Goodbye Storyboard Artists, Hello Amazon Storyteller

Amazon’s filmmaking arm Amazon Studios announced a new tool today that promises to eliminate storyboard artists from the filmmaking process. Called Amazon Storyteller, the software lets scriptwriters convert their scripts into boards through an automated process.

“We’ve found that many writers want to see their story up on its feet in visual form but find it harder than it should be to create a storyboard,” said Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios and a former Disney TV Animation exec. “Storyteller provides a digital backlot, acting troupe, prop department and assistant editor-everything you need to bring your story to life.”

The free online tool, which is currently in beta, works like this:

Storyteller begins by scanning a movie script that has been uploaded to Amazon Studios. It identifies the scenes, locations and characters from scene descriptions, and “casts” them from a library of thousands of characters, props and backgrounds. Filmmakers can recast or change locations, or they can upload their own images. Storyteller places the cast in front of the right background so that filmmakers can focus their time on the emotion and energy of scenes by using pan and zoom, changing the facial expressions and positions of characters, adding vehicles or props or adding captions with descriptions or additional dialogue. Once completed, the storyboard can be published on Amazon Studios where other users are able to view it and give feedback on the project.

Animation artists may be safe for now. The Amazon Storyteller FAQ explains that, “The Amazon Storyteller library of backgrounds, characters, and props currently works best with contemporary dramas or romantic comedies.” But people around the Internet are already envisioning more artistic uses for the software, like this idea from a commenter on Engadget: “Imagine. An illustrated comic of yourself and any given Sports Illustrated swimsuit model in your own porn story.”

(Thanks, James Gibson)


  • Marooon

    Wow, this product is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard of. Why the hell would anyone think that a cold, robotic, and stiff storyboard (which would be the type of product produced by this program) would be suitable for any project. It’s just so laughably unintelligent that it makes my brain hurt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/julian.ducharme Jason Cezar Duncan

      I know, it’s like 3D animation in the early 1980s! And where did that end up? Oh, wait.

      • Jonah Sidhom

        That’s right, I forgot John Lasseter just wrote a page or two describing the entire Andre and Wally B. short and the computer did the rest for him.

        • http://www.facebook.com/julian.ducharme Jason Cezar Duncan

          And you didn’t completely miss my bloody point about shunning new ideas that don’t always look promising.

          • Jonah Sidhom

            I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like a new idea (sites like Xtranormal have been around for a while now) and it still seems like a complete dead-end artistically.

          • http://www.facebook.com/julian.ducharme Jason Cezar Duncan

            Then if it’s a dead end artistically, time will tell and it won’t go anywhere. No one is saying it’s finished and the computer is going to do everything. Heck, it doesn’t even seem to be recommended for animation right now.

        • Steve Taylor

          No – he’s saying that things that start out crudely can later become more sophisticated. You’re missing his point entirely.

      • superbiasedman

        The difference between them is that CG was a tool that required you to add the visual creative input. This is an automation device that involves selecting from a premade catalogue of boards.
        If the scripts were being made from a preset list of plot points, they’d suffer too.

        As a basic way of adding some visuals to the scripts, it sounds fine sure, but to people who may not fully understand visuals they wont see why it’s necessary to do any more than this.

  • BongBong

    I wouldn’t be too bitter about this development, it’ll take a few more years, but eventually, almost all high-skill professions (including doctors and lawyers) will be replaceable thanks to automation (robots) and/or combined artificial intelligence.

    Any professional service can be analyzed, improved and made cheaper… even creative professionals.

    Before the year 2046, I predict nearly all skilled (costly) labor will be squeezed out by advances that would surprise even jaded people, so long as there are still people and a demand for better, faster, cheaper.

  • pizzaforeveryone

    you get what you pay for

  • Axolotl

    Looks like those airplane safety leaflets.

    • Dean

      Sure does. However, some producers will adjust the whole production to the cheapest tools and call it “style.” Why not create a computer program to replace writers? They cost more than artists.

  • the Gee

    Man, am I so glad this is brought up here. As much as it is still free publicity for the service, yeeesh, it sounds horrible.

    Either the software/service lives and thrives or it dies on the vine.

    You know who will try this out and have high hopes though. I can’t see people settling for so-so output but some will accept crappy boards as being “good enough”.
    What are ya gonna do? Good boarders should be fine.

  • Alexander Curtis

    Wow, I had no idea Cinematography was so easy! Take that Joseph Mascelli!

    Goodbye storyboard artists? Seriously? Do we really think that a bunch of stock images, chosen by emotionless software, can replace our storytellers?

    Film is concerned with the human condition. It is brought to life by story, previz, and layout artists, cameramen,DPs and directors who bring a lifetime of knowledge to the subtleties of visual and narrative structure.

    Anyone who thinks they can take the human element out of filmmaking is fooling themselves.

    • Dean

      Agreed, but if producers can cut storyboard staffs from 5 down to 1 because “the machine is doing all the work now,” that 1 guy now gets to do 5x the work and will be 5x as desperate to hold onto the job…and that is all they really care.

    • Jamil

      I don’t think this is about automating storytelling or taking the human element out or making easy on anyone to do anything, I think this is just Amazon’s filthy way of fishing for free ideas and stories for their own production. Kinda like when you sign those great documents when you apply for a job at Disney.

      • Steve Taylor

        I don’t think so! That’s kind of signing on to the beginning writer paranoia about the world being out to steal their brilliant ideas.

  • tredlow

    Great, what’s next? A tool that’ll automatically turn your pitches into scripts? Your thoughts into pitches? We are getting closer to an automated Hollywood people! Stop the robots before they stop you!

    Or maybe it’s cool and everything will be fine.

    • Mike

      I thought Hollywood was already automated.

      • John A

        Only the scriptwriting process.

  • Roberto Severino

    I love technology and all, but I don’t think technology will ever be able to replace creativity, which I consider to be a form of human capital. Without it, what’s the point?

    • BongBong

      Some aspects of computer generated “creative” thinking have been available for years. I recall reading about a product engineering and design service that could explore thousands upon thousands of unique design solutions, many of which had never been considered before. It’s a matter of time until AI programs are able to process and analyze every “hit” film in history and synthesize unique, yet familiar, entertainment and artwork.

  • M.V

    You know, Stotboarding is already headed in this direction. many productions use 3D sets and props. The new ToonBoom Stoyboard app has 3D integration and using stock poses from model packs has been a long standing practice. Is it all that far of a leap from where we are now to this?

  • Robert Schaad

    Is this the equivalent of when every jerk that got 10 or more fonts along with their computer became an instant graphic designer?

  • rooniman

    Just more ways for the ignorant media to do away with us, the artists.

  • http://www.spitandspite.com/ abel salazar

    Haha, wow, uh, ok. I thought anything that helped non-animation novices visualize their visions (artistically approved or not) would be a positive but yea, you people are right, this is a blatant attack on storyboard artist and art.

    Why, I haven’t been this outraged since that fancy typewriter came along and destroyed literature from true authors that used real author tools like feather tipped pens with ink! Argh!!!!

    • mick

      ‘I thought anything that helped non-animation novices visualize their visions (artistically approved or not) would be a positive’

      why? really why is that a good thing?

      In fact read that back to yourself, those are not thoughts that occur in people’s minds… ‘ I was just saying to Jed last week that anything that helps non-animation novices to visualise their visions is positive’

      If you have no clue as to what storyboarding is then such a product probably sounds the opposite of what it actually is

      • http://www.spitandspite.com/ abel salazar

        Yea, heh, shoulda’ proofread that but meh- had to get back to making storyboards and animating so… yeah…

        well confusion aside, the point was that it’s a tool. and access to those tools are always a great thing. Also, have you seen Scorcese’s “boards”? go do some research. then take a step back. digest info. then realize yes, confusing sentence aside tools to help inexperienced people create their content (THE END VISION) is a good thing. Storyboards aren’t the product, the end film is.

  • MaskedManAICN

    I have a hard time believing this is going to be much more than stick figures. Yes, I understand they have thousands of characters with all possible emotions- but if it’s that complex, I see most writers not willing to put in the hours of time to build their storyboards. They rather spend that time writing.

    One last note to the former Disney X, “…but find it harder than it should be to create a storyboard.” Who the f’ said storyboards should be easy!? Just because any entertainment executive job can be filled by a no talent waste of space doesn’t mean every job can be.

    • John A

      I was thinking the same thing as soon as I saw the words Disney exec. This is PERFECT for the jerk who says “Oh I can’t draw at all, but my ideas are just so darned creative, if only there was some way to avoid having to talk to an artist, or worse yet, listening to one. Now I can just share my brilliance with the world”

      • Animator606432

        Or rather then teaching himself how to actually draw if they don’t want to listen to an artist.

  • slowtiger

    In the 1970′s you could buy Letraset transfers with people in different poses and even emotions (see http://bit.ly/18V2kM7). Computer scientists at that time believed they could code the structural rules of storytelling soon and be able to automatically generate comics. I remember a SF short story from the 60′s which described animated filmmaking with computers basically the same way as we do Flash animation nowadays: a library of pre-fabricated elements are put together automatically.

    So the idea is quite old, this is just another iteration.

  • Rez

    As appalling as this is, my problem lies somewhere else: privacy.
    You will have to upload your story/screenplay/idea to Amazon, in order for the magical tool to work. In other words, you’ll be letting Amazon read what you’ve created. Not cool at all.

  • Hyun Park

    I see this thing as another lazy way to think.
    It’s too hard to translate writings to pictures, so therefore let computers do thinking for us.

  • Anything for a buck

    First I was replaced by an inflatable doll, and now this??!!

  • James

    Who needs a pizzeria anymore when you have frozen pizza!!

    • BongBong

      Why go fly a kite in the park when you can just pop a pill? —Cosmo Kramer

  • Jinx

    This sounds more like a tool for small productions that can’t afford story boarders but can afford the extra time to put the boards together, because lets face it a real storyboard artist can do one board in under a minute. How long would it take to cycle through stock and assemble something that looks right? Seems a little backwards. However, if you don’t have money or friends that can draw cinematics, then this might seem like a great solution and it’s really not taking jobs away from anyone. Also what’s with the porn comment completely out of left field at the end lol?

    • Christopher Russell

      agreed. you made me laugh. best of the thread

    • Christopher Russell

      This product is more of a gimmick than a tool that will replace a professional storyboard artist. No worries

  • holycow

    No. No. This will never replace storyboard artists.

  • Elana Pritchard

    This will turn into Rage style comics real fast.

  • coolzone

    This Roy price dood is trying to eliminate artists from the picture. Well little does Roy know that artists are eliminating executives like him from the picture. As well as hack writers. And just lame ass middlemen/women.

    Either way the content is what matters. no stupid little programs are gonna save a bad idea.

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    Don’t be so alarmist, Amid. The main thing were good stories come from are the artists’ and writers’ imagination and creativity.

  • Andrea Murray

    So…the storyboard equivalent of GoAnimate?

  • skywryter

    Robert Zemeckis built an entire studio (now defunct) on the premise that turning academy award winning actors like Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hanks into botoxed puppets, would sell lots of movie tickets. George Lucas just spent five years and $50 million trying to make an animated film without storyboards, and got bupkis. Now, sleepwalking into the same tar pit, steps AMAZON. Making entertainment a cheap soulless robotic process has been a goal of studios since the dawn of kinescope.

    Audience emotional investment in the story? NiL

    Studio time and money wasted on more dead puppets?

    Priceless

  • FakeNina

    Maybe one day there will be software advanced enough to auto-generate Amid’s sensational headlines.

  • Joshua Marchant

    ‘Visualize a script even if you don’t know how to draw’
    If that isn’t the summation of animation today, I don’t know what it is.

    Here’s what the industry doesn’t need: More ‘storytellers’ who can’t draw and employ computer tools to replace artists.

    Not that anyone seriously thinks this will be any sort of game-changer. Just look at the stiff wooden cutout examples they show. This will catch on like a wet match.

  • MissConception

    I have the feeling this is just going to turn out like that Go Animate thing. Everyone is going to get uppity about it at first, Harry Partridge will make a crass cartoon about it, and it will eventually fall out of relevancy because people will realize it’s a piece of garbage.

  • Bill Peet

    Leave it to another brilliant Disney Executive. “Well eliminate those pesky artist once and for all”

  • Gskat

    you too can make movies with cutout dolls

  • wgan

    you know what I believe that computer can do a much better job to replace writers than artists considering how ‘good’ the contemporary screenplays/stories are.

  • Schroeter

    Wow. America must really hates there Artists.

  • Peter

    Amid clearly doesn’t know much about the industry, this is ok for 5 yr olds but not for multi million pound presentations. Looks awful.

  • Patrick

    I, for one, would be VERY sorry to see the storyboard artists go. Far too much of animation has become computer designed, and has resulted in what I feel is a GREAT loss for the animation art. As a person who grew up in the era of such timeless animated films as Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, and “The Lion King” (my ABSOLUTE favorite), I DEEPLY miss the quality animated films of the traditional hand-drawn animation style. Today’s CGI Animation films don’t even come close to the quality of their traditionally drawn predecessors in ANY way, shape, or form. I truly hope that Disney and the other animation studios realize this soon and go back to the format of the timeless animated films of the past.