HRA debuts storyboarding tool for animation workflows

New software-based system for traditional storyboard artists

Hibbert Ralph Animation (HRA) today unveiled Redboard, a software-based system that enhances existing CG workflows by adding and integrating the skills of the traditional storyboard artist. According to HRA, Redboard improves communication and efficiency and increases confidence for directors and producers, while significantly reducing costs by minimising errors that might otherwise occur in later stages of the production.

The software was developed over the last four years by HRA's in-house team, initially to enhance its own CG pipeline for TV series production. However, the company experienced such improvements in quality and cost savings that it decided to market the software. Redboard is particularly suited to the production of animated television series, though it will also benefit CG film production says HRA.

The system includes a proprietary 3D storyboarding system that uses game engine technology to allow the storyboard artist to preview sets and backgrounds in real-time. Once the storyboard panel has been framed using the 3D background, the storyboard artist can then add characters and props. When the scene is set the artist can then draw 'digitally' on top of the CG image to rapidly add more detail and expression. The software ensures that camera framing, scales and proportions are accurate at the storyboard stage, eliminating many problems later in the pipeline. All this is achieved within an artist-friendly interface, making the system quick and easy to use.

Directors can preview an accurate scene, including camera angles, lenses and precise placement of characters and props, with the added details of expression and characterisation. Once approved, the animation department or subcontracting company receives a highly detailed animatic plus precise camera and layout data, which vastly reduces costly interpretation errors. Redboard provides the reassurance that the final rendered animation will exactly match the approved storyboard; HRA estimates that this element of the software alone can save up to 40% of storyboarding costs, and almost completely automates the process of digital layout.

HRA and HRTv (HRA's TV series production arm) have used the Redboard system on the latest two series of Fireman Sam and previously, Tractor Tom Series Two — in total 780 minutes of animation. Jerry Hibbert, Director, Hibbert Ralph Animation, said, "Our experience has been one of significantly fewer corrections, improved oversight and control, and a film that matched the original storyboard precisely — all achieved on budget and to schedule with ease."

Redboard is available immediately for CGI television series productions as a complete service package, including software licenses, installation, training and support. Licenses will run for the period of the project and prices will be calculated based on the length of the project. Film packages are also available on request.

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