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What I’m Packing Now

My New Mobile Studio: Wacom MobileStudio Pro and MacBook Pro
My New Mobile Studio Pro and Macbook Pro Setup

This is a post about my new digital studio, but to put the excitement I have for this setup in context, I think it’s a great idea to backtrack a bit.  A couple of years ago, I posted about my ‘new’ Cintiq companion – new, at least, when I got it, and worked well for onsite work – now, though still functioning, feeling a bit left behind, since nowadays too many colleagues are sporting newer Cintiq Companion 2’s and leaving me feeling ancient and crusty.  Additionally, I’d STILL been using my old stable workhorse, my trusty Cintiq 20WSX, as a ‘home’ setup (with my 2008 Mac Pro)  – I loved this thing and can’t imagine where I’d be in my career without it.   Thus I want to take a moment to honor these great tools, which technically are still with us, and great testimonials for the usefulness and longevity of Wacom devices, though now formally decommissioned and placed into storage.


Part 1 – The Past
Cintiq 20WSX
Cintiq 20WSX

Not all digital artists love Cintiqs.  Drawing on a Wacom display screen, whether 10 years ago or today, apparently isn’t for everyone.  But 10 years ago, I was in a place where I was all of a sudden drawing very regularly for more than 8 hours a day on an original 6×9 Intuos tablet (another device that served me so well in it’s time) and it became clear that I would need to upgrade my hardware for the sake of my neck and back, if nothing else.  So plunked down the $2000 I barely had to make that leap into true professional hardware, and I’m so glad I did.  Not only did my aches and pains swiftly become alleviated due to a more supportive drawing posture (the large Cintiqs are akin to ye artiste’s draughting desques of olde and thus more compatible with classic drawing ergonomics) but I noticed something that I didn’t anticipate – as I would (because I could) take my Cintiq (connected to my MacBook) along with me, via a large suitcase for transport, to onsite commercial storyboarding day-jobs, I would often be the only artist in a building of artists who had one, and other artists noticed, and would wander over, and gush over it, and ask about it, and ask to try it, and man, that’s such a great feeling.  Producers, even ones on other projects, could instantly and easily see that I was a serious professional, because, hey, look at all his gear.  This guy came to draw.  Nobody else we hire brings their own high-powered weaponry like this.

Aside from aesthetics, this setup really allowed me to comfortably crank out drawings, whether onsite or at home, and thus, my career flourished.  But, with time, newer options became available, and the shine on my Cintiq faded, and though my setup still worked fine, nobody was commenting on how cool my stuff was – it was my turn to ask questions about their gear – some artists were working on Tablet PCs, and then Microsoft Surfaces.  I needed a leg up.  And, a break from the constant packing and unpacking my 30 pounds of gear everyday when working onsite.  Also, my suitcase transport worked fine in most circumstances, but not so elegant when going up 3 flights of stairs when the elevator goes out.  Or legging it 3 blocks when convenient parking is unavailable.  As it was, I went through 3 suitcases in 5 years because the rubber wheels kept wearing down to nubs.  I no longer had an elegant solution.  It was also clear that the color gamut available on this screen was inadequate for accurate color work, the accuracy of the pointer was always a bit off, and the thick glass provided as much parallax as it did screen protection – surely the tech had advanced by now?

At about this point, luckily, a promising development arose – the Cintiq companion.  Wacom already had been producing 13-inch Cintiqs (my mother made use of one for years) but as these were still encumbered by large arrays of connecting cords and power supplies, they never seemed to be much of an upgrade.  Now, there was something different – a battery-powered, self-sufficient drawing tablet, with touch input – you didn’t even need a keyboard!  I ordered one straight away –  again, about $2000 – but money well spent.

Cintiq Companion

The promise of the Cintiq Companion was true: Portable and Powerful (faster in many ways than my previous mobile and even my Mac Pro setup), and I’ve done some of my best work on the device, but in full retrospect there were many issues that hampered my productivity enough to keep me always looking out of the corner of my eye for another solution.  For one, the small form of the device made it less comfortable for drawing over long periods of time.  I found myself drawing ‘small’ with my more strain on my wrist and fingers than on my shoulder and elbows.  I felt cramped and less at ease with the drawing postures I had to adapt.  Another drawback- it solely ran on Windows and thus was outside of my usual comfort of a mac workflow.  Windows has some advantages but none that I required- mostly I didn’t really trust it- my attempts to keep the computer updated seemed to cause turmoil with the various drivers needed for stylus input.  So, I had to keep it at base factory settings- meaning it was stuck in a time capsule of operation- newer apps wouldn’t run on the outdated system.  The greater pressure sensitivity really didn’t have any affect on my workflow.  And though the pen was more accurate, and had far better tilt support than my larger older Cintiq, there were still ‘dead zones’ that seemed to send cursor wildly off course, or nullify the effect of the pen tilt, meaning accuracy was only achievable on certain areas of the screen, and none of them were in my natural drawing position.  It was not to be.  True, it was a step in the right direction- and I was grateful for it’s small size on the few occasions I made use of it in bed or on an airplane- and it was very quick to flip out of a messenger bag and get right to work.  But nobody ever gushed over it- it was too small and subtle to catch the eye of anybody who wasn’t already right next to it.  And by now, drawing tablet PCs were all over the place- we had already entered the era of the modern iPad and equivalents.


Part 2 – The Problem

So this year, I was on the hunt for the next setup to replace my ancient Cintiq 20wsx at home, and I was at a serious dilemma- There was of course the newer Cintiq 22 HD, a fine machine, but really, it was running on nearly the same tech as my previous device- only a couple inches larger (which I was convinced I didn’t need) and still using the same umbilical cord of DVI (ugh! enough of this shit) and power and USB squid cable all-in-one-kinda.  There was even a ‘touch’ version that seems interesting, but in practice is mostly unusable (I have it off most of the time on my Wacom touch devices- it ‘works,’ but only after a few tries, and thus, takes more time than a keyboard shortcut, but they’ll probably get this stuff working right eventually, and I’m looking forward to that day).  Then of course there is the leviathan 27 QHD, a mammoth machine that leaves basically no room on your desktop for a keyboard or anything else- its kind of ridiculous actually, I’ve seen other artists using these machines, and I’ve tried them, and they were really no more accurate or functional that anything previous, and sporting a weird floating expresskeys controller, which I guess is a good alternative when you can’t hope to reach the sides of your display.  And of course, even that model has a weird display controller hub that becomes a rat nest of cables on your desk.  More ugh.

It’s so simple!

The big hangup for me was the cable connectors- all options were still using the same octopus-tentacle cable solution that they introduced 10 years ago.  DVI bullshit- why? Surely there was something better?  Why not output to Displayport or Thunderbolt 2 connectors? I already knew from experience that any new Wacom using DVI was going to be impossible to hookup to any model Mac Pro without using display adapters, which I was already doing on my old Cintiq, which coincidentally was failing at the point of the display connectors- setting up and tearing down my setup day after day was straining and bending the DOZENS of fucking pins on those DVI connectors.  Who the hell thought up that crappy tech? Wouldn’t it have been better to simply line up six USB connectors in a row?  Anyway, the connectors were failing and I wasn’t about to just buy fresh new shit connectors. That’s simply going to put me in the same spot I am now, looking for a more elegant and future-ready solution.  I resolved I wouldn’t buy any new Wacom Tech until I knew that they had a new solution for their display connectors.

Mobile Studio Pro

THEN – a few months later, no warning at all, I saw a random tweet about the new Mobile Studio Pro- seems like something was leaked perhaps, because the unveiling to the ‘press’ overall for this device was pretty haphazard, with poor documentation online and not really much of an attempt to tease to the audience with a sexy promo video.  Nevertheless, I poured over the specs and liked what I saw, in a big way.  Bigger screen, higher resolution, faster processors, more memory, etc etc – a big leap forward in hardware, sporting an independent windows 10 os in tablet mode, AND the ability to charge AND connect to an external Mac via the fancy new USB C.  Finally!  I resolved to buy one as soon as I could, but they weren’t going to be available to ship until mid November.  Even though there wasn’t a Mac out yet to hook up via USB C directly, I knew that eventually there would be, and I had gotten used to Windows enough recently to bridge that gap.

Microsoft Surface Studio

Sooo, I stuck with my deteriorating systems and fantasized all the while about the new device.  Meanwhile some additional developments cropped up– Microsoft OUT OF THE FUCKING BLUE released the Microsoft Surface Studio and MAN does that thing look awesome!  A Cintiq-like screen but more like an iMac in many ways.  I got chills looking at the demo videos.  Some great PR movements there- completely stole the show from Apple, who next day released their newest Macbooks, with the optional touch-bar.  Man, who gives a crud about that touch bar?  BUT it has USB C… and only USB C… well, looks like I’ll be needing some dongles!

UNLESS… could I just go with the Surface Studio and make it my SOLE machine?  At 20 pounds and however big it is wide, I could easily fit it into a suitcase and take it to gigs- why not?  I did that for years with my older Cintiq 20WSX.  It would have all the power I needed and be top of the line!   People online were tossing around phrases like ‘cintiq killer’ and ‘wacom killer.’  And of course I’d turn heads with it, nobody else would have one (at least for a little bit).   Big problem though, is that they weren’t shipping until early 2017.   That’s months away!  My current systems are sucking now!  For example, my 2008 Mac Pro was recently unable to support the latest operating system update to Mac OS Sierra.  I got a LOT of use out of the system- a great testament to the longevity of Macs, at least of that era- but it couldn’t keep up now.  Technically it was functioning but the bad outweighed the good- It was an incredibly heavy, bulky machine, with ungodly amounts of peripheral wires flailing out in every direction, no less than 4 external hard drives for my haphazard backup system, blasting heat all day long, burning tons of electricity, CD tray was jammed, and recently the usb ports and video card began intermittently failing- sometimes it would fail to boot, and just give a flashing power light, but then boot just fine on restart.  These are not good signs.  I needed to act!

Macbook Pro 13″ 2016

THE NEXT DAY Apple released their 2016 Macbook Pros, and I was pleased to see that if nothing else, it would be available about the same time as the Mobile Studio Pro (MSP), and sported USB C connectors, which means I could use it to power the MSP, much like I did my Cintiq.  Was I impressed with the specs?  Chips? Processors, RAM? Being a former Certified Mac Tech, I’m savvy enough to know why these things are important, but I actually don’t tend to pay attention to that kind of stuff anymore when making purchases- since I really only needed to look at my good ol’ 2010 Macbook Pro, and how not-so good it was, and how old it was, to get an estimate of how much more likely better the NEW computer is going to function.  There’s no guarantees of course, but I tend to feel more at ease with Apple purchases, and right when I needed one, they came out with one.  And no, I didn’t care for the optional touchbar, it looks useless.

The Microsoft Store

Now I had a few paths in front of me- I knew in any case that I would get the MSP, and possibly that would suffice solely for drawing purposes.  The side decision was, do I additionally get the Microsoft Surface Studio (MSS), or the new Macbook Pro (MBP)?  I already knew I would be good with the MBP- but was the MSS better?  There were some great testimonials online, and many artists discussing whether this could simply replace their Cintiqs.  That’s a bold statement!  The machine looked sexy as hell, had a cool dial that seemed promising, shockingly inexpensive for what it was, and was super thin and light.  Theoretically, a machine that light could be considered a contender for onsite jobs.  But how did it ‘draw’?  It wasn’t using Wacom tech, so was it using an upgraded surface stylus?  I knew those were accurate at the tip, but had NO pen tilt function, and lower sensitivity.  AND the screen had no buttons on the side, just a multifunction dial, which likely would not substitute for my Cintiq Expresskeys.  I did some snooping around and found that one MSS was ON DISPLAY in Glendale (fairly near my house) so I could actually go in person to evaluate it!

Finally I had a day off and I bolted out to the Microsoft Store (more of a Kiosk in this location) to investigate, SAW the darn thing from all the way across the mall, and met a friendly but tad inelegant sales team who was happy to take me through a demo, point out features, and deflect any pointed questions I had.  I tried it out myself too.  Some things I will point out.

Not a picture of me.
  • The machine is beautiful, and I am really impressed.  Formidable and eye-catching, but not overly so.  The Display is simultaneously bright, crisp, clean, and with deep dark blacks, the best I’ve seen anywhere.  It’s ‘optically bonded’ which means there are no air gaps between the composite layers of the screen leading to the eye, and thus, it appears at least, that the pixels and the glass covering them are imperceptibly overlapped.  Amazingly thin and light- I did lift the unit and it’s about 20 lbs.  It looks like it could fit into a large suitcase, which pleased me.  It does look a little fragile but I could only speculate on that.  It appears that it cannot collapse to a completely flat, portable mode, but neither could my old Cintiq.
  • The ‘Touch’ of the touchscreen excedes the responsiveness of my experiences with any device previous.  Likely due to the ‘optical bonding’ of the screen, the touch sensitivity feels immediate in a very eerie way.  More intuitive as well- previously on touch-enabled windows devices, I’ve found it to be unwieldy and unpredictable, but now it is incredible.
  • The raising/lowering action of the display feels natural and fast.  I tried leaning on it too, and it appeared plenty sturdy for drafting purposes, though it seems too good to be true.
  • The Stylus/Pen feels good enough in my hand (I prefer a Wacom Classic Pen myself) but a tad heavy (it’s battery powered, which is awkward).  It has a neat feature where you can remotely ‘click’ the ‘eraser/clicker’ on the back of the stylus and it can execute commands like, switching to a new slide in a presentation.  Useful for that at least.  Presumably it could also be an eraser in Photoshop.  It had buttons on the side, or seemed to, like a Wacom stylus.  I don’t remember using them at the time, but these are also presumably programmable per application.  It is also magnetic- it stuck to the side of the screen in many possible places, and that seemed very handy.
  • When testing in Photoshop, and I only made a few strokes and circles with a generic ‘brush,’ and the lines looked great.  I think there is either great digitization or some sort of assiste/corrective digitization, since my circles looked a little more perfect than usual.  The pressure sensitivity seems fine but the initial nib-to-screen-stroke-activation seems just a little bit behind.  Maybe that is a settings issue.  I must compliment the accuracy- it seems to be perfectly pixel-accurate at the tip at all positions on the screen and absolutely no parallax- the best accuracy I’ve seen on any device.  But I was disheartened to confirm that it was not sensitive to pen tilt.  D’oh!
  • The Dial is interesting and makes for a great demoing (the demo guy showed it
    The Surface Dial

    being good for scrolling, scrubbing through timelines, moving through undo states, etc, but aside from being a decent volume knob, I would probably see very little use for it.  It did feel cool. I thought it was VERY cool that it could adhere anywhere to the screen; again, magnetic.  WTF.  I thought magnets were bad for computer screens!  Of course, that was back in the CRT days, kiddies.

  • The price was relatively immaterial – comparable to a high end Cintiq, yet evidently capable of so much more.

Ultimately I was hung up on two fatal flaws- The lack of pen tilt sensitivity and the Windows OS.  Windows has made great strides and I’m sure is outpacing the Mac OS in many ways, but I’m 16 years into Mac and I’m comfortable and familiar, and that’s more important to me right now.  Plus, the MobileSP comes with Windows as a tablet computing option, so I could theoretically have both.   And as far as the pen tilt- that is a nonstarter- I need that for my workflow.  Other artists don’t, but for me it’s essential.  Darn!  So, I decided it was better to stick with the MobileSP and MacBP option.  Sticking with the Mac for now.

Still- I plunked down the $100 to reserve a machine when they come out next year (and I get a free dial too!), as insurance against a possible unforseen incompatibility, or dissappointment with my chosen new setup.  I may still change my mind about the MSStudio.  I want to talk about this for a second.  It was an incredible demonstration of intent Microsoft’s part to come out of nowhere with an incredible machine that but for a few small flaws (and inconsequential flaws, to some) I would have paid for in full on the spot.  Nobody was predicting this kind of upset into territory that seemed so firmly in the hands of Apple and Wacom, who at times appear as combative entities between themselves.  It feels like Microsoft is now beating BOTH companies at their OWN game.  This is what I’ve been hoping for, for years now- a major player to start courting the artistic professionals BESIDES Wacom.  These past years, we’ve seen what can best be described as Cintiq knockoffs appearing everywhere, but I’ve never seen them in my professional circles, and nobody talks much about them in my experience.  People are TALKING about the MSStudio because it is a NEW DEVICE that combines the elegance and charm of a iMac with the drafting capabilities of a Cintiq- times like a bajillion.  What an exciting time.  I predict that Microsoft will soon surmount the remaining technical hurdles and achieve a drawing experience that surpasses the Cintiq, and that artists will flock to it, and potentially swing the pendulum for Microsoft to take the lead position as the go-to choice for creative professionals in the graphic arts.

Wacom sort of occupies a neutral territory here- being essential compatible with both operating systems and possessing at least for now, superior drawing tech and an incumbent hold on the majority of the market- but for Apple, the ball is in their court.  The MSStudio is not yet a Cintiq killer but it IS an iMac killer in my estimation.  And I must reiterate, it feels like an actual new kind of device, like the tablet or iPhone before it.   This is is different enough to be considered a new evolution, a new kind of computing experience, and now it is to Apple to upgrade the iMac or concede the race.  And that’s what I’m hoping for in the next gen iMac- I would definitely prefer to stay with Apple, but in the end, I will go with the best, most versatile drawing tools I can find, whoever the supplier is.


Part 3 – The Present
Mobile Studio Pro 16″

So, back to Wacom.  There were some lucky early artists who got their hands on the MobileSP for online video reviews, and it looked great especially for my purposes, so when they finally became available for order this Thanksgiving, I bought the high end, 16″ model and had it shipped over to one of my clients that I was working at.  I got to unbox it at work and that was a delight- always fun to be the first one on the block.  I’ll describe it and the overall experience now.

  • The device is sturdy, solid, impressive, aggressive, but sleek, stylish, and refined.  It appears exactly right as an evolution from the cintiq companion.  It looks premium.  It’s bigger than I expected, which is good, but works against easy of portability.  You kind of need two hands to hand it off to someone- it’s nothing like an iPad.
  • The screen is bright, luminous, rich, dense, colorful.   Pixels are imperceptible.   The touch sensitivity is far better than on my smaller Cintiq Companion (CC).  It has a very very mild screen texture that is familiar and pleasing to me, and similar to my older 20WSX (and different from my CC!)  The MobileSP does NOT appear to have a removable screen coat whereas my CC did (which I removed it to reduce the screen texture).
  • Runs on windows 10, and it’s fast in my estimation- snappy, responsive.  I like this version of windows, and I’ve had no trouble using it.
  • Comes with a Pro Pen 2, which is more sensitive, but not really- near as I can tell, it is more sensitive mostly when you are pushing really hard on the screen, meaning it doesn’t max out as early as the other pens did. But when you push too hard on this screen, it goes wavy on the screen around the cursor, which seems like it isn’t a good thing.  So that’s a waste.
  • But the ACCURACY and TILT SENSITIVITY and NEARLY ZERO PARALLAX of the pen tip are absolutely excellent.  This was potentially going to be a sticking point for me – if these were not an improvement on the earlier Cintiqs, I would have sent the device back.  But now we have arrived at the era of pixel-perfect accuracy AND tilt.  Rejoice!
  • The screen rotates to whatever position you flip it to- even “Portrait Mode” which I would never use.  The Expresskeys on the side work great for lefties and righties- I would prefer if the touch sensitive ‘rocker ring’ was just buttons, like on my Cintiq Companion, but I can live without it.  I’m sure some people like dials, but I like buttons more.  Works as advertised.
  • Sports 3 USB-C ports and my verdict is in- USB-C is awesome (no more flipping the damn connectors upside down 3 times to make it fit!), fast, versatile, compact, and it’s the way of the future.
  • Looks like it’s got a card reader, and cameras and a fingerprint scan thing too.  Cool!  I mostly have ignored those options.
  • Power Supply Cable is … fine.  Nicely styled, and smaller than my previous Cintiq20WSX, but BIGGER than the one for my Cintiq Companion.  Durn!  But really, how come the power supplies that Apple makes are so much smaller?  I would love to see some progress on miniaturizing power supplies a bit.
  • The Pen holder it comes with is cool, and very sturdy, but impractical, sorry Wacom.
  • DOESN’T COME WITH a protective sleeve
  • DOESN’T COME WITH a stand
  • DOESN’T COME WITH the Wacom Link, a display adapter for compatibility with other external display inputs
  • But don’t feel bad, because none of these were even available for purchase at the time of this writing, so don’t miss what you can’t have.

But you know what?  It’s OK because the drawing on it feels great, accurate, fast, and the OS is working, and things are updating, and things are not crashing, and it’s wonderful.  The Painter and Photoshop programs I use are not exactly blazing fast- but I attribute that to the greater processing demand for driving all those high-res pixels to the new display- and I’m sure this will improve as the software matures to the new hardware.  Overall a very solid machine and I’m very happy.  A solid REPLACEMENT for my old system.  Both my old 20WSX and CC are replaced with this new great tablet.  Whew!

And, turns out I can use the Stylus from my older CC on my new MobileSP!  Bonus!

My New Mobile Studio Setup

The final piece of the pie, the Macbook Pro, was ordered shortly after my MSP arrived and we have been a great threesome since.  Amazingly, incredibly, it works as advertised, and I’m loving this thing.  Yes you need dongles to plug stuff in, but they really are so small, and for my purposes, it makes no difference.  Its more important to me what DOESN’T need a dongle, or adapter, or connector- the single, basic USB-C cable that plugs my New MacBook into my New Mobile Studio Pro!  THIS SHIT WORKS!

I was very, very, very pleased that I needed only to install wacom drivers on the MBP and plug in the wacom- and that was all that I needed to do to make them work!  A single-cable-cintiq!!  YES!!! That’s what I had been waiting for!  Now I have it!  Yay!!!

What’s also really cool is you can even run both of the devices of their independent batteries- so in the event of a power outage, you will have no stoppage of work!  And I’d say that counts to portability, though I doubt either of these things are great on battery life.  Still, nice to know a blown fuse won’t stop my workflow!  It happens!

Because of the lack of basic accessories from wacom, I had to get creative, and after some trial and error, I have a setup I really like now.  I used some older items I had from earlier setups, and ordered a bunch of accessories off Amazon to fill the gaps.

Side View of my new setup

Here’s everything in my Mobile Studio connected, put together and working, big and small.

  1. Mouse is from Amazon Basics
  2. The keyboard (also ordered off Amazon) is an older GearHead micro thing- it’s proved versatile as it has a built in trackpad (hey, mice die too) and works cross-platform.
  3. Mobile Studio Pro 16″ i7 – Top of the Line
  4. Interesting new Z-Stand (what I call it) I found on Amazon by Uncaged Ergonomics.  Lightweight, work as advertised.  I’m worried about durability- its mostly plastic.  Works for now- easy to adjust angles and heights, so that’s great.  I like to draw high up and just a little bit tilted.  I would love to find a sturdier design but this works great.  I used kneaded eraser to adhere it to the table surface- makes it every stable, but also easy to remove.
  5. This Folding Angle Stand goes on the Z-Stand-it’s what actually props up the MobileSP to the angle I like- has good options for angles for me.  I do fret about the possibility of the MSP from slipping off it.  For now, it’s also adhered with kneaded eraser.  The whole assembly feels very sturdy.
  6. On top of that goes ANOTHER smaller folding stand that works great to keep the Macbook pro at the perfect angle for a second monitor and also to maximize desk space!  Remember, often work onsite in very cramped spaces, and it’s common for me to share desks with other artists too!
  7. MacBook Pro 2016 13″
  8. Older USB hub- easy to replace with something better but works.  Connecting with a USB-C to USB3 dongle.
  9. Under the whole assembly is a new Lacie Porsche 8TB.  Storage is such a deal these days!   One drive to rule them all.  This device is USB-C!
  10. Simple, elegant, and compact.  It even all fits into a basic backpack from Amazon basics!  I think that’s pretty darn good, except I look more like an art student when I wear a backpack like this.  But that’s only because I have such a youthful appearance, I’m sure.  Maybe I can find a something that looks more slick.

There you have it, the long tale of having the best gear, losing it, and getting it back again.  I thank you for sticking with it and hope you found it informative.  If you are considering upgrading your gear as well and have any questions regarding my setup, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to respond.

Thanks for a great 2016, looking forward to 2017!

-Max

Categories
Reviews Storyboarding Tips and Tricks

Visual Storytelling Websites, Links and Art Resources

Storyboards have been around quite a long time, always lurking behind the scenes, but it seems like in recent years the profession is getting more recognition, and that’s exciting.  There’s all kinds of new resources popping up and so I want to also collect some links to those sites and artists that might additionally prove interesting to readers of this blog- after all, I don’t really use this site so much as to teach about storyboarding; it’s really a glorified demo reel to show off work that I’m proud of.   Actually, it’s the only one I know of that deals with personal case studies of commercial storyboarding, but in time, there will be more.  I’ll informally collect them in a list below, and the newest additions will be at the top, but newest is not necessarily greatest, that’s just the order of discovery.  If you know of a link that I should add to this list- comments are open below!  Note – I might as often post a link and discuss why it’s NOT a useful resource, even if it purports to be.


Sharon Forward – http://sharonforward.blogspot.com/ – That’s right, my mom’s website, yes, she was a professional storyboard artist for like 30 years or something- she’s retired right now but there are some fun animation storyboard animatics there, from her time at Disney, which was quite a long time… She probably won’t post new things but that’s understandable.  Having parents who were storyboard artists gives me the right to go blah blah blah and neener neener because of course I know what I’m talking about, because my parents were storyboard artists.  But in all seriousness, I’m very proud of my parents and I owe everything to their hard work ethic and talents, but no, they never got me any jobs or industry contacts- remember, I work in advertising, not television or feature animations.  It’s entirely different.  I made my own way and I’m proud of that too.


StoryboardArtists.com – http://www.storyboardartists.com  I’m understandably hesitant to endorse what I suspect might be the educational arm of Famous Frames, the site’s sole advertiser and competitor of the agency I work for, but aside from my blog, which you already know about, there are so few other websites that discuss storyboarding for commercial advertising as well as tv shows and features, and perspectives into the daily grind of artists like me.  It’s a young site, so who knows if it will have much of a future, but for now I like the direction that it’s going in and if you like my blog, you might like their articles- but if you are looking to hire storyboard artists, go to Frameworks-LA.com and contract with them instead.  Ha!  But honestly, I like the layout, content, and the direction (an actual industry blog) so give it a look- it’s the closest thing to my site I’ve been able to find.  I can’t do all the work 🙂


StoryboardArt.Org – http://storyboardart.org/  I’ve followed the progress of this site since it launched and it’s gone through some evolutions- first it appeared as a discussion/job posting board and then a website offering free (and pay) tutorials.  I can’t be sure but I don’t think it’s getting much traction in either of those categories.  I keep clicking on the links trying to find some actual drawings of impressive storyboards (because frankly, I like to learn from others and I’m curious what insights they might have) and what I keep finding are paywalls and really scribbly drawing samples.  They have started blogging about visual storytelling case studies, providing insights into problem solving and decision making in the field of storyboarding, which is a step in the right direction.  They also post info about upcoming educational events and conferences that you might be interested in.  I suppose that in many corners of the storyboarding field, all that matters for the artist is to quickly gesture loose lines and keep continuity.  If that’s about your interest level, then check it out.  But in competitive commercial storyboarding for advertising (my field), your artwork must be rapidly executed to a stunningly beautiful finish and crystal clear readability, and I just don’t see any samples of that here, so just understand that what you learn at this site might only take you so far.  It’s not representative of the entire field, but for that matter, neither is my site!  HA!


Temple of the Seven Golden Camels – Everything Mark Kennedy knows about storyboarding – http://sevencamels.blogspot.com/  Words of Wisdom from a pro.  This is a great site, great writing, gets really into the craft and the storytelling, great histories, and tons of content.  A director I work with turned me onto this site, and I enjoy catching up on updates every once in awhile.  I wish I was as diligent with updating!  Then again, I’m extremely busy.  My major gripe with this site is I can barely find any of the guy’s storyboards anywhere on it.  He writes in depth about the profession and everything he writes is absolutely great, but I would love to see more samples of his professional work.  He’s got some great links and resources as well, so bookmark this one for sure.


Illustration Art by David Apatoff – http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/  This is my personal favorite site, and it’s not even about storyboarding, it’s just really well written and interesting musings and histories about the illustration industry, past and present.  Well worth a look and another site with GREAT links and resources.


Storyboards – http://pixar-animation.weebly.com/storyboard.html  This is a simple little site that clearly shows great examples of animation storyboards and their use.  Take a peek and learn why they are essential to pre-production in all visual storytelling.


Animation Treasures – https://one1more2time3.wordpress.com/  This site is a little cryptic – I have a hard time pinning down exactly who’s site it is, and what they do professionally- and you have to hunt around but you can find some very interesting samples of animation background paintings and other great design inspiration.  I love this kind of stuff but your mileage may vary- worth a peek.


The Golden Age – http://thegoldenagesite.blogspot.com/  Again, it’s unclear who’s site this is… but I like to come here and steal a read at all the old comic book scans they have.  You have to hunt around a bit but there’s some real treasure there, if you like that sort of thing, and I do.


Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine – https://pappysgoldenage.blogspot.com/   It might seem like I’m overly attracted to these old-school comics sites, but Comics and Storyboards are closer kin than most realize, so don’t knock it.  A fun site to wander around in, great hi-res scans of comics you’ve never heard of.


Art Tutorials – http://art-tutorials.tumblr.com/  A repository of good and bad tutorials for the digital age, plus good links and resources.  And some bad.  Proceed with caution…


Tell Forward – http://tellforward.blogspot.com/  He told me all right!  Ha!  Just Kidding- this one’s a bit cerebral but some good insights here on storytelling…


I’ll post more later!  This will be a “living” post and may grow quite large with time.  And, I would love to hear if you know of other websites like mine, or found resources that other readers of this blog might like to check out, so comment below and let me know!

-Max

Categories
Comics Mobile Personal Products Reviews Software Tips and Tricks Tools Uncategorized

My New Cintiq Companion!

IMG_2171
My Cintiq Companion

 

I’ve got a new addition to my work setup- my Cintiq Companion!  It’s a handsome little device- Wacom-made, so of course it’s driven primarily though a pressure-sensitive screen.  It’s touch sensitive as well, and with the Windows OS driving it, it’s similar to the Microsoft Surface tablet- but the form is different and the biggest difference being the programmable buttons on the side of the screen.  It’s not very heavy, and has a kickstand/screen cover that works pretty well, and a soft protective case.

I bought this guy because I got sick of dragging my bigger, older Cintiq 20WSX around in a suitcase from job to job.  Wear and tear was beginning to take it’s toll: the weight of the 25 lb Cintiq rolling across miles of crumbling streets and parking lots had me going through 4 sets of luggage wheels in 4 years.  Setting up and breaking down my system twice a day, altogether could take up to 45 minutes or longer every workday.  That’s a major waste of time- I could spend that time better drawing, or even better, sleeping in!

Now, I have only to do grab my Cintiq Companion and go.  It’s very liberating to be able to roll up and set up anywhere- I’m completely comfortable using it at bars, in the hotel lobbies, in bed, wherever I need to.  It can run for a few hours on battery power, so I don’t even need to be plugged in all the time.

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“Grip” pen on the left, and “Classic” on the right. I prefer the classics, myself.

It feels good to draw on.  Its got a little more friction than my bigger Cintiq, which is a shame, but it’s fine when you get used to it.  Some people dig that friction stuff more.  Myself, I find it induces hand cramps. Of course, you can adjust the pressure sensitivity, so that helps.  The drawing screen isn’t huge, but really, it can’t get any bigger and still function as a portable setup, so no complaints there.  The screen is nice and bright, and the pixel resolution is very high- too high for my eyes- I found it more comfortable to set the resolution a little lower, so that text and icons were larger to see (and easier to click on!).  The pen tracking and calibration was very very precise- far more precise than my bigger, older Cintiq.  But, like the bigger one, it loses precision towards the edges of the screen, which doesn’t hamper drawing, but it’s interesting and I wonder why this seems to happen on all Cintiqs, but not to the Intuos line of USB drawing tablets.  Also, it’s “tilt” sensitivity is pretty high- wish there was some way to tweak that.  It came with one of those Wacom trademark unusable fat “grip” pens that they push for no clear reason- if anybody from Wacom is reading this, please, for the love of god, discontinue packaging these bizarre pens with your otherwise good products.  I kept it for an emergency backup and ordered an infinitely more usable and grip-able “classic” pen from Wacom, which feels, basically, like a pen in your hand, as it should.

It’s got a cool touchscreen feature, and gestural inputs, but to be honest, I had to deactivate these pretty early on.  It’s not so good at differentiating my fingertips from my palm- and sometimes these features would disappear on their own, temporarily, leaving me poking at the screen with nothing happening for a couple minutes, until suddenly they came back again.  Weird… I’m not sure either if that’s a Windows issue, or a Wacom issue.  So I turned them off altogether, and I’m happy just to use the stylus for input.  You can even type with the stylus on it’s popup virtual keyboard, but it’s a little tedious, so I pack up a little mini keyboard to use when I need to write emails.  To it’s credit, it’s constantly self-improving, trying to download the latest updates and security fixes and patches.  But that’s a bit of a double-edged sword- one time, I fired it up in front of a client, and instead of taking me to the desktop so that I could start working, it starting downloading a major upgrade, locking me out while it spun it’s wheels, which was a little embarrassing as it took almost 15 minutes to complete.  Awkward!

The Cintiq Companion came with a special code to download drawing applications- a trial version of Painter X3, and some others that I haven’t had time to experiment with.  The Painter X3 trial is a full 90 days, which is nice, since I have no intentions of purchasing it.  To be clear, I use Painter every day, and love many things about it compared to Photoshop, but it’s just such a cruel joke to be a fan of this software, it’s extremely buggy, bloated, and poorly supported (I’ve been waiting for a 64-bit Mac version for about 4 years now- it was promised to us in Painter 12 and they’ve gone on to release 2 upgrades since then, but still no Mac 64-bit.  I see no reason to pay for any new release of this software until features previously promised but not delivered are finally included).  Anyway, I use Painter X3, it’s a free trial, it works fine, and when it runs out of time, I just use the “reset to factory settings” option that’s built into the OS, and it goes back to it’s fresh-out-of-the-box state, and forgets that I ever installed the Painter X3 trial, and so I install it again and it’s off to the races for another 90 days.

Another amazing feature that I’m pretty jealous that I can’t do on my Mac, is that the Windows OS has the ability to recover the work files when Painter crashes!  Every time, the files have been able to be recovered, and I only lose about 5 minutes of downtime while I wait for the OS to process the recovery.  So far, it has worked like a charm every time.  This is incredibly useful, and Apple, I’m baffled that Windows has this feature but the Mac OS doesn’t.

But, it being a Windows machine, it’s gonna be far more susceptible to viruses.  So, I’m pretty much keeping this thing pristine and virginal- not using it for anything other than work and some very light email and web browsing.  I won’t be installing any games or downloading any warez or torrents or surfing 4chan.  It’s gotta be sober and ready to go at a moment’s notice!

There’s other features too, but I haven’t had occasion to discover them yet.  I might amend this post if I come across something cool!

I use this puppy for storyboarding, and even comic book work, which, if you’ve ever seen my webcomic Three Minute Max, you’ll see that it’s comfortable with very large, layer-heavy PSD (300MB+) files, and its still pretty swift!  I haven’t found this to be a “slow” computer, despite it’s smaller size.

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Working on my comic

 

Overall, I highly recommend this guy to anybody who likes working on the bigger Cintiq and wants to go mobile, but finds the offerings of the iPad and Surface Pro to be limited in their application.  I’ve used this setup for work a few dozen times since I got it in October 2014, and it hasn’t let me down so far.  I do recommend you use it with a riser or some kind of lap desk- it’s small enough to be portable but the reality is, you must be conscious of your drawing posture when you make your living as an artist.  I use a lapdesk to elevate the Cintiq a few inches higher up, which prevents my head from tilting down too much, or leaning over too much.  You want a straight spine and level head and feet on the floor and elbows bent at as close to 90 degrees as possible.  It’s tough but if you slouch you’ll regret it later.  For anybody experiencing neck and back pain from long hours of drawing, first check your posture, and then go to a few yoga classes to stretch out your spine and get some core strength in your abs.  That’s what I do.

So, now I’ve got two setups, and I love them both.  My older Cintiq is now a permanent fixture on my desk, where it’s enjoying a slower pace of life, and the more nimble Cintiq Companion is my trusty tool for on-the-go jobs and trips.  I’m excited to bring this with me to Iceland next month- my goal is to take it outside at night and do a little night painting- if I don’t freeze first!!

-Max

PS- Wacom has updated the Cintiq Companion line since my purchase- check out Wacom.com for information on what new features they are offering.  From what I can tell, it appears to be a fairly modest bump in specs, and apparently you can now plug them into your Mac as an external monitor.  Cool!

 

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Commentary Reviews Tips and Tricks Uncategorized

There’s a new player in town… introducing Shotbox

UPDATE 3/25/2015 – Sorry to pass along some news: Shotbox.se has shut down, and so this post is basically moot.  Shotbox used an online subscription model, and had promising but limited applicabilities as far as producing presentation-style storyboards.  For their part, on their website at least, they say they don’t have the time or money to maintain the product. 

What went wrong?  Well, I’d just be speculating and can’t speak for them.  As I discuss in my original post, Shotbox was very promising and I was curious to see how it developed.  As it was, I found it useful as it was simple, intuitive, and had some neat features, like generating basic animatic movies and shared workflows.  But the only feature it had that I really cared about was the ability to easily swap boards and have them resequence automatically, and it lacked very important features that I would have needed to use it professionally: The ability to customize headers and fonts and other basic design details.  The online-only functionality was not convenient, it really seemed unnecessary other than to maintain subscribers and prevent piracy, I suppose, and in the end was a big deterrent for me.  I would have easily paid $25 – 50 for a standalone version, even without the requested features I listed above.  I would have even recommended it and I think that it could have eventually panned out for them.  Now they are gone, and we are left with the other bloated, restrictive, and expensive alternative, Toon Boom Storyboard Pro v.whatever.

Storyboarding is a weird field- there’s not a one-size fits all approach, and each artist and project is very different from the next- If you are interested in making a killer app for storyboarding, and I encourage you to try, PLEASE LISTEN:

  • Make it affordable, like under $80 for something full-featured, and not tethered to online sharing services or subscriptions.
  • Drawing tools need not be included!  You aren’t going to make a better drawing app than Photoshop or whatever else is already out there.  Just give it the ability to import image files of various formats and sizes.
  • You just need to be able to CUSTOMIZE (many options for numbering, text, fonts, titles, headers, logos, layouts, colors, sizes, etc) storyboard presentations and save those formats for future use.
  • The ability to quickly swap, delete, and add frames into a sequence and have it automatically renumbered and laid-out is KEY.  LIKE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
  • For the love of god, make it MAC COMPATIBLE 🙂

Alright, well, that’s my spiel.  Geez, 10 years in the biz, and still not a decent, basic, storyboarding app.  Somebody, make this happen, and take my money too!!  Anyway, below, please find the original post.

Just a couple of weeks ago on this here bloggy thing I was griping about Toon Boom Storyboard Pro’s latest “update” and how it basically isn’t that impressive to me.  The drawing tools were still rather primitive and the export options just as unattractive as before.  All for the low, low price of $999. No thanks.  Let me be absolutely blunt:  TBSP is a poor drawing program grafted on a poor sequencing and layout application, from a strange and terrible futuristic “Soylent Green” type universe where strawberry jam costs $150.  I can’t wait for these guys to get toppled by some nimble upstart… you can guess where this is going 😉

Enter Shotbox, which I discovered recently via Twitter (Follow me: @max_forward).  Shotbox is a very easy to use storyboard sequencing and layout program that I encourage you to try out.  In the little time I’ve spent using it, it’s made a very big impression on me as a killer storyboarding app.  It’s currently in beta testing.

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To be clear, Shotbox does not include any drawing tools, or the ability to manipulate the images (i.e. zoom, crop, add arrows) once inside the app.  You have to draw and export your individual frames using a different program, like Photoshop.  I don’t mind that at all; in fact, I appreciate that the creators of Shotbox are instead focused on the challenges of storyboard layout, export, collaboration, revision, and distribution.

BTW- I don’t intend for this post to be an official review of Shotbox- I just want to highlight some points of interest and a few things to watch out for.  I may get some things wrong or they may be changed or worse by the time this is posted.  I encourage you to evaluate it for yourself.

To get the basics stated quickly:  Shotbox allows you to create a storyboard sequence and quickly and easily add images, descriptive text, notes, timing information, etc etc, basically everything you would want to see in a storyboard.  And of course, it allows to dynamically rearrange and renumber the sequence on the fly, meaning that revisions are painless.  So, it definitely does the basics and it does them very well, from what I can tell.

 

A quick peek at the interface
A quick peek at the interface

The PDF export options are beautiful, simple.  They are, in some ways, rather limited (for example, you cannot currently include a header logo, which is a problem for me), but the options they provide are well-designed and useful.  Final exports can be downloaded and edited in Adobe Illustrator (I haven’t tried this yet).

Also included is an optional video timeline, which is easy to use, where you can add an audio track (I haven’t tried this option) and export an animatic (I have tried this, and it works well).

Something Shotbox does that I’ve not seen elsewhere, is the ability to label (via color coding) the shots themselves, for whatever utility that might provide.  I can see potential in that, as a method of distinguishing Alternate Shots from the main sequence.

Also new to me in this app is the ability to save multiple draft versions and revisit earlier edits.  Personally, I never make mistakes, so I won’t need this function, but I could see it being of use to others… 🙂  In all seriousness, this is pretty cool.

Here’s the real game-changer: Shotbox is, as far as I can tell, a fully online application, meaning you access it via your web browser and the files are uploaded to their cloud servers.  This allows for ease-of-edit from multiple collaborators and streamlined method of distribution in multiple formats.  Directors and Producers can leave notes for the artist on individual frames, or make the edits themselves, in case the artist is doing some serious drinking and not to be disturbed.  I’ve not thoroughly tested these features, though.  And of course, not having an off-line version could be viewed as a downside in some scenarios.  But overall, these “cloud collaborative” features are a major plus and definitely the future of storyboarding.

Aside from adding the ability to insert logo headers on the pdf exports (an absolute requirement in commercial storyboarding, lacking in the beta version of Shotbox), which I’ve already written to them to suggest, a feature I’d love see included in the final build is a “Pitch Mode” option for export.  Let me explain what that might entail:  Right now, their export options, while beautifully designed (I like the font choices and overall balance to the page layouts), include with each frame information that is not helpful when pitching a board to a client.  And when I say client, I mean my client’s client, and by that I mean my director is pitching it to his client, an ad agency executive, who is not necessarily savvy when it comes to interpreting storyboards.  Anything beyond the frame number and frame description is potentially confusing to a client- and so Shotbox’s frame labeling (a small colored square) and frame timing information (a rather cryptic-looking format: 1s23f, 0s12f, 3s0f, etc) are potentially hazardous.  The pitch is a very tense period of decision on the part of the executive and they look for any excuse to reject a proposal- and as such, superfluous information must be edited out of the pitch.  So I would love to see a “Pitch Mode” option for export, that allows only the basic information that needs to communicate the story:  No labeling or timing info.

But as a platform for quickly producing high quality Shoot Boards (client-approved boards that are used by production staff) and Animatics, Shotbox has no equal.

I’ve taken a moment (it really didn’t take long) to throw together a board I put together using Shotbox.  I recycled frames from an earlier project not shown yet on this blog- Mary Poppins, the Musical!  Check it out!

Mary Poppins - Powered by Shotbox
Mary Poppins – Powered by Shotbox

As of this writing, the beta only allows 3 test project per user, but I expect that to change once they introduce a pricing model.  It’s not far from market-ready, from what I can see.  They’ve been active on Twitter, so I encourage you to follow them at @shotbox for future updates.

 

 

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Commentary Reviews Storyboarding Uncategorized

Toon Boom Storyboard Pro 4 is here! Yay?

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I was working onsite yesterday and got an email notification from Toon Boom announcing their new update to the successful and highly-lauded application, Storyboard Pro, now in version 4.  The email touts the many new features, the most significant of which are the new “bitmap drawing” tools.  You might be thinking “Don’t most drawing programs use or at least offer bitmap drawing capabilities anyway?  Bit maps are just pixels, right?”  You’d be right to assume that, and this feature is long overdue.

I’ll take a second, if you are not familiar, to introduce Storyboard Pro- to my knowledge the only serious program to attempt to tackle the unique challenges of storyboarding.  Other applications exist, most are free, and most are rather hideous-looking and offer no drawing tools.  Almost none are available for OS X.  So Storyboard Pro is basically the only player in this game, currently.

It’s main features include very basic drawing tools (I don’t think I’m being unfair to compare their early offerings to something visually akin to MS Paint), fairly robust formatting options, and a fairly  flexible user interface.  The program really does a good job of meeting the needs of a highly complex and infinitely variable and rapidly evolving approach to animation production, and I’m sure it works as advertised in terms of syncing with the other Toon Boom offerings like Animate or Flip Book or whatever.

But I don’t regularly use Storyboard Pro, and doubt I will start anytime soon, because it rarely brings any utility to the field of commercial storyboarding, and it really comes down to the program’s inability to truly fine tune the page presentation layout and sequencing options, even though, as mentioned above, the program does attempt to offer a wide range of options.  But it doesn’t go far enough, not nearly far enough.

One of the biggest challenges in storyboarding is, believe it or not, arranging the finished panels, or frames, onto a page.  I call this layout process “sequencing,” and believe me, it can be a real headache.  It seems simple, until you actually try it.  I’ll explain.

To start with, check this out.  Just do a google image search for “storyboards,” and take a moment to see all the billions of ways people storyboard.  Some people like to arrange their panels vertically, some horizontally, some have 3 across, some have 6 down, some like 8 to a page, 9 to a page, 12 to a page, 24 to a page etc etc.  Each artist has their own preferred way of working.  Every studio, even major studios, have subtle and sometimes drastic differences in the ways they want their storyboards sequenced.  So here’s the troubling conclusion:  There is no codified, generalized, accepted, time-tested, traditional, normal way to storyboard.  There is no standard to speak of.  As by means of contrast, I invite you also to look at the google image searches for “screenplay” and “sheet music,” to see for yourself the relatively harmony and unity of those layout structures.  Not nearly the kind of variation you see in storyboarding.

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The wild differences in layout styles between production houses cause huge problems for freelance storyboard artists in the commercial realm.  I have many clients, and each wants their boards to look have the “signature” layout of the studio, and each believes their method is best (it isn’t) or more in keeping with “the standard” (there isn’t one).  This is usually part of their strategy of getting an edge on the competition, due to the competitive bidding nature of the industry.  The advertising agencies award jobs based in part on the presentations of my clients, and storyboards are a big part of that.  So, whatever they can do to make those storyboards look more special, must be done.  I understand the motivation, and so I do my best to accommodate.

This brings me to the underlying reason that sequencing is such a pain- REVISIONS.  Happens all the time, almost every time.  Careful consideration, from start to finish, is given to the each frame and it’s place in the presentation…  the drawing portion is finished, and now I lay them out in sequential order: frame 1, 2, 3, 4 etc, page after page, sometimes 15 pages worth, as has been typical of my more extreme cases.  Usually this is done in Photoshop, due to it’s stability and high performance text tools.  Text very often accompanies storyboard drawings and sometimes many short paragraphs of text will accompany each drawing.  I export jpgs of each page, usually 4 to a page, in vertical format, and then compile those pages into a pdf, and present that to the director for final approval.  He/she mulls it over and says “Looks really great, Max.  Fantastic.  Oops!  I forgot that we need one additional frame.”  Nuclear bombs explode in my head.  “I need to add just ONE frame in very beginning,” they continue, “that’s not so bad is it?”  They smile insidiously, knowing FULL WELL that their simple, reasonable request, will take an hour to implement.  Why?

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Simply put, because injecting an additional frame at the beginning of a storyboard means that all of the subsequent frames must be nudged over 1 space.  That’s not far to go, but imagine this analogy:  You arrive at a movie theater, and you and your wife wish to sit at the start of a particular row, but only one seat is available on that end.  On the far end, another seat is available.  If everyone would simply shift one seat over, you could all fit in the row and you could sit with your wife.  “Hey everybody, would you, please, one at a time, starting with you there, on the far end, please grab you popcorn, candy, and snacks, and move over 1 seat to the right?”  Everybody GROANS!  What a pain in the ass.  Re-sequencing is no fun!  It’s really the only part of my job that I don’t enjoy.

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Now, this is a scenario where Toon Boom Storyboard Pro really can help.  It can automatically sequence on the fly.  Like everyone in the theater could stay in their seats, and the seats moved over slightly (like on a conveyor belt) and a new extra seat popped up for your wife exactly where you wanted.  And, if you wanted to change your mind and sit somewhere else, you can do that, on the fly.  Nice!

But TBSP can’t offer you any sequencing help if you can’t find an export option that’s compatible with what your client likes to see in their layout.  TBSP has lots of export options, I give them good credit for really attempting flexibility, but they continue to fall short when it comes to the specific information that accompanies each storyboard panel.  TBSP insists on including information that is irrelevant to my clients, and is often ugly and cluttering, such as panel number out of total number of panels, displayed in such offerings as “(004/026),” or “004 | 1/1″when all I want is a “4.”  A simple “4.”  Toon Boom Storyboard Pro can’t do it.

Say I want to add a bit of dialogue to a panel.  TBSP unhelpfully insists that the word “Dialogue:” be included as part of the caption.  I don’t have a lot of room under these panels to write out text, and “Dialogue” is too long a word, and frankly, clutters up the design of the storyboard page.

It’s tiny, irrelevant, unadjustable inclusions like these that prevent me from regularly using this software.  When I do use it, it’s for the longer form projects, where the directors are notorious for last-minute frame additions, and they are willing to forego a sense of style to their storyboards.  That’s it.

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So now there’s a new version of Toon Boom Storyboard Pro.  TBSP 4 is available for purchase and I tried out the trial version of it this morning.  I could tell that overall this version was running faster and more streamlined than my earlier version (1.5).  Much has been done to simplify and streamline the interface and I appreciate the new bitmap drawing tools very much.  The program feels fast.  Maybe that’s because the 30-frame limit is keeping the program from drawing on too many of my computer’s resources, but I can’t substantiate that one way or another.  It’s definitely an improvement.  I feel like I could adapt to this if I needed too.  But I doubt my clients could, because, even though I could tell they have made efforts to evolve their export/layout options to have more flexibility, it’s still way off the mark.  If TBSP can’t match the existing appearance of a client’s storyboard template, I can’t use it.

Also, it’s $999, which smacks to me of a 1-day-late April Fool’s joke.  I would pay $200 for it, tops.

Just my two cents.  Thanks for reading!