Barely out of high school, my so-called career in the mid-‘80s was making low-budget feature films for the home video market. Although those flicks were more about zombies, mutant drug lords, and evil witches over plot or substance, they kept me busy for over two decades.
In those days, visualizing how scenes might play out before arriving on set with expensive equipment and a cast and crew required the skills of an artist talented enough to translate the screenwriter’s words and director’s vision into paper sketches called storyboards.
Flash-forward to the present, and technology has again found a better way, one that allows media creators to put 3D representations of their vision on screen before rounding up investors willing to finance your latest epic.
Crafted by engineers with a background in film production, StoryBoard Artist 7 ($800) is Mac software that makes it easy for anyone—even those who can’t draw, like me—to create digital storyboards and plan complicated special effects shots or entire sequences, complete with virtual actors, props, and backgrounds.
Known in the industry as previsualization (“previz” for short), this work typically requires complicated, high-end software. SBA7 can’t really be considered “affordable” in today’s freemium-minded App Store economy, but it’s cheaper than rival Storyboard Pro ($999; subscriptions also available) and simple enough for anyone to use.
Although SBA7 works on Macs running OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 all the way up to the current OS X El Capitan, you’ll need at least 15GB of hard drive space to install the software split across three installers. Most of this is consumed by libraries of 3D rendered, ready-to-use models, which can be installed in a location other than your capacity-starved internal SSD storage, such as an external drive.
This arrangement worked great until I updated to the latest build, which broke the link to the Libraries folder on my external drive and caused the application to display an error at launch. I was only able to circumvent this bug by reinstalling everything on my system drive, then applying the update.
Lights, camera, action!
At first launch, StoryBoard Artist 7 looks daunting, but since the layout echoes popular video editing applications, it’s easy to get started. Should you require assistance, the Help menu provides a handy link to a comprehensive user guide in PDF format, along with links to tutorial videos hosted on the company’s website.
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