SketchUp + Poser = Storyboard Goodness (via the DV Rebel’s Guide)
Stu Maschwitz’ new DV Rebel’s Guide is chock full of the straight-forward genius that brought us such wonders as Magic Bullet film look and the recent Colorista. But sometimes it’s the little things that make for big happiness.
In my case, a lot of the actual content of the Guide is cozy comfort for me; I’ve been a loyal follower of Stu’s Prolost site and a DV rebel myself since the Sony VX-1000 days. (In fact, I interviewed Stu back in the premiere issue of Res Magazine about a billion years ago on exactly this kind of rebel behavior — the article was called Visual Effects for Low-Budget Films and back then Stu was still embroiled in his Skate Warrior project and hadn’t yet left ILM to help forge The Orphanage or any of his numerous conquests since.)
But even if Stu is mostly preaching to the choir for me, the Guide has already paid for itself in one sidebar reference (and heck, I’m only on Chapter 2 so far!)… Google SketchUp, the simplest, funnest, most incredibly-obvious approach to 3D artwork creation on the planet.
Stu suggests SketchUp for storyboarding, and it is capable, though not nearly as obvious for this purpose as for raw set design and/or layout of architecture and environment. You can certainly place props, vehicles, buildings, and the like from a “warehouse” of user-uploaded source material. And they do have a simple variety of people too — but the figures are pre-posed and so only useful in a very general sense for boarding. If your script characters are limited to standing, walking, talking on their cell-phones and the like, this library will probably do quite nicely. If you need a fabulous action pose, you might need to branch out a bit and look elsewhere.
In this case, perhaps to Poser. While you’d by no means need the very latest version of this friendly app, you’ll actually need to devolve back to using the old Poser 4 characters — anything newer than that is simply too many polys and too much detail for SketchUp. But a quick export from Poser to 3DS format, and then a quick import into SketchUp provides a very decent set of boarding options. If you’re relatively quick with both apps, the lag time passing data between them might be worth the annoyance of the gap itself.
Of course, it would be great if SketchUp offered posable male and female characters akin to the 1990s version of Poser, which is all we really need. Or better yet, if the Google team were to develop some kind of sketch interface that turns stick figures into simplified machetes. Who knows… Maybe by the next version they’ll have a compelling reason to do just that?
I’m posting a few quick and dirty boards I did in about 5-10 minutes each. (Yes, that includes Poser time, though Poser does have some pretty good presets for poses already.) The sketchy rendering options in SketchUp are pretty dang cool. I could see using a variety of these (color, grey, shadows), depending on whether lighting and shadows are important or whether I’m just blocking out rough compositions.
There’s some quirks and issues (SketchUp doesn’t like dutched cameras much, and sometimes wants to reset my horizon to flat on me, for example.) But for the most part, I’m pretty thrilled with how quick and how high-quality this style of boarding could be.
Thanks, Stu, for the excellent tip. And of course for the DV Rebel’s Guide itself; it’s pretty much everything I’d have wished that original Res article might some day evolve into. …Now on to Chapter 3. Who knows what other juicy rebel goodness I don’t yet know…