Storyboard by Google – A digitalSoup Review

Back on Episode 053, we talked about how Google was experimenting with some new photo/video apps and one of those that looked the most interesting was an app called Storyboard.

From Google :
Storyboard transforms your videos into comics. It selects, lays out, and stylizes video frames using experimental research technology from Google that runs entirely on your device.

As I said I would do in the episode, I had my wife download it on her Samsung Galaxy S8 and grab a quick video or two so that I could check out this app. Bottom line, I want this app brought over to Apple. But first, the details.

Functionality – How does it work?

From a user experience standpoint, this app is very simple to use. Upon launching it you are giving a splash screen with just one option, Load Video.

Of course what this means is that you have to shoot your video outside of this app and then basically import it in after, no big deal but something to be aware of.

Once the video loads you simply pull down on the screen until you find a look and layout you like. The app will give you random layouts picking different moments of your video to use, random panel configurations and random image effects. When you find one you like just tap the screen to either share it online or save it to your phone. That’s it, it’s an incredibly simple app to use.

Image effects

The real meat of this app is how it analyzes your video clip, pulls out still image moments and then applies a comic book style effect to it all. Overall, most of the effects in our limited sample were pretty fun and well done. Keep in mind, we were testing this with a couple of videos my wife made while I was driving for a recent trip me had, so our video source material was limited to the car and the two of us.

Let’s see a few samples:

As you can see it does a pretty decent job at making your images appear straight out of the pages of a comic book. It will add a mix of color and black and white looks along with more sketched vs watercolor looks.

However, it does tend to pick some really strange moments out of your video at times and a few of the image effects are a little iffy.

More Examples:

I’m not sure what the app is using to pick what it deems as “interesting” moments from your video, but sometimes it was literally pulling just a still image of the door frame or the back of a neck. Very curious indeed.

Pros

-Fun way to share short video clips
-Most of the comic book effects look pretty awesome
-Incredibly easy to use
-Did I mention it was fun?

Cons

-The app AI seems to be hit and miss when choosing moments to feature
-It’s ALL completely random
-No ability to cycle through layouts and effects individually

Final Thoughts

While this app is incredibly easy to use and it gives you some very fun results, I feel like it’s missing the mark a bit. You’ll find that often times it will pick a layout of images you like but the effect it chooses may not work well or vice versa. Your only option is continuing to swipe down and hope that somewhere in the randomness you’ll get a layout AND effect combination you like.

One thing to remember is that Google calls this an “appsperiment” and so it is basically a proof of concept app, you could almost consider this an open beta. Browsing the comments on the Google Play store it seems that a common theme is that people are wanting the ability to choose the layout and effect combinations they like so maybe Google will bring some form of that into the next version.

I do think that part of the charm of an app like this IS the randomness that it relies on. I’d hate to see it turned into something in which you have deep level editing capabilities when it comes to layouts, image effects, number of panels, etc. My personal opinion is that they keep the random swipe down workflow as they have right now, just break it into 2 steps.

The first step being to select your random layout. Once you’ve chosen that you hit next and then swipe down to cycle through the random effects. That’s it, keep it simple because that is where the fun and enjoyment of this app comes from.

As a concept I give this app a 5 out of 5.

I love the idea of taking all of those small video clips we take every day and turning them into a series of images in comic book form. Immediately I was thinking how cool it would be to take those short clips of my kids and day to day stuff and run them through Storyboard, saving the images so that I could then put them into a small book via a service like Blurb. It would be so much fun to have my own comic book!

In terms of execution I give this app a 3 out of 5. 

There were just too many times that a cool layout would be spoiled by an effect that didn’t work or vice versa. Maybe I’m just impatient, maybe it’s just the photographer in me that doesn’t always enjoy leaving all editing to random computer decisions, but I’d love a little more control over the final outcome. As I mentioned earlier though, just a little, because the randomness is part of the fun in this app.

Overall that is a 4 out of 5, which means we say SERVE IT UP!

As I said in the beginning, I really WANT this app to come over to iOS so I can play with it some more! It isn’t perfect but it’s a cool concept that Google appears to still be actively developing. Hopefully future versions will give that little bit of extra control while keeping the fun factor. In the meantime, I’ll have to  steal my wife’s phone from time to time and make some comic book art.

Let us know what you think if you’ve played with the app!

 

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