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Using Animatics to Create a Storyboard in iMovie

Apple made a lot of previously complex tasks much simpler with the latest release of iMovie. The Movie Trailer themes are a good example, as they use sequences of animatics to create a template into which you can quickly drag-and-drop appropriate footage. You can also use these animatics to create your own storyboard, prior to capturing your video. 

According to Wikipedia, storyboards are "graphic organizers of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualising motion pictures". In essence then, a list of the shots you need to create your movie.

iMovie gives the name animatics to the grey and white graphics of scene types (close up, long shot, group, individual and so on) that you see when you choose a Movie Trailer theme. They are more than just static images however as they have a clip length associated with them and are animated to give an indication of what you can expect from that type of shot (play through a wide shot animatic and you will see it pan slowly, as is typical in a wide shot), hence the term animatic.

Animatics, as sequenced in the Movie Trailer Themes

Animatics, as sequenced in the Movie Trailer Themes.

Plan Your Own Storyboard

To create a storyboard using animatics follow these steps: 

Start a new project (Command-N) and choose ‘No Theme’ as the template; you can choose to ‘Automatically add’ transitions of your preference in this dialogue: 

Automatically adding transitions in the  New Project dialog

Automatically adding transitions in the New Project dialog.

The animatics on offer are found in the Maps, Backgrounds and Animatics browser (Command-5). You will need to scroll to the bottom of the browser to find them. 

The Maps, Backgrounds and Animatics browser

The Maps, Backgrounds and Animatics browser.

Drag animatics of your choosing in an appropriate order into the Edit Project area. 

Dragging animatics to the Edit Project area

Dragging animatics to the Edit Project area.

Set the length of each animatic by double-clicking them in the Edit Project area and entering a suitable duration in the Clip Inspector: 

Setting the length

Setting the length.

To add text annotations to each animatic you can use markers. Add the markers button to the top right of the Edit Project area by choosing Show Advanced Tools in iMovie’s Preferences. Then, drag markers to the desired locations.

Revealing the Markers button

Revealing the Markers button.

Each marker will have a live text field into which you can type the required text.

Adding text to markers

Adding text to markers.

To view your storyboard choose File > Print Project... From the PDF drop-down menu at the bottom left of the print dialog choose ‘Open PDF in Preview’. If the animatics are too small, change the Scale in File > Page Setup…

A simple storyboard, ready to print...

A simple storyboard, ready to print...

Using the Storyboard 

The animatics that you have sequenced in the Edit Project area function in the same way as those found in the Movie Trailer themes. That is, you need to replace them with footage selected in the Event Browser area by dragging and dropping. 

Dragging and dropping selected footage onto animatics

Dragging and dropping selected footage onto animatics.

However in this case, if you wish to maintain the durations you chose in planning, you will need to select exactly the same duration in the Event Browser. When you drag and drop the selected footage onto the animatic a dialogue will appear. Choose 'Replace' to replace the animatic with the selected footage.

Mike Watkinson

Mike Watkinson | Articles by this author

Mike has been obsessed with music software since he first saw Fairlight's Page-R, and has tracked its development through his work as a performer, composer and producer. As a writer he has contributed articles to Sound On Sound since 1999, and currently writes their Apple Notes column. As well as being a certified Logic Pro and Pro Tools trainer he is also an Apple Distinguished Educator.


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