Optimizing Your Storyboard Project

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From the beginning, Toon Boom Animation’s Storyboard Pro was designed to resolve the problems associated with using unspecialized toolsby providing an intuitive, non-intrusive technology. This technology is compatible with any type of production tool and is designed to meet the needs of Movie producers, Cartoonists, Games developers, Broadcasters and CGI developers.

With Toon Boom Storyboard Pro an artist can create a complete storyboard from script to a complete animatic with camera moves, easily and in real-time.

Every artist has different needs and often uses different processes to complete his task, Storyboard Pro was designed to respond to these needs and yet be very easy to use. To get the most out of Storyboard Pro whether you create or revise a storyboard, you need to understand how to optimize the product to ensure peak performance at all times. In this article we describe the following tools so that you will understand their advantages and benefit from their use:

  • Optimizing Your Project
  • Create Optimized Drawings
  • Other Optimization Suggestions

Optimizing Your Project

If file size and speed of use are concerns, there are a few things you can do to optimize your project.

To optimize your current project:

  1. In the top menu, select File > Optimize Project.
    The Optimize project dialog box opens.
  2. Check any combination of the following options:
    • Remove unused elements from the project:
      As you create a storyboard you will delete panels or layers, update drawings, unlink sounds, etc. The software keeps some of these files for backup purposes. All of these unused files take up space and increase the size of your project on your hard drive. This option will look in your project file and remove these unwanted elements.
    • Flatten drawings in the project:
      This option will fatten all the brush or pencil line strokes of all the drawings in your project. This means that all overlapping strokes will no longer be editable as single strokes, but only as whole, drawn objects.
    • Reduce texture resolution of all drawings in the project:
      This option will reduce the texture resolution and consequently make the project file size smaller. The resolution is set so it cannot go below 72 dpi.
      NOTE: These operations cannot be undone, and will empty the undo list.

Create Optimized Drawings

When using any of the playback options in Storyboard Pro, the software has to calculate the positioning of all the *.tvgs (Toon Boom vector graphics), the file format that is created from all your drawing strokes. This calculation tends to slow down the rate of playback. There is, however, a way to circumvent this problem.

The programmers at Toon Boom have created a second file format: the *.tvgo (Toon Boom vector graphic optimized) that has all the pixel position information precalculated. Using these drawings should significantly speed up the playback process.

To use the Create Optimized Drawing feature:

  1. In the top menu, select Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Storyboard Pro > Preferences (Mac). The Preferences panel opens.
  2. In the Advanced tab, under the Optimized Playback heading, check the Use Optimized Drawings option.
  3. Decide whether to enable the Preload Drawings option. This is optional. If you decide to enable this option, you must also decide on:
    1. Number of Frames to Preload: Divide this number by your project’s frame rate to see how many seconds of your live playback will be pre loaded. For example, if your project’s frame rate is 30 fps and you have entered 120 frames to preload, then you are essentially pre loading 4 seconds of your live playback.
    2. Number of Panels to Preload: This option is also time dependant. If each of your panels have a duration of 5 seconds, then pre loading 2 panels will give your live playback a 10 second head start.
    3. The highest value out of these 2 options will be taken in consideration depending on panel length.
  4. Click on the OK button.
  5. In the top menu, select File > Create Optimized Drawings.

A progress bar appears as the software creates the cache. Another message box will appear to let you know when the process has been successfully completed.

Other Optimization Suggestions

  1. Texture vs. Plain Vector Brush

    In Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, all the strokes that you create with the Brush tool are vector elements. There are basically two kinds of brushes:

    1. Plain Brushes: By default, the brush tool creates vector strokes filled with either a colour or a gradient. Vector strokes use a very small amount of memory and can be used rapidly because they don’t contain any pixel information, only mathematical functions.
    2. Texture Brushes: This type of brush also produces a vector contour for its strokes, but is filled with a bitmap texture. These textures allow you to produce drawings that have natural looking brush strokes that resemble lines drawn using a crayon or airbrush.

    Because they are using a bitmap image mapped inside vector strokes, texture brushes use much more memory and processing time than brush strokes filled with colour. Therefore it you wish to make your file size lighter and your drawing speed faster, use only regular brushes to draw your scenes.

    If you do choose to use texture brushes, is it important to use a reasonable size bitmap for your texture brush.

  2. Flattening Your Drawings

    In Storyboard Pro, strokes inside a layer are independent. You are able to select a specific stroke and edit its position, scale, rotation, skew, colour and so on, whenever you want. However, this flexibility increases the amount of memory and resources used by the software, especially when you have a lot of strokes in your drawing (which frequently happens when you sketch).

    In the Project Optimization intro, you learned that you could flatten all your drawings in one go. However, you can retain partial flexibility and still minimize file size and resources needed by consciously flattening certain drawings as you draw, or even by selecting them after they have been drawn. The Flatten option takes all strokes of the same colour with overlapping areas on the same layer and flattens them together to create a single drawing with a vector contour.

    To flatten strokes as you draw:
    1. In the Tools toolbar, select the Brush tool.
    2. In the Tool Properties panel, enable the Auto-Flatten button.
    3. In the Camera view, sketch your first drawing. The drawing strokes will automatically be flattened.
    To flatten an existing drawing:
    1. In the Camera view, use the Select tool to select a group of strokes.
    2. From the top menu, select Tools > Flatten, or use the keyboard shortcut [Alt] + [Shift] + [F].
  3. Bitmap Integration

    Toon Boom Storyboard Pro allows you to create storyboards by importing scanned images or bitmaps drawn in another software. During the import process, images are vectorized and placed in a new scene in a vector bounding box as a bitmap fill. The bitmap image’s resolution can affect your project’s file size and the speed at which the software functions while handling your project.

    When importing bitmaps into your storyboard there is rarely need to use a high resolution. This will not increase the quality of your PDF or animatic. You should import bitmaps with a resolution close to the project resolution. For example, in an NTSC project, using a bitmap with a 720x480 resolution or a 72dpi quality will be sufficient.