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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old June 29th, 2005, 02:02 PM   #1
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Script Writing and Digital Pre-Production Software

Hope it's OK to post a self-serving (non-spammy) message to let people know about a new, free (now and forever), open standard (now and forever) script writing and digital pre-production application that's gaining an international following (available in ten languages). The software also enables sharing with team members (aka Collaboration).

In addition to providing a full feature set for writing and editing scripts, Celtx also enables people to do media rich breakdowns, letting you add digital pictures, sound files and (for the moment limited to) QuickTime clips to the script. It also has extensive note features.

www.celtx.com

mgk
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Old June 29th, 2005, 03:08 PM   #2
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Interesting..uses Firefox technology and xml. Thanks for the link.
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Old June 29th, 2005, 04:12 PM   #3
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Fairly impressive stuff, I'm trying it out right now and I think I'll probably use it (which is saying alot since I have Final Draft). I kinda wish their was a bit of an autodetect feature though, such as when you add dialogue the name of the character should automatically be added to the character breakdown....and any improper nouns could be added to the prop catagory. That way it would practically autobreakdown your script for you.
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Old June 29th, 2005, 06:09 PM   #4
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Trying it out now as well.

Fairly impressive at first glance but there are bugs.

Some nagging questions / issues (?).

It saves but as .pdf and .html? I don't get it. You cannot 'publish' it except to its own servers yet it is supposed to be open source. That means your online collaboration is beholden to the sanctity of their servers.

Looks like I'll have to learn a lot more about it from their bulletin board.
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Old June 30th, 2005, 11:09 AM   #5
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Save As...

Thanks for the feedback.

Keith, our messaging could do with some improving...

First, know that your script is saved locally (on your own hard drive) as a *.html file (in keeping with the open standard aspect of the software).

However, the *.html file is one of several files that you create when you use the software, all stored in a Celtx Project folder (includes a file for the RDF database that is linked to the script, and any resources (jpegs, MP3s, and QTs) that you've associated with the Project). This folder is saved by default under your Celtx profile which is located in Microsoft’s ‘Applications Data’ folder (which MS (not us) hides by default). We've posted a message on our Forum about how to tickle open the Applications Data folder so you can see the Celtx files.

We have received feedback from our users about allowing 'Saves As...' to somewhere other then the default setting. This new feature will be added to the next release scheduled for a couple of week’s time.

I hope this helps.

Mark
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Old June 30th, 2005, 11:52 AM   #6
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Mark, thanks for the response. Yes, I saw from the bulletin board that ongoing suggestion about the Save As and I agree, you need to be able to save it to wherever you want it on your own computer.

As for saving as .html I'm not quite sure about that. The possibility of web-based collaboration is intriguing and there is nothing really wrong with using .html as a *publishing* form (I'm a web developer by trade). Naturally, being able to export to .pdf is good and the output seems fine to me at first glance. But as an editing form it seems like using your tool is asking for everyone to commit to using Celtx. How do you pass it to someone using Final Draft or Word for example for editing? It doesn't seem like they can.

Right now I am a third of the way through my fourth script. I've always written in Word but have been looking for a pure screenwriting alternative without buying Final Draft. But the Celtx import doesn't support Word or .rtf. I can export the Word doc to .txt which introduces some minor formatting issues. However the import of Celtx from the .txt outputted by Word creates one huge scene file and removes all of the formatting. Obviously, given that problem none of the scene breaks, character, wryly or dialogue was parsed by Celtx either.

I started a script from scratch using Celtx and some bugs need to be shaken out. I created several scenes but only one shows up in the breakdown. For some reason, when I do a total breakdown, only the title page information shows up.

I'm sure most of these problems will be shaken out in your next version. It is mostly the interoperability of Celtx that concerns me. Although it is open source and I support open source, if for some reason Celtx goes away or is bought out, then having my scripts in that singular format doesn't give me confidence. Whereas, Word .doc format, although proprietary to Microsoft, is so widespread I have no problem leaving any of my scripts in that format. Or perhaps editable .pdf. I could output backups in .html which is an open format, but I don't relish editing a screenplay in an .html editor if for some reason I chose not to keep using Celtx. Outputting to straight .txt is not a solution because then I would have to reimport to Word and spend a day reformatting.

This is my reaction after playing around with Celtx for one day and from browsing the bulletin board for a couple hours. If my criticisms are missplaced that's because of that short period of use. I fully intend to explore Celtx more and hope that it will become a solution for me.
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Old June 30th, 2005, 01:02 PM   #7
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Keith

Once again, thanks for the great feedback.

Celtx should import a FD file (or MMSW etc.) that has been, in turn, exported as a "Text with layout'. We recently had a user post a message about how well it works http://forums.celtx.com/viewtopic.php?t=469

Quote:
How do you pass it to someone using Final Draft or Word for example for editing?
We are trying to make Celtx as interoperable as possible. After all, that's one of the chief reasons behind making it an open standards application – to avoid vendor lock-in. To date, Celtx exports to HTML, TXT and PDF, with a XHTML option on the way.

Making the application interoperable with FD or Word etc. is made difficult by the proprietary nature of those applications. Nonetheless, we are aware of this issue and are working diligently to make it friendlier to import/export your files.

Celtx uses a HTML editor. This has raised some technical challenges for us, not the least of which is providing a WYSIWYG experience for our users (which is on the way in an upcoming release).

The HTML side of the application stems from our using Firefox. This gives Celtx seamless integration with the Net, providing a low cost mechanism for publishing script based projects – something we feel will become increasingly important for film makers. Some larger media companies, like HBO and Fox, seem to have already cottoned on to the idea, providing fan based sites for shows like Six feet Under and Deadwood that have annotated scripts and associated QuickTime clips.

Our vision is to provide a professional grade writing and digital production application that lso provides access to a direct, low cost mechanism for publishing film projects. Our ‘Project Central’ site is a proof of concept of this idea, enabling people to post their entire project – the script annotated with notes, pictures, sound files, and QTs – in one place. Try that with Word or FD!

Thanks again.

Mark
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Old June 30th, 2005, 03:17 PM   #8
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Mark thanks for your reply and based upon what you wrote I am encouraged to continue exploring Celtx. I've already passed on recommendations to other writers I talk to so that they can see the development of it progress. I agree that the possibilities for collaboration are wide open. I'm glad to see the interoperable issues are being looked at. And once the basic production issues are ironed out in future releases, I can see this potentially being a great tool.
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Old August 29th, 2005, 12:08 PM   #9
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New release candidate

If you check the CeltX forums they now have a new candidate for their next release available for testing.

Since I last posted I've converted my next screenplay project into celtX and have been using it regularly. Once they release their next candidate I will review it again (I am a tester now).
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Old August 29th, 2005, 09:57 PM   #10
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Mark, do you plan on supporting the open doc standard? That would allow for Star Office and Open Office integration. (I'm planning on using one or the other when the new versions are released.)
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Old August 30th, 2005, 04:24 PM   #11
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Keith, keep us updated. I tried Celtx several times over the last year maybe and it was all but useless. Many bugs and not being able to save where you wanted meant it wasn't going to get a loot in. Sophocles is amazing but unfortunately no Mac version. FD and MMSW are the naffest looking and with primitive interfaces (for the Mac). So much so I don't want to use them ;)

Let's hope Celtx can pick it up!

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Old August 30th, 2005, 04:55 PM   #12
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They listened to the complaints about not being able to save locally and yes you can in the release candidate. Actually you could with the previous (current) version too but it was hard to do.

Joe: I'm not sure if the celtX people read this board so you may want to ask on the celtx board.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 08:30 AM   #13
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Thanks so much! We're all about recommending free or low cost software. heck, I've been asking about free photo editors and the like for the past two weeks now!

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Old August 31st, 2005, 10:29 AM   #14
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The summary of the celtX improvements I've seen (I may have missed some):
- ability to save locally
- new and improved interface
- hotkeys for common formatting
- bold, underline, italics formatting
- new way of assigning department tags (..props, set dressing, etc.)
- expanding list of department tags
- improved breakdown
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Old August 31st, 2005, 12:10 PM   #15
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This looks pretty cool, we've been using "traditional" web-based collaboration software for this purpose but it always falls short.

I'll have to check it out and let you all know how it compares to some of the stuff we've been using so far.
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