Storyboarding is an essential way for filmmakers to visualize and map out the creative journey ahead of them. But not everyone is inclined to go the pencil-and paper-route — some aren’t comfortable with the quality of their sketching abilities, while others might prefer a more 21st-century approach. Of course, you can always hire a storyboard artist, but a host of storyboard and pre-visualization programs have also emerged to offer alternatives for filmmakers. We’ve rounded up five options you can try (be sure to take advantage of free trials first!) to play out your project and make your shoots considerably easier.
The winner of two Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards, Storyboard Pro is used by shows like Hannibal, Archer, and The Simpsons, for good reason. The program offers powerful Photoshop-like drawing tools to amplify in-computer storyboard sketches with layers, brushes, colors, and more. But Storyboard Pro isn’t just a glorified virtual notebook — it adds a lot of versatility to the visualization process. You can edit any storyboard you’ve already drawn, and you can easily move boards around, or insert new ones, so you can tinker with story flow. With each “sketch,” you can adjust angles, add camera movements, and include sounds, all to create animatics that provide a clear vision of how your project is going to look.
Price: $38 per month
Storyboard Artist Studio 7
Storyboard Artist Studio 7 is definitely a pricey option, but not without justification. Created by professionals with film-production backgrounds, the program provides everything you need to realize your film in detail – short of a $50 million budget. It has drawing tools, 24 gigabytes of objects (locations, props, clothes), highly poseable characters, transitions, audio editing, lighting, shot effects, and motion graphics. The latter two are an especially big sell for the program, particularly when coupled with Studio 7’s ability to incorporate photos of your scouted locations and insert elements into them seamlessly. Taking some of the guess work out of how scenes will play out once you’re on location, that can be priceless for any filmmaker.
Price: Starting at $899
If The Sims had been created for pre-visualizing films, it would probably look like MovieStorm. The 3D animation software may be more frequently geared toward teaching students the fundamentals of moviemaking, but its ability to animate in such detail makes it a powerful storyboard tool for those who love their details. The program offers a deep set of building tools, bottomless wardrobe and character elements, and much more, making it a great choice for filmmakers who want to nail down as much nuance as they can before a camera rolls.
Price: Starting at $225
Looking to be more frugal? Storyboard Fountain is a free app (currently in beta for Macs) that imports Fountain screenplay files and breaks them down into their individual elements (logline, action, dialogue). Each one can be selected, then given a storyboard that you sketch. The creator of the program is a big proponent of workshopping and a fluid creative process, which is also why Storyboard Fountain strongly emphasizes easy editing — of script or storyboard — thanks to words and images being seamlessly synced. That should make the program especially appealing to writer/directors looking to integrate storyboards into the script process, rather than tackling them afterward.
FrameForge Previz Studio 3D
Winner of an Emmy for Technical Achievement, FrameForge Previz Studio 3D lets you visualize your film to a degree that would take forever with a pencil or pen. The program offers thousands of objects —characters, animals, wardrobe, and more — that you can place in virtual sets that you create. Previz Studio 3D is especially essential for those who want to get detailed with cinematography; each shot is built around where the camera will be, and its virtual counterpart in the program can roll, pan, zoom, dolly, and crane. What’s more, inputting those options creates data-rich storyboards that list the details (camera height, focal length, angle) that you need to realize your vision in a real-world shoot. The program is a director and videographer’s dream, providing a way to simulate a shoot before you shoot, while giving you a blueprint that will make your actual filmmaking easier and quicker.
Price: Starting at $399
What other programs do you use for pre-visualization? Share any favorites in the comments!
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Top Image: Storyboards on Set by Cameraman_Kiev