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Pros & Cons of Amazon Storyteller, a Free Online Storyboarding Tool from Amazon Studios

amazonstoryteller_logoScreenwriting by its very nature demands a visual writing style. The words on the page have to conjure up images in the reader’s mind if the script were turned into a film. Simultaneously, a screenplay must be economical with its language, using only the words necessary to tell the story. These two requirements, visual and economical, are two of the main reasons why storytelling in the screenplay format can be so difficult. Inevitably, production teams will need to visualize the screenplay, and that’s usually where storyboards come in (though plenty of us are inept at drawing). That’s why Amazon Studios has introduced a new tool to speed up the storyboarding process called Amazon Storyteller – and it’s “free,” but there’s a catch (or four or five).

Launched last week and currently in beta, Amazon Storyteller is an automated storyboarding tool that anyone can use to visualize their screenplay, or visualize the screenplay from a different author that is publicly available online at Amazon Studios. Here are a few screenshots of the online application (thanks to Animation Magazine for the screenshots):

amazon-storyteller-screenshot-1

amazon-storyteller-screenshot-2

Based on Amazon’s announcement of Storyteller, here are the positive elements of this new tool:

  • Storyteller offers an easy-to-use tool to visualize a screenplay, especially for writers who can’t draw
  • Storyteller scans a screenplay for scenes, locations and characters, then automatically creates storyboards from its existing library of templates
  • Users can change elements in the automated storyboard, reposition characters, and change facial expressions
  • Users can upload their own images, including photos, to use in their storyboards
  • Free to use on Amazon Studios (with some catches, of course – see drawbacks)

As with many tools offered for free, we can naturally expect some drawbacks, including the following:

  • Users have to post their scripts on Amazon Studios to use the storyboard tool for their own screenplays
  • Amazon Studios claims a 45-day exclusive option for free for each screenplay when it is uploaded to the site, and Amazon Studios claims another free 45-day exclusive option extension for a screenplay with the publication of storyboards via Storyteller (these free options are used by Amazon to review the screenplay and storyboards to determine if they want to pay for the rights to develop a story further)
  • According to Amazon, Storyteller is currently recommended for contemporary dramas or romantic comedies based on the current available templates (so the storyboards for your sci-fi epic will have to wait unless you can rewrite it as a rom-com)
  • Storyboards cannot be exported; rather, they can only be seen on Amazon Studios (though there’s no reason why you couldn’t take a screencap)
  • Others cannot view storyboards for a screenplay on Amazon unless the storyboards are public

Do you think Amazon Storyteller offers a good value proposition to screenwriters who want to visualize their stories through storyboards? Or do you think Storyteller’s drawbacks will keep screenwriters from using this free tool? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments.

Link: Amazon Storyteller

[via Variety & Animation Magazine]

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  • Tim Hodgson on 06.10.13 @ 11:36AM

    I can’t imagine anyone who would want to put their screenplay option up for free in exchange for a better drawing on a storyboard…

  • Maybe an old TV spec? But I reckon they would refuse it.

  • What other good storyboard software are there?

    • a pad of paper and a pencil, I’ve seen fantastic movies with storyboards a 4 year old would be ashamed of. If you lack skills and want it to look great, then throw a comic book artist or artist a few hundred bucks and keep everyone working.

      I don’t really see any upsides to this Amazon product.

    • Toon Boom Storyboard Pro – I believe that’s what the South Park people use.

  • I couldn’t figure out how to get the storyboard off a script … maybe it’s not an instant feature … for the heck of it, I uploaded a 17 page screenplay that was based on a book that is or should be in public domain, as its author died in 1940 … we’ll see if anything develops from there.

  • Once I read that one would have to ‘publish’ a script in order to publicly share or storyboard, I decided to give it a miss.

  • Free is good. Not bad.

    • This isn’t free, because there is a price… even if the price is time wasted, or agreeing to terms that are undesirable. We all have limited time on this earth- is it really worth squandering for scraps of junk in the name of “free” when you could find other ways to achieve your goals (especially through bartering or collaborating)?

  • This isn’t an app, it’s a con job. I cannot imagine anyone taking this seriously.

  • Easy stuff, just write scenes similar but mixed up to the script you don’t want published and utilise the facility for free. Got yourself a free storyboard from screen caps. Reorder the frames and you have your boards.

  • Celtx or pen and paper > Amazon’s legal oddities.

  • @DLD—Just because the author died decades ago does mean not a property is up for grabs. If that were true, there would be no inheritance. Chances are, you are still responsible for purchasing the rights.