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Tuesday, 26 April 2011 19:43

Handy Tools for Screenwriters

Written by  David Hurd
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testdrive_dns_dictate_sfwI’m always looking for new tools that will help my readers to make better productions. While large shops usually have a person that specializes in screenwriting, people in smaller shops are forced to learn new skills. Here are a few new tools that will make your job as a screenwriter much easier.

Until recently, I had not used a Dragon product for eight or 10 years. Back then on my old 386 PC, the program would frequently lock up and was generally a pain to use. I’m happy to say that things are different now. Dragon Dictate for Mac from Nuance Communications is a whole new program, and it works great — I’m actually using it to write this review. It works in most of my programs — including email — which speeds up my grunt work so that I can move on to my production work. The focus of this article is more geared toward the fact that Dragon Dictate works well in scriptwriting programs.

Sometimes as a producer or director, we are called upon to write or edit a script. I’ve always dreaded this, as I am not the world’s quickest typist. I found that my fingers could not keep up with my creative mind, which led to a bottleneck in the creative process and a lot of frustration in general.

Dragon Dictate for Mac is easy to use. You just install the software, plug the microphone into a USB port, and follow the instructions that teach the program how to interpret your speech patterns. It’s just that simple. And when I saw how easily I was able to dictate my thoughts, I was anxious to try it out in my favorite scriptwriting programs.

Final Draft AV 2.5 is the program that I usually use since I make more commercials than I do films. The layout of Final Draft AV 2.5 has the Video on the left side of the page and the Audio on the right. This allows you to easily see a description of your shot standing beside the dialogue that goes with the shot. There are also shortcut keys that help you to navigate between the two sides, mark new scenes, and format characters, parentheticals and dialogue. My favorite way of working with this program is to sit down with the client and work out all of our ideas right within the software. Then, when we go to shoot, everything that we need is right there on a very professional-looking script — and there are no misunderstandings when we go to post.

Final Draft 8 is a scriptwriting program that makes the tedious job of formatting your script much easier. By using the shortcut keys, the program will automatically perform the formatting as you write. Dragon Dictate for Mac seems to work in this program as well, and I find it a painless way to add dialogue. I believe that the more fun you have while writing, the more often you’ll sit down and try it. Combining Final Draft 8 and Dragon Dictate for Mac removes all of the technical roadblocks that stand between you and your finished script. For me, the quality of my dialogue improves because I’m actually speaking into a microphone rather than typing my ideas into the script. I just close my eyes, visualize the scene in my head, and speak the dialogue. And when I open my eyes, it’s there on the page. This allows me to stay focused on what
I’m writing instead of splitting my focus between being creative and typing.

When I’m finished writing, I can use the Final Draft Speech Control feature in the Tools menu to play back what I’ve wrote. This allows me to actually hear my script being spoken aloud. That’s pretty cool. And if you want to produce perfectly professional-looking scripts, Final Draft products are a great investment.

Martini QuickShot Creator from PowerProduction Software is another tool for scriptwriting that works in a different way. It lets you see your script before you shoot it, and this pre-visualization can help a lot when you’re planning blocking and shot angles. This software is also helpful when you’re missing shots on your timeline. With Martini QuickShot Creator, you can fill in the missing spaces with the visualization of what the missing shots should look like. This way there’s no guesswork, and everyone will have a much better feel for what the final product will look like upon completion.

Martini consists of three main elements: Shots, Elements in the frame, and the Compositing area. In the Shots window, you have access to hundreds of different shots, such as two shots and over-the-shoulder shots, as well as pre-composed scenes. You simply start by selecting what type of shot you want.

The second step is the Elements window where you customize your shot to fit your needs. There are many backdrops and premade characters to choose from. To get even more accurate results of how your scene will look, you can add in your own still shots from the locations that you’re planning to use. If you chose a two shot in the Shot window, you can now make one figure a male and the other a female. You can also place them indoors or outdoors using one of the backgrounds, or place them on your actual set via use of a still shot and the My Locations feature.

In the Compositing window, you can provide movement for your characters. You can zoom in and out and move and rotate them until they behave as the actors will in the actual shot. This is a layered interface, so you can move everything individually. It’s simple to resize an element or to crop an element to make it appear that it’s standing behind a counter. You can make one composite or many, which you can add to your Shot list. In the Sequence bar, you can edit the duration of your shots, change the order, and duplicate or delete unwanted shots. When you’re finished, you can export your shots or sequences right into [Apple] Final Cut Pro, where they’re treated like any other shot. You can then edit them into the timeline, changing the blank spaces into something that you can wrap your mind around.

These tools will not only speed up your workflow, but will make all of your writing more fun as well. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Dragon Dictate software
MSRP: $199.99 including USB headset

Final Draft software
MSRP: Final Draft 8 $249,
Final Draft AV 2.5 $149

Martini QuickShot
Creator software
MSRP: $199.99

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