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Amazon Storyteller will turn your screenplays into a visual storyboard

storytellerOne problem that up-and-coming screenwriters face is how often movies rely on highly visual forms of storytelling which can be difficult to translate into the written word. Think about it: As movies increasingly depend on action set pieces for impact – from superhero battles to car chases to spectacularly-timed CGI explosions that require IMAX screens and 3D glasses to appreciate – the importance of information in visual, rather than literary, format becomes more obvious. It’s one thing to write, “And then there’s an amazing-looking special effect,” and another thing to live up to that description.

Instead of being stuck trying to come up with ways to describe such visual moments through words, Amazon Studios has launched a new tool that will make it easier for screenwriters to help explain what they’re trying to get at. Amazon Storyteller is a free online service that translates screenplays into storyboards to better give a visual sense of pacing, storytelling, and overall summary of what the finished movie might look like.

The tool works by identifying the various scenes, locations, and characters from scene descriptions within an uploaded screenplay. Using that data, Storyteller chooses pictorial representations for them from an internal library of “thousands of characters, props and backgrounds.” Screenwriters can also upload their own images, if they have particular looks in mind.

Using these basic ingredients, the screenwriter is then free to “direct” the storyboard – increasing the length of sequences, cropping or expanding images depending on the story’s needs, and changing the performance of the virtual actors by modifying their facial expressions. These tools allow writers to come up with something that’s faithful to their original intent. The resulting storyboard will then be published online by Amazon Studios, allowing other users to offer feedback and commentary on the finished boards.

“Storyteller provides a digital backlot, acting troupe, prop department and assistant editor—everything you need to bring your story to life,” said Amazon Studios Director Roy Price. “We want to see great stories turned into movies and television shows and we’ll continue to develop new features and tools that help people develop great stories.”

He explained that the tool was created when the company realized the value it would offer the project’s base of writers. “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.” While Storyteller will undoubtedly make it easier for writers to explain some concepts visually, it’ll be interesting to see how the community of storyboard artists will react to something that, essentially, tries to automate their entire livelihoods away.

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Graeme McMillan
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