The Active Storyboard

I worked with a friend ten years ago on an IT project he is a wiz at programming and an amateur film maker. We were at dinner one evening and started discussing the use of storyboards to quicken the making of films, and to reduce costs of filming. As we got into the discussion, we looked at the large number of wire framing and story board software that was available and decided that they did the job the were meant to but what would happen if we change the software features.

If you look at the stock film and photography industry, they have databases that have all the images and film indexed but their outcomes are for single use.

We decided to try another approach, his idea was to create software that used the existing storyboards / editor and wire framing capabilities and use it as a film repository interface. If  a  film owner (studio  for example) took a  film , section the film into smaller section  e.g. three minutes (or any useful length or frame) and for each section embed searchable meta data  genre , action (i.e. fight, dialogue, walking, running, conversation), actor/actress  ,year , activity, description location, topography   etc  and saves it to a database repository. (Since the film studio has the stock they can go through their library and tag their films). When a director wants to create a storyboard, he/she uploads the script (created in a certain format) highlights the sections with the keyword they are interested in and the software will perform a search that returns relevant film sections which can be selected to mock up a storyboard.  This enables the director to visualise the script.

The other features:

  • Enable the editor to remove dialogue and replace it with the new scripts dialog.
  • Save the storyboard and the retrieved film as a new project with its own repository.
  • Import new film sections into the new project.
  • Enable the editor to edit the film length, lighting and speed angles background etc.
  • Another feature is the context display as you can look at sections before and after the part you’re editing.
  • Enables the editor to update the existing database to create a more precise repository.

The challenges of this model are creating the metadata and data dictionary and repository structure. Some studios already do this generically for digital films and modern post production but this a universal reusable structure with more detail. The second challenge is indexing and tagging the film but it’s a great opportunity for outsourcing, the film studios could do this by hiring lots of film interns who might like to do this. The database does not have to contain all a studios film stock they could start with just the very best five for each genre.

We discussed a second (or further development) this was based on the availability of digital repository of films an (HP was helping Hollywood studios digitalise their archives fifteen years ago) if those films are tagged then you might create the software to reduce each clip to wireframes and you can override that with new data such as new actor/actress insert new interactive objects and adjust the action on the screen since you can move the wireframes around.

We looked at the barriers to adoption and the first was copyright we decided that there will be the studio and commercial version the software is the same but studio will obviously use their own stock. The commercial will use stock in the public domain or self-created by the user. There might be a secondary market for tagged films in the public domain. Obviously, this can be done now as mash-ups, editing suites and wire frame/ storyboard software exists but the metadata functionality is missing plus the scale and the intelligence of the software to “read” a script and to create a rough storyboard from the database (most likely an unstructured DB).

Its worth noting that this was ten years ago but in the future  ten years from now, I might want to read a book  , listen to a book ,  access the multimedia version  with  text  audio and  interactive images  or watch the book as a film (  which would have cost too much to commission  by a studio but the software would exist to  animate it and  make it viable ).

The immediate advantages will be:

  • The reduced cost of pre-production.
  • Larger availability of films for niche markets.
  • The ease of use in the gaming industry as they use the software to create more back-story and context for their games.
  • There will be a proliferation of user created content imagine the impact on YouTube in the future
  • Provide employment for people to review tag and create metadata of the film library (although most companies will most likely outsource to English speaking countries (for English speaking film) to reduce cost)

The minuses will be:

  • The acting profession might change as they will protest as studio start making films with fewer or cheaper actor/actress and replacing actors/actresses with their younger selves especially when they can animate the details on the smallest features.
  • The copyright issues if another studio takes a film scrubs the images and uses the useful parts to create the next big block buster.

We finally discussed the cost and effort to create this software using two models using existing software or building it from scratch since this is a Beyond Fiction Idea. I wouldn’t bother writing down the detail only to say it was a long dinner and we had a conversation on another day to sketch out some details.

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