Storyboards are the beating heart of our animation projects, and for years, we’ve been using an antiquated workflow to create them. We just couldn’t find an alternative we liked better and were willing to pay for. Then we discovered Boords, an online storyboarding app that checked all our boxes of must-haves: Easy image uploads, drag and drop panel organization, and the ability to share boards with clients and receive comments. Boords goes well beyond that basic feature set, offering features we didn’t know we needed. But, now that we have them, we’re completely hooked.
Here’s a look at our old storyboarding “platform” that you may recognize as a medieval software program known as Excel.
With Excel, we had to copy and paste panels we’d exported from Adobe Animate (Flash!) one by one. Version control was done manually, and sharing via email often led to the typical headaches that arise when email attachments are flying around to lots of folks. It was a total drag.
Enter Boords. To create a new storyboard, give the board a name and drop all your PNG panels into an aptly named box. If you’d like to start from scratch and use Boords as your canvas for creating storyboard sketches (more on that later), simply start with blank frames.
Once you’ve done that, computery magic stuff happens and you’re left with a tidy, smart looking board. Next, you’ll need to add the script lines and action notes, because Boords doesn’t automatically write scintillating scripts about petrochemical companies… yet.
Once your board is all loaded up, and you’ve got the text where you want it, all of the panels are completely movable, replaceable, deletable, and editable. It’s all quite delectable, really.
Drag panels around to reposition them, or select single or multiple panels (pro tip: hold down shift) to delete them. This is a huge time saver for us. You can also use the overlay interface that pops up on panels to do several interesting things: Resize and crop panels, add a blank panel, launch the animatic feature, or launch the frame editor. Let’s take a closer look at those last two.
The frame editor offers the ability to draw directly on frames, or to create new artwork on a blank frame. No fancy external drawing programs required. The editor also includes options for brush size and color, as well as additional tools for shapes, text, and more. While it’s fairly barebones, it’s great for sketching quick ideas on the go, or to add visual commentary on existing artwork.
Meanwhile, the animatic feature let’s you create animatics in one click. If you have it within you to click a couple more times, you can even upload an audio track to accompany it. We’ve traditionally relied on Adobe Premiere to create animatics, and we may keep doing so for now, as Boords doesn’t appear to offer a way to control the timing of each frame, at least at the time of this review. If shot timing isn’t important to you, Boords is a dead simple option. At the more expensive plan levels, the app also supports download of animatics as MP4 files.
Exporting, Sharing, and Versioning
Boords has export options aplenty. In addition to a simple interface for downloading a board as a PDF, you can also download the script and images separately. And although we haven’t tried it yet, you can even export a board and/or animatic to After Effects if such a workflow strikes your fancy.
The export features are great, but it’s in the realm of cloud-based sharing and collaboration that Boords really shines, and outpaces many of its competitors. This was a must-have for us, and Boords enables it simply and intuitively.
Simply hit the share button and a password protected link appears. With the link and password in hand, clients can open a read-only version of the board and add comments to each and every panel if they like (ahhh, the demoralizing agony!). Online collaboration with other in-house staff or freelancers under the same account is easy, as well, if you pay for a multi-user account.
It’s also worth mentioning that Boords has a painless way of dealing with versioning. Simply create a new version and Boords creates and labels a fresh, editable duplicate. All previous versions are quickly accessible via a pulldown. And, thankfully, each version is associated with a unique sharing URL, so you can select which iterations you want to share with a client.
The folks at Boords have obviously thought deeply about the needs of animators and filmmakers. We were skeptical that it could provide the flexibility and freedom we needed, but now we’re completely sold on it. The best thing about Boords is that it removes all of the repetitive tasks and logistical hassles of other solutions, leaving more time for the stuff that matters to us: Thinking and making. For that reason alone, it’s a keeper.
Oh, and here’s the first video we boarded with Boords.