Why We’re Making the StoryWonders Creator

The short version:
1. We are two fathers from Copenhagen and together (with our wives) we have six children. We’re now, with a little luck around halfway through life, and we’ve learned that being able to turn feelings and thoughts into stories enables us to understand and grow ourselves. Which in turn helps us become more tolerant – and perhaps also teaches us to truly listen to the stories of others.

2. We now know, because we’ve got kids running around everywhere, that especially children, need to develop their ability to reflect, be creative and to cooperate. To be less consumers and more a creators. It simply gives us happy moments and a feeling of eligibility when we create.

3. So, in short we wanted to create an online platform, full of great production tools, that enables anyone to Practise the Art of Storytelling. And it had to be affordable and easy to use.

4. Together we have over 25 years of experience with production cycles of creating movies, games, backends/frontends and stories – so developing a digital platform where children/teachers/YouTubers/game developers/PhotoShoppers/advertisers and others can create movies, prints and interactive material is a dream come true. And most importantly making it easy to use and learn from – and affordable.

The slightly extended version (ok, fair enough – it’s kinda long):

It all began with a single short movie…

Back in 2017 we made a movie about Marie Antoinette on the way to her execution. We recreated her in PhotoShop, dressed her in the white chemise she actually wore and gave her simple facial animations. She, and the cart she was sitting in, was animated in After Effects. Simple stuff but it still took time to make and required those expensive programs.

Marie Antoinette in the cart. This is her 2019 version where especially the eyes have been upgraded.

At one point in the movie she closes her eyes and thinks of her family while dreamy yellow particles float through the air. This was also done in After Effects, the particles coming from free green screen footage. Again, pretty simple stuff but it took a lot of time and required some heavy duty (and expensive) software.

Marie closes her eyes, the cart and the street disappears, and the faces of her children appear as if in a dream.

We did the research, wrote the story, recorded the speak, composed the music and uploaded it to YouTube. And then the most wonderful thing happened. People watched it. And continued to watch. And as of today it has over 700.000 views and more than 1.300 comments. Pure joy.

The best thing about the success of the movie is the many wise comments viewers have posted about her and the period surrounding the revolution. Being able to communicate with knowledgeable people who are interested in the subject is a privilege.

Then at some point we began to discuss how we could enable anyone to tell a story like that, especially children. If we could just build a tool where children, who did not have the opportunity to learn or the option to buy the software we use, could put together text, images, sounds, music, camera movements and visual effects and experience the joy of creating stories then our own privileged lives, would be better put to use. We both have children and know how important it is for them to strengthen their creative skills, to think, to focus, to collaborate and to produce something they’re proud of – 21st Century Skills and all that jazz. So, our dogma became: Create an online tool that is so easy to use and so affordable that it can help anyone practise the art of storytelling.

The Player

So, we began to write and visualise more stories. But this time we didn’t want to assemble them in the usual programmes. This time we wanted to bring all the elements to life in our own software which we gave the rather unoriginal name The Player. One of the first stories was about wolves and we called it Wolf World. We worked on several other stories and focused on defining and creating the camera moves, the text elements, the visual effects, the audio features and the logic required to bring them to life.

The Main Menu for Wolf World. One of the first features of the player was to show assets in different layers. Here we have a foreground, a mountain and a sky in the middle, two wolves and the logo and the buttons on top.
The first version of the Text Module came to life in Wolf World.
Another story we worked on was the classic Hansel and Gretel. Here we focused on effects like Fog slowly moving across the screen while the dark clouds in the back became larger and larger using the Zoom Feature.
We focused on creating customisable Covers.
Making it easy to create Titles
Introducing the power of Layers the easy way.
Enabling anyone to create even more depth in a scene using Layered Assets.
Working with Light and Shadows.
Implementing basic animations such as Rotation.
Camera Movements such as Zoom. The assets zoom according to their distance from the camera, the closer the faster. The sky is as the only asset zooming out.
Adding Weather Effects such as Snow.
And creating and buying a huge amount of different assets that can be easily accessed in the Asset Library.

The Creator

We were happy with the Player. It performed exactly the way it was supposed to but until now it was Benjamin who had been coding everything. So, the next step was to allow anyone to use these features without any knowledge of programming. And that required an interface that could control all these features. It called for the the StoryWonders Creator. Tadaaaaaaaah!

The Creator came to life surprisingly fast because the Player was already up and running.

Our foremost concern with the creator was to not fall in the feature-creep-trap. The interface had to be extremely simple and and the features easily accessible. So, we ended up with a two-window-interface. To the left was the Preview and to the right the assets used in a scene. We quickly realised that each asset always had a number of properties that could be used to change its behaviour so we went with what we call Asset Controllers.

Each Asset Controller has a number of properties depending on the type of asset.

And so, it wasn’t long before we could create scenes with camera movements, text, weather effects, sound effects, music, transitions and much more and we’re still working to make the Creator better and better so children and their parents can make stories, movies, invitations, presentations and wallpapers in an fun and affordable way. And for more experienced storytellers such as YouTubers, teachers and writers to add more life to their stories.

Marie Antoinette as she looks in our new story in front of the Versailles. Thank you Marie and rest in peace.

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