GEAR

Here's where you'll find tech of interest to storyboard artists, directors, animators, art directors, you get the idea.

DRAWING TABLETS

First up we'll look at digital input devices for computers and even graphic tablets that are computers. Beginning in the 90s and for at least a 15 years, Japanese hardware manufacturer Wacom ruled the roost in the tablet department. They were by no means the first and Summagraphics created slates for the Apple II in the late 70s, but these pre-dated the digital drawing revolution that took off with the introduction of Adobe Photoshop in 1990. Wacom emerged as the frontrunner in the mid to late 90s and only in the past 5 years have credible competitors like Huion, XP-Pen, Ugee and Gaomon. Apple iPad, Windows Slate and the Samsung Galaxy.

There are many reviews of tablets online and with new models coming from all the slate, and input manufacturers, new reviews appear frequently on YouTube. The reviews vary in quality and focus, with the bias towards newer artists rather than storyboard professionals.  Right now there are many options for digital artists and break down into a few categories:

  • Input devices (no video display)

  • Video drawing monitors

  • Mobile computers with drawing surfaces. 

All three have advantages, but the trend is towards drawing on a video surface. This trend is driven by the rapid improvement of all things digital. Video drawing slates keep dropping in price while adding new features and improving old ones. I'm biased towards the video slates because today's storyboard artists are often creating edited sequences with sound and music, essentially animatics and not just pictures on a page. Video slates are just monitors with a drawing surface and can be used as an input design for editing and 3D animation. 

As mentioned, Huion vs. Wacom type reviews are abundant, but because the Shot by Shot audience is very specific, I will make some basic observations on the options. 

First is the fact that if money is no object, Wacom is definitely the premier drawing surface product. Huion and Gaomen have made great strides in making Wacom-style drawing monitors. If there was no Wacom, they would more than acceptable. On average Wacom is about double the price of the new competitors, but that could be as little as $300. Students fret about this savings, but professionals who are drawing eight hours a day and will keep a table for 4 to 5 years are probably amortizing $1000 over that period of time. So, $200/yr is not much to pay for the main tool in your vocation. Of course the top of the line Cintique Pro 32, a 4k monster, is $3500, and the 24-inch model is $2800. Wacom also has payment plans over time. 

At the top of the tablet food chain is Wacom's MobileStudio Pro, a full computer that does not require plugging into a separate computer. This only works with Windows OS and that may be a deal breaker for some artists. Apple, Samsung and Windows all have drawing slates more or less led by the iPad, but this will only run IOS apps, not full graphics programs such as Premier Pro or Photoshop. 

Not don't get depressed by the top of hte line Wacom prices, they have Cintiques with 1920 x 1080 resolution in the $600 - $700 range. Huion, Gaomen and XP-Pen all have competing models in the $350 - $500 range. If possible I recommend finding a way to get a Wacom. Lastly, I still pick up my Wacom Intous from time to time and it works just great.