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StoryBoard Artist 7 review: Bring your vision to life, no cast or crew required

J.R. Bookwalter | April 6, 2016
StoryBoard Artist 7 is Mac software that makes it easy for anyone—even those who can’t draw—to create digital storyboards and plan complicated special effects shots or entire sequences, complete with virtual actors, props, and backgrounds.

The user interface may not be as polished as applications from bigger publishers, but everything is laid out in a logical, intuitive way. There’s a timeline across the bottom, with tabs containing built-in artwork and tools at right; the rest is a storyboard frame window, the canvas used to bring your story to life.

Storyboards can be as simple or complicated as you want. The easiest place to get started is the QuickShots tab, where you choose from a variety of common shot angles, add the required number of characters, then place them in the appropriate location. Add text for captions, click the Create button, and SBA7 creates each shot for you automatically.

Characters can be adjusted in an unlimited number of poses using intuitive tools and placed into virtual environments or your own stills taken on location. You can even import existing 3D files saved in the SKP format for a limitless catalog of possibilities. One thing you can’t do: Export XML files into Final Cut Pro, which requires the more expensive Studio version.

storyboard artist 7 import script
Final Draft screenplays can be imported to build static or motion-based storyboards without inputting caption or dialogue text manually.

Script to screen

StoryBoard Artist now makes it easy to go from typewritten word to visualization, thanks to the ability to import script files created with popular applications like Final Draft. This is a massive time saver, because filmmakers can focus on the look of scenes without being bogged down by manual entry of captions and dialogue.

Another new feature that streamlines the process is masking, which comes in handy when importing your own digital photos. Users can isolate and extract desired objects, removing unwanted backgrounds without the need for image editing software. The tool is fairly crude and there’s no support for edge feathering, but otherwise gets the job done.

While SBA7 works well for static storyboards with or without a soundtrack, it excels at creating “animatics,” which include animated motion as well as images. Filmmakers have control over perspective, opacity, brightness and contrast, color, and intensity, with filters that simulate artistic or traditional cinematic looks such as depth of field.

Acknowledging the world has gone mobile, there’s a universal companion iOS app called StoryBoard Artist Shot Assistant that allows projects to be exported, sent via email, and viewed on iPad or iPhone. It’s a bit clunky and hasn’t been optimized for iPhone 6 or iPad Pro displays, but is otherwise indispensable for shooting on location. Directors can refer to storyboards while composing shots, marking them off as completed. It’s the icing on the cake of a fantastic creative tool, but you’ll have to shell out $20 to own it.

 

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