As more and more churches, ministries and individual Christians deepen our commitment to and capacity for using today’s media technology for effective “storytelling”, the need to invest in a new production tool which we may have, until now, perceived as solely the domain of those Hollywood storytellers (read: studios, directors, producers, etc.) but one which is central to our “taking things to the next level” often arises. Toon Boom Storyboard V1 by Toon Boom Animation Inc. (toonboom.com) is one such tool. At $899.99 this is a “serious tool” for “serious storytellers” (which I trust your ministry is aspiring to be). For that price you receive:
-Toon Boom Storyboard V1
-Installation and Getting Started Guide
-Keyboard Shortcuts table
-USB Dongle (security key)
-One very powerful, full-featured storyboarding system for a lifetime of visual storytelling!
Let’s take a closer look at some highlights of Toon Boom Storyboard V1, which, by the way, is available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.
Although I was informed (warned?) by our good Canadian friends at Toon Boom Animation Inc. that the version of “Storyboard” being shipped to me for review was a beta release and that I should “be gentle” I had no issues, crashes or problems with the program. Installation was quick, painless and seamless just as described in the well-documented, easy-to-follow written Installation and Getting Started Guide (software developers are you listening!?).
In order to determine “Storyboards” ease-of-use factor I decided to see how far I could go with the program’s features without reading the manual. I found the programs features easily accessible and highly intuitive (just about every button/feature had an appropriate icon and responded in an expected manner). The interface has a clean, uncluttered appearance throughout its different “views” and I found “Storyboards” workflow to be quite logical.
The primary building block within “Storyboard” are called “panels” within which you illustrate each scene in your production (characters, props, movements, text, sounds and camera angles). Thankfully, the drawing tools resemble standard drawing tools used in many graphic and animation programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Toon Boom Studio, Toon Boom Solo and Toon Boom Harmony. “Storyboard” also comes with a very helpful library of ready-made characters (you’ll meet William, Maria, Kevin and friends) actions (zig zag left, u-turn, straight left, etc.), FX (lightning, smoke, explosions, etc.), props (plant, phone, boat, etc.) sets (beach, house, street, etc.) and templates.
In short, just about everything you need to take an idea and translate it into a visual story. Each item in your scene can be placed on its own layer (think Adobe Photoshop) so independent adjustments and manipulations of any element in your storyboard are simple and fast. You can even adjust the camera position, angle and movement in each panel (shot) just like you would on actual movie set.
I liked that bitmap images could be imported as backgrounds and that “Storyboard” includes a powerful Light Table feature. Light Table displays a paler version of all layers in a panel, except for the layer that is currently selected, not unlike traditional “cell animation” produced on actual transparencies overlaid (stacked) on top of one another.
“Storyboard” includes the ability to add text (captions) to any panel which is a helpful feature for identifying important aspects and/or information about any particular shot. You can even add your own sound track by using “Storyboards” Import Sound Sequences features. You can adjust volume levels of sound sequences to fade in, fade out, or mute sounds, without affecting the original sound file.
At any time during its development process you can preview your project (synchronized with sound) as an “animatic” (also known as a Leica reel or test reel) in Toom Boom Storyboard. This is another very powerful feature. Your animatic can even be generated as a Flash (.swf) or QuickTime (.mov) movie with camera information converted into actual camera movements! Your completed storyboard can also be exported to other Toon Boom applications (big news flash there!) or an EDL (edit decision list).
A few more of my favorite Toon Boom Features include:
– the ability to output your digital storyboard to a PDF
– Storyboard tabs which allow you to enter textual information about your overall storyboard project
– Grid display options
– Template manipulation features
It was very difficult for me to find any “glaring weaknesses” within Toon Boom Storyboard V1. This system for visual storytelling does an excellent job of helping those new to storyboarding find their way as quickly as possible while putting a very powerful feature set into the hands of those more experienced “storyboarders”.
While experimenting with Toon Boom Storyboard I found my imagination roaming (playing?) freely after all manner of ideas and, well, stories. Truth be told I was actually having… (gasp!) …FUN! And you will too (but don’t tell your pastor!) After all, isn’t the ultimate test of any technology, especially technologies for worship, how well it “stays out of the way” even as it facilitates the production and presentation of compelling, life-changing, God-given stories and story telling?
By combining superb documentation, an intuitive and uncluttered user interface, logical story telling tools, multiple work flow views and a very powerful feature set Toon Boom Storyboard “gets it right” and will prove to be a valuable asset to any ministry looking to “take a leap forward” in their visual storytelling. That’s my storyboard and I’m sticking to it.