I've decided to retire this blog — I don't really see myself updating it any time soon, and haven't for over two years anyway. I intend to leave the content on-line for the forseeable future, but have converted it to a static site. As a result, dynamic things like search and comments aren't really going to work.

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No Leaf Clover

Man, it’s hard to believe it’s been more than three weeks since my last blog post. May is that month of craziness at uni where everything becomes due seemingly at once, and it’s easy to get freight-trained by the light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, I think the light now is actually daylight, mercifully. I’ve just finished writing my first ever breakdown for a television script (university assignment rather than paid, sadly, but baby steps…) and am a reasonable chunk of the way towards writing the final script for the same episode. Even my film project, which seems to be falling apart around me, doesn’t seem quite so insurmountable now — probably because I know that, one way or another, my part in it will be done in eight days.

Incidentally, writing half hour scripts is hard when you’re used to short films and short stories. This hasn’t been helped by trying a few different screenplay writing tools, although that is an excellent form of procrastination. My short summation of the state of the screenplay is:

  • LyX with the Hollywood style: This is what I’ve used in the past. Has the advantage of being cross-platform and producing nice output, but it’s really restrictive in terms of formatting (no side-by-side dialogue, no easy title page customisation — although that’s got more to do with my weak LaTeX-fu than LyX itself), and it’s just not a great solution for larger projects since there’s no automated scene or character handling.
  • Celtx: Interesting open source project based on the fragments that should have formed XULRunner. (Sorry, different rant.) Not overly open sourcey, it has to be said — the Web site’s not chock-full of information to people interested in developing it. Promising, and does quite a bit besides just screenplays, but with some obvious issues: no side-by-side (hey, I needed it for a recent project, so I’ve started caring about it) and, more importantly, can’t generate production-quality PDFs without calling a closed source Web service.
  • Word + Simply Screenplay: Ah, the closed source part of the discussion. I only include this because it’s what the short film scriptwriting unit at my university uses. It’s unremarkable in every way and is really just another Word template that gets some of the way there. Very flaky, too, due to its heavy use of VBA.
  • Final Draft: I can’t really wrap up the discussion without mentioning FD. Closed source, only runs on Windows and OSX, but it’s an industry standard. And, honestly, it’s not a bad one. Pricey and less pretty than Celtx, but it is very usable, and provides a lot of useful extras.

For now I’m using Celtx, even with its flaws. I want to like it a bit more than I do right now, but it looks like it’s going to be an excellent program in the long run, and a real open source Final Draft competitor. It’s just not quite there yet.

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