Storyboards 3D for iPad – A Storyteller’s Dream Review

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“If you build it, he will come.”

It’s Field of Dreams’ quadranscentennial anniversary this year, and that line continues to be (mis)quoted to this day – just last week I stumbled upon an article about a pastor using it in his sermon, who tweaked it quite nicely to fit his message. I love the line, and hopefully will be able to justify borrowing it for this review.

After being fed the line by that ghostly voice repeatedly, the protagonist of the movie (Kevin Costner playing Ray Kinsella) would have had some mighty planning to do prior to embarking on the crazy task of replacing a few thousand corn stalks with a baseball diamond. In fact, it would have taken some careful planning by the moviemakers to fit those scenes into the picture, prior to investing time and money to actually build it in real life for the sake of 107 minutes of entertainment. The process of storyboarding, where scenes are planned and sequenced to blueprint an entire project, is therefore paramount; these days the storyboarding process is almost universal in its use in motion picture and animation, and has found its way into other disciplines, including advertising, interactive media and even for novelists. So, if there really is a novel in everyone, everyone might want to give Storyboards 3D a go.

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For some, it will suffice to pick up a pen and paper/fire up an App and start writing. But when more planning and organisation is needed, one would be hard pressed to find anything better than this. Some choice quotes and features from her maker’s website, Tamajii Inc., are as follows:

  • No drawing ability required
  • Choice of 3 render styles
  • Free basic 3D characters and props; library can be extended via in-app purchase
  • Easy duplication for sequencing next board(s)

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(all baseball diamond images courtesy of Chloe Pantazi)

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  • Simple object/prop insertion and layering
  • Backgrounds selection from library or photos
  • Text blocks/speech bubbles addition
  • Audio insertion

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  • Drawing manager to overview and rearrange boards
  • Name each board/shot, and add notes
  • Share, import and export options

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  • Endless orientation & positioning of characters/props
  • Detailed facial expressions
  • Choices of hair, outfits and accessories
  • Action options

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Just dreamy

From a personal viewpoint, I found this App to be useful in 2 big ways, especially since I don’t write in a linear timeline fashion. Firstly, it allows very quick scene creation using single/multiple boards to keep up with the flow of sometimes almost simultaneous ideas. It then acts as my ideas vault, filed graphically, with as much footnote as I please. As an example, these boards were created in under 2 minutes in total (not much of a story yet, but it sounded good in my head):

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Secondly, it takes over the job of holding a root image I’m working from in my head, thereby freeing said head to get creative with the actual prose.

The features in Storyboards 3D are more than sufficient for its purpose, organised very well within its like-it-or-hate-it skeuomorphic UI. Characters and props are well developed and easily manipulated, but the Oscar definitely goes to the facial expressions option. When applied, these turn out amazingly well, as you might see from some of the images above. And it doesn’t hurt that there is a growing trove of goodies if you want to spend a little on additional packages. Some examples of the currently available packs available via in-app purchase include:

  • Characters – new characters with multiple skin shades and hair variants
  • Positions – multiple friendly, fighting and even shooting positions
  • Props – for bathroom, bedroom and office scenes
  • They’ve even thought of doors and walls props, and a ‘Caution, Wet Floor’ sign!

A bit nightmarish

The basic package is basic. But then again, it is free, and you’re already getting something for nothing. So I quit whining and paid a bit for more.

For all it’s glory of many choices of characters and hair styles and accessories and facial expressions and so on, once an individual character is created, he/she cannot be saved! This is a terrible let down. Interestingly, this function is available in Storyboard 3D’s predecessors, Storyboards and Storyboards Premium.

Another annoying aspect is the lack of grouping ability. Layering a character onto a prop – say a man sitting on a chair – is simple, but be sure to decide carefully where you want him to be sitting as moving/manipulating him and the chair together afterwards is not so simple. And don’t even get me started on the lack of a decent undo function. Really?

Allowing notes to be added to boards is a must for storyboarding. Unfortunately however, these notes cannot be seen whilst in drawing manager mode – a screen real estate issue I presume. The only half decent workaround I have found is to share the storyboard via email; this converts the storyboard to PDF, which helpfully includes all individual board notes. Strangely though, audio gets dropped altogether during this process. Go figure.

And the last shock-horror point? After all the praise and love, it’s disappointing that the App is buggy. I actually randomly lost a whole storyboard last week! The only saving grace is that it was another test board, and in my anger I found the preacher’s article.

Finally

Yes, the bad points are poor, and could potentially make you cry (imagine me losing my Dreams of A Field storyboard). That said, I like this App a lot, and will continue using it whilst continually pestering the developers to get their act together.

Oh and did you know that Tom Hanks was the first choice to play the lead in Field of Dreams? And that they built not one, but two diamonds for the movie?

Here’s a UK and a US App Store link for Storyboards 3D; it’s free. In-app purchases start at £0.69/$0.99 and is designed for iPad. An official demo can be seen here.

One more thing: This App was independently purchased by the post author. He could’ve used it to write this review.

f'reez

Part-time MD, full-time Creative - I'm either performing on-stage, writing backstage, or practising off-stage, using as many of those shiny things they keep designing in Cupertino as I can. Shame they aren't waterproof yet - it's always a challenge against the elements here in the Northeast of England.

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