Friday, 9 October 2009

Better crowd control with Moviestorm 1.1.7

One of the subtler changes coming in Moviestorm 1.1.7 - so subtle that I have to confess I've only just noticed it - is a complete rebuild of the script view, bringing in some really useful new functionality. This will make it much easier to do a whole bunch of things, but you'll definitely feel the difference if you're creating movies with a large cast.

You've probably never used the script view for anything other than flipping between different scenes or turning cel shading on or off. Let's face it, you've probably never used the script view at all, have you? That's OK. Neither have I.

This is it. A garish, colour-coded thing that you get to by clicking on the book-like icon at the top right of the control bar. It tells you the sequence of activities in your scene, but isn't really very user-friendly.

That's gone. Here's the new one.

You reach it in the same way, but the new icon looks like a speech bubble. Much easier on the eye, isn't it? More importantly, there's now a timecode against each activity, so you can tell exactly where in the scene you are.

Against each activity, there's the option to customise or delete it. This isn't new, but now that I've started using the script view, I'm finding it quite useful. It's much easier than dragging through the timeline trying to find an activity, and remembering who to select in order to get it to show up. If I want the bit where one of the aliens scratches his butt and get him to scratch his nose instead, I don't have to try and recall whether it was Alien01, Alien02 or Alien03, select him, and pick out the gesture from the timeline. I can see everything at a glance and pick it out from there.

But that's not the best bit.

There's a new tab on the script now, which gives you a full timeline for all the characters, plus dialogue, cameras and prop activities. This is something we've been wanting to do for a while, but never figured out where to put it. When you have a lot of characters - there are 17 in this movie - showing them all on the main timeline would take up half the screen, and not leave enough room for directing the action. If we put them all in the main timeline and you could scroll them, only being able to see a few at a time would be a pain.

As a result, co-ordinating several characters has been hard work. If you want them all to salute in unison, you have to set up one character, note the time the activity starts, pick the next one, drag the activity to the right start point, and repeat as many times as it takes. And, inevitably, by the time you've done six or seven of them, you're a quarter of a second out and you have to go back and do them all over again.

Now, that problem goes away. Drag the timeline to where you want them to salute, and then you can quickly and easily line up everyone's gesture activities against it. If you zoom the timeline all the way in (see the little -/+ controls at the top right?), you can get accuracy to within a single frame. The script view is resizeable too, so you can show a lot of characters at once - just drag the bottom right-hand corner out.

And, of course, if what you're going for is a slightly more natural feel, it's just as easy to make sure that they're slightly staggered - there's always one guy who's out of time, unless you're trying to create a drill display team! Here I have a moment where a musician comes on stage, and the crowd stop talking and turn to look at him, not all at once, but fairly close. Each of the green triangles is a "look at" activity, and you can see that he gestures (waves at them) in response. If I wanted him to come in a little later, it would be easy to drag the walk and all the associated "look at" commands, and I could be sure I hadn't accidentally forgotten someone.

And, of course, all the rest of the timeline functionality is available too, so you can customise and delete from the script view just like you can with any other view.

But hold it, there's more...

You can get to the script view from the camera view as well, which means that you can do something very powerful indeed. You can direct while looking through the camera. One of the most important thing a film-maker has to learn is that it doesn't matter what happens on the set. What matters is what the camera sees, and what it looks like in the edit.

The script view timeline brings those two together. If you want to ensure that something happens right on a cut, you can look through the lens, bring up the timeline, and adjust any activity, for any character or any prop, until it's right where you want it. The main timeline only shows the character the current camera is targeted on: the script timeline shows everything.

Here, for example, I can see exactly what's happening just as I cut to this shot of the band from a close-up on the drummer: the four main pyros have already gone off, so I will have a good cloud of sparks across the back of the set, the next pyro has just ignited, so we'll see that explode in the foreground as the shot happens, and the guitarist is just going into his rockstar pose. From here, I can easily open up the guitar sequence and replace the "gun" pose with a windmill pose, or else drag the entire sequence by a fraction of a second so he's in a slightly more dramatic pose as the shot starts.

It's hard to explain just how much difference this single change makes to the way I use Moviestorm. It gives me a level of directorial control and choreographic precision that has been lacking until now, and means I can make adjustments as they occur to me without having to change mode or mess around selecting people or props on set. The whole experience is more immediate and hands-on.

Try it for yourself when 1.1.7 ships, and find out whether it affects you in the same way!


primaveranz said...

This is Massive!

Anonymous said...


Features like this is why Moviestorm is unique and wonderful.

EclecticBlogger said...

Wonderful, I use script view often any improvement is very helpful.