before he had shot it , when asked how that was possible her showed the man the storyboards. When he shot he rarely to never deviated from this preplanned vision and his films always came in on time and under budget. Now with all due modesty I'm a decient artist with a pencil. I did the storyboards for my project "the Black Sky" with this new fould inspiration and there are 194 about 4 1/2 x 8 in size about the quality of what you saw in the making of the Matrix. When I was done it looked good and was well worth it but it took FOREVER. I then took a cue from Peter Jackson after I found out he used lipstick cameras on minature sets to plan shots for the Lord of th Rings and built a minature of my flightdeck set scaled to accomidate Barbie and other 12in action figures. I confiscated a digital security system My parents had from a store they used to own and started a moving storyboard w/ the 4 miniature cameras on VHS. This actually worked amazingly well but the miniture sets took time to build and my animators made fun of me for playing with Barbies (I used Barbies, Kens and GI joes because my Nieces and nefews had outgrown them and they came with prebuilt props and set peices even interior walls, all for free). I didn't care so much what the guys thought (actually one of them was so impressed he wanted to build minature lights using bright LCD and the bodies from ball point pens and use pipe cleaners and coathangers to fabricate minature light stands) but the only way to connect the scenes to the script was to slate them like a real film or read the script while shooting the miniatures, plus I have 7 sets one of which (the cargo bay) would have taken up my entire hallway. So though it was useful for experimenting with camera movement ,I still thought "Well may be I can refine this using Poser". But to be honest with you, Poser is a pain in the ass to use, so when I saw Frame Forge 3d I found it amazing. I like the idea of having lenses availible to try different pespectives and camera angles, the chance to try different color pallets and approximate lighting, props, sets and costumes and all in a very simple to use package that doesn't require massive amounts of render time. You should be able to completely pre-visualize you movie before having to pay for anyone's time. I don't know if you can import digital stills into this program but if you can you would be able to test your scouted locations right there just by taking a digital camera with you. and placing your virtual actors in front of the location backdrop. ( I did something like this by setting the action figures in front of flat screen monitor w/ a pic projected full screen just as a test. It actually worked pretty good.) I like digital storyboarding. I mean they didn't use sound for the first 30 years of filmmaking either but when it came out it made films better. I think digital storyboarding has the potential to save filmmakers a tremedious amount of money and i therefore a good thing. Just my opinion
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#15 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 06:20 AM

Somehow people managed to make movies for 100 years without computer-generated previz...

For the average non-efx movie, a drawing is fine. In fact, it's inaccuracies and exaggeration can be a positive thing sometimes because it can convey the emotional intent of the shot.

If you draw an over-the-shoulder shot, whether you use a 40mm or 50mm on the set to achieve it is up to you -- there's no particular reason to nail down the lens choice that specifically the majority of the time.

I'm talking about the typical storyboard of a basic dialogue or action scene, not a drawing of a master shot where a computer would be helpful to tell you what focal length is needed to get the whole room in the shot, etc., which in turn may help in constructing the sets.


One of our storyboard artists used to be an artist on the Judge Dred comics. His drawings much better to work with than anything I've seen out of Frame Forge. Although, he's always worth a leg pull about having crossed the line in his drawings.

Although, personally I prefer (for average stuff) just drawing plans with the camera positions (including the tracks) and where the actors are going to be doing their stuff. From this layout I know in my head what the shots will be looking like and get a feel for the flow of the action.

I've noticed that inexperienced directors tend to forget that there's time before and after a storyboard drawing. The drawing itself often just being a snapshot of a shot. However, really good drawings will give the sense of time and movement.
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#16 Mark Allen

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 06:20 AM

Now, I can actually draw a little, but my number one favorite way of storyboarding... photographs. Digital photography makes this even better.

Begin with a shot list of thumbnails (which can literally be stick figures) and then get some friends to pose every shot for you. You would be amazed at how fast this goes. You can keep it as simple as just getting body positions or you can use some lights to convey lighting direction. If you want to go nuts, you can then comp them onto backgrounds... but... that's not really necessary - remember that storyboards are usually just pencil on white anyway. You can do an entire film very quickly if necessary. The detailing at the end can take a long time if you want to go far with it.

Next - yes, you can draw or learn to draw... but somehow reality always gets bent, sometimes too far in the blocking while drawing. But the ability to add emotion to the drawing is a potential advantage even if the drawing doesn't adhere to reality. On the downside, drawing takes a long time and causes a lot of stress on your wrist and fingers.

Another option is using Poser. Poser is the ONLY 3D application I will recommend trying for storyboards because it is the only one with a huge library and 3rd party libraries... huge... and it is relatively easy to use if you bother to learn it. You can learn just posing or you can go nuts and learn how to create characters - but learning to pose (and even animate) characters is quite easy.

Another 3D option is UnrealEd - the unreal engine editor is being used by many effects companies for previsualization. It is a very very interesting option - espeiciall if you want previs more than just boards. Only problem will be when you want some custom models, you'll have to learn how to take models made from poser and convert them and import them - cause you are unlikely going to learn a modeling program

Frameforge... haven't tried the version that came out just a few days ago, but the first version I felt very mediocre on and think poser was more promising though it did have some nice features it felt too clunky overall... but try the demo and decide. (poser has a demo too.)

Maya, XSI, Lightwave, Cinema4D, Blender, etc. etc. etc. - not unless you plan on changing careers. Come on, people spend a year studying everyday just one aspect of these applications (especially maya). It's totally not realistic to think you can sit down and do some boards in this.


so... photographs... it's something you know already... think on't.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 12:45 PM

I think digital storyboarding has the potential to save filmmakers a tremedious amount of money and i therefore a good thing. Just my opinion


I didn't say it was a BAD thing. I just question the notion that a hand drawing is useless for storyboards in this day and age of computers. There are levels of pre-viz and they don't always have to be completely accurate to be useful. Sometimes it's enough to have a feeling for the composition you want to achieve and then find it on the set with the actors and location, let yourself be inspired by the moment. I'm one of the biggest supporters of pre-planning, but there are many methods that all have their usefulness. I think computer pre-viz makes more sense when you have the option of building sets and designing them for certain lenses and compositions.
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#18 timHealy

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 01:57 PM

My feeling for storyboards are that the usefulness of storyboards are directly proportional to the complexity of a shot.

For two people talking at a table, you probably don't need them.

For a shot of Tom Cruise swimming away from tripods that just capsized a ferry and are picking people out of the water with their tenticles .... you probably can't have enough storyboards and pre viz.

Has anyone seen the special War of the Worlds DVD with the behind the scenes work? I thought it was fairly good and enjoyed the whole thing.

Some of these software programs can be difficult for a newbie to master though. I have used Lightwave and did not find it easy to use. Admittedly I am not a 3 D expert by any means. If you are a director seeking pre viz yourself, you may want to get someone who is familiar with some of them or take a class to help you get started. Lightwave could eat and extrodinary amount of time. Perhaps Poser or one of the others has an easier learning curve.

Best

Tim
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#19 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 08:14 PM

I didn't say it was a BAD thing. I just question the notion that a hand drawing is useless for storyboards in this day and age of computers. There are levels of pre-viz and they don't always have to be completely accurate to be useful. Sometimes it's enough to have a feeling for the composition you want to achieve and then find it on the set with the actors and location, let yourself be inspired by the moment. I'm one of the biggest supporters of pre-planning, but there are many methods that all have their usefulness. I think computer pre-viz makes more sense when you have the option of building sets and designing them for certain lenses and compositions.

Oh I definately agree with you on that point. Anyone who says pencil scketcked storyboards are useless nowadays simply doesn't know what he's talking about. In my own case the opening sequence takes place in space where a small science probe is torn apart by a nebula. To try and use per existing elements would have been futile because the elements we were trying to create didn't exist except in my mind. I had to give my team of animators a place to start. I them needed hand drawn storyboards to guide them through the process of creating the individual elements and the feel and tone of the piece as the scene progressed while allowing them the freedom to explore their own creativity and add to these elements to make them better than they would have been without the colaberation. Drawn storyboards, models and clay sculptures were the only way to accomplish this, so we even went so far as to use a conceptual artist to help us visualize the elements of my script w/ concept art and clay sculpture. I also agree that Jim Jarmish one said in an interview, "you make a shot list the when you get to ther set you throw it away" (I'm slightly paraphasing) Tha same with storyboards. It's a guide not the 10 comandments. However I somewhat disagree with your assersion that it makes more sense when your building the sets, I think a set of complete set of storyboards is ALWAYS useful. It give you a sense of rhythm and flow, It help to cement the look, feel and mood of the piece and makes it more real, more tangible. It is also a way to plan editing. I was watching "The Directors" the other night and they had the guy who wrote and directed "Spanking the Monkey" on. He mentioned he not only does a shot list he also does an editing list (at least he did on his first 4 movies). I think storyboards do this all in one shot. When Peter Jackson lost funding for Lord of the Rings, he had 1 and 1/2 weeks to find funding or he was to walk away from the project. When he approched New Line, one of the major reasons he was greenlighted was because of his exceptionally thourgh pre-visuallization which included fully detailed storyboards, pileminary aninmation tests and conceptual art. The comment about not worrying about an over the shoulder converation sequence I also disagree with. I like to vary the angles a bit during these exchanges to help keep the audience from getting bored. also when looking at the storyboards it helps you gage the rhythm of the piece. If a tool in availible I say use it! It's like chicken soup and a cold, it can't hurt .
:rolleyes:

Edited by Capt.Video, 27 January 2006 - 08:17 PM.

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#20 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 08:37 PM

One more very compelling reason for using storyboards on ultra- low budget films is to utilize techniques of the martial arts films made in China. To save money on film and processing they used a lot of in camera editing rather than using a master shot w/ coverage. By breaking down fight sequences into individual shots they would stop the actor or stuntman and have him freeze reset the camera and cantinue the scene. This saved a tremendiuos amount of money but the only way to make it work with any kind of proifessional looking result is to storyboard extensively so you know exactly what the next shot will be.
:ph34r:
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