Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Software can help plan that summer short film.

Once you have written your script and gotten it just the way you want, you need to start planning your film.

The old adage “if you fail to plan, plan to fail” is never truer than in making a film. There is just so much to manage.

Thankfully, there is some really great software out there to help the budding filmmaker plan the film in advance. Some professional grade and quite expensive, some “open source” and free, and even some which are “templates” for basic software like Filemaker Pro. But all enable a filmmaker to plan out their films for maximum use of time, assets, and, of course money.

If MOVIE MAGIC SCRIPTWRITER is your script processor of choice, then half the battle has been won. MOVIE MAGIC "BUDGETING” and “SCHEDULING” software has been THE standard in Hollywood for movie planning software for over a decade. Importing a Movie Magic script into budgeting makes breakdown a breeze. With a simple click of a mouse, props, characters, extras, and even locations are all separated and delineated into their proper categories – making budget breakdown and scheduling done in half the time. There is a comprehensive database of rates for budgeting above and below the line cast & crew. Call sheets, “day out of days,” and all other kinds of reports can be made by merely clicking the print icon.

All that automation isn’t cheap. At around $700 each. However, if Hollywood entrusts a $100+ blockbuster to Movie Magic to manage a production, then a low-budget film would be able to take advantage of it’s powerful utilities as well.

Another pricey, but less expensive, option is CINEMATRIX. CineMatrix™ is designed for independent production companies and filmmakers whose success depends upon making movies in the digital medium. It bills itself as a production “nexus” which unifies script with shot list of scene coverage, storyboard images, and your production resources for project coordination that moves towards successful completion. That’s what it promises, anyway. CineMatrix™ also provides real-time, dynamically shared scheduling and budgeting data, talent casting and audition scheduling, and graphic visualization of scene coverage.

CineMatrix™ brags that it is the most advanced motion picture planning and production software on the planet - without equal. And at $599 ($600 in disguise) it better be. (Hopefully, ER will do a stand-alone review of this product in a future report.)

Most digital short filmmakers are making their Internet masterpieces on a shoestring. This leaves the hefty, professional grade price tag of Movie Magic or CineMatrix out of reach. Fear not, there are several AFFORDABLE alternatives.

If you have FileMaker Pro, you know how flexible a platform it is for database management. And pretty, too, since it takes maximum advantage of the GUI beauty of Macintosh. But Windows users can enjoy it too (although previous versions of FMP have been a bit buggy for Windows).

A well thought out FMP interface is DIRECTOR’S NOTEBOOK PRO (there is also “stand alone” variant). Director’s Notebook Pro enables production manager from pre-, to production, and even through post.

Directors NoteBook has an easy-to-learn push-button interface, allowing production managers and directors to be creative and organized from the start. Users can search and sort all shot specific details any way they want, import digital storyboard images, effects plate images, location photos, blocking or location diagrams with one mouse click (another really cool feature is the ability to use a Bluetooth enabled phone as a remote control).

Director’s can also record voice memos associated with individual shots.

Data entry short cuts such as: Using text already entered in another shot Pull-down menus and Pop-up lists Import a folder full of images, Present your "boards" in a digital slideshow with one click.

With the power of the Internet, it isn’t uncommon for filmmaking to be a worldwide affair. Users can also share Directors NoteBook Pro on a Network, and use it’s multi-user collaboration features to interact with various department personnel no matter where they are. “a director in Beverly Hills can be working on his shot list, while a location scout in Paris is adding location photos to it, the ad agency in New York is viewing changes live, the production office in Hollywood is printing everything out for the Pre-pro booklets, and later, the colorist working on the dailies can view the director's color suggestions” as stated in the website.

Directors NoteBook has over 20 different printouts and reports, which can be customized, or new reports can be created to suit your needs. Exporting data to a word processing program or spreadsheet program like Word or Excel is a good, classic feature.

There are also special “position-oriented” features which include entering sun positions for individual shots and shoot times (great for Cameramen), adding schedule items such as lunch, company moves, wrap (making the AD’s job easier), and even a view and print or export shooting schedules, and sending email directly to clients and line producer.

Users can even sync with a Palm OS handheld using FilmMaker Mobile 2.1 (In Directors Note MOVIEPLANNER™ Book SA you can upload info to a Palm device using DataViz Documents To Go, but you can not dynamically (2-way) sync like you can with FileMaker Mobile.)

Starting at $29.99, Director’s Notebook is an attractive and affordable tool to add to any filmmaker’s toolbox.

Finally, there’s the open source freebie – that is the “best friend” of the Internet DV filmmaker – MOVIE PLANNER.

Written by a filmmaker who couldn’t afford the pricey professional options offered by Movie Magic, MOVIEPLANNER™ simply allows filmmakers to co-ordinate a film project by breaking down it into manageable pieces.

Creating shot lists, complete list of characters to cast, crew to find and props, costumes, models and sets to find, borrow, steal or build.

Users can assign diagrams to characters, extras, props and sets and even can import and assign storyboards to shots. Call Sheets, Scene Breakdowns and Detail Shot Plans can then be generated and printed.

The "FanFilm" movement swears by MOVIE PLANNER, and I can personally attest to it's ease of use and intutive nature (I'm planning a film using it as I write this).

Did I mention it’s FREE?!

With powerful software tools available, planning that film has never been easier.



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