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A Leap of Faith

I recently worked on a post regarding the changes to Celtx and how one could get and keep their original offline versions of software so those who have invested into the platform could maintain it.  But as I have been also posting about I have been slowly getting back into my filmmaking side and exploring ways to proceed into it.  But it has been sometimes since the days of past where I could pull up my favourite editor and whittle away the hours tapping away on a keyboard but more one my issues with that later. 

It has occurred to me that the software I once used is no longer supported in fact the guy who wrote has dropped off the face of the earth.  The other collaborative tool I used was Celtx and it has changed significantly since I last used it.  Final Draft has gone under 2 revisions (and it still is pretty much the same software) and I have never touched Movie Magic.

But there are other players, free, not so free and the outright bizarre.  I am not going to look into each and do a massive review, but the one thing I will be looking is the leap of faith people take and then find their product has gone, not supported, shut down or a shadow of themselves.  What does one do when this happens?  I look a new player in the landscape in general but not to the field is Adobe with their Adobe Story.  A script writing platform, which is web based only, offer a free and a premium version for a subscription cost and provide some cloud storage.

Its premium version has scheduling and production reports (the full suite I do not know), can export into Excel, which I am presuming allows for budgeting but it is the lack of offline versioning that makes it tricky.  If you decide to take the leap, since “I will be using Premiere and After Effects” then why not.  It speaks of integration but I have yet to try it and I think I will when I go the whole hog, when I have spoke with some people to determine what collaboration I can get I will look further into this and provide a more end to end up date on it.  But, that said, I am trying it for one project, but for those who go the whole hog, web only, documents in the cloud and the service shuts down, they can, it is in their terms of service, they would burn a lot of bridges if they did that but it is a reality.  What then?  My friend and I had 26 different scripts and that equated to about 290 or so files including all of the different versions and this was on Celtx.  They stopped providing the software to use the old system and were unrepentant about it, but through some diligence and searching I found their last version, installed, hope it worked and downloaded them all.  My issue is now it is all in the format of the software that is no longer supported.

I have scripts in Final Draft, which is still available but I have to find my licence for it.  I have them in Sophocles formats and so on.  Each one, has their pros and cons and not one can provide me with everything I want.

Another one I found out recently was Fade In, not long ago there was Movie Outline and I still get spam mails from there about their product which I believe started as an outline and pre-script tool and progressed into a fully fledged application.  There is of course Final Draft, Celtx and Movie Magic Screenwriter.

So for those uninitiated I have just shown 6 different screenwriting applications all providing one thing in common, if not more, they all write screenplays.  Their costs vary and being in Australia it is even worse for some.

Product Price
Adobe Story Free ($9.99/month Story Plus)
Celtx Free ($9.99/month Standard, $19.99/month Premium)
Fade In $49.95
Movie Magic $160.00
Movie Outline $199.95
Final Draft $249.99 (AU$319.64)

It is an interesting cost difference for software that does very much the same thing as what I am using now, or what Microsoft Word does.  I know there will be people who argue it, but to devote so much of your time writing, creating stories only to be bound to a product or worse be left with manually converting scripts because you selected product is now gone.  Not to mention actual cost investment.

Some of these packages aren’t cheap, Final Draft likes it prices high because if you look at their testimonials page we have so many Hollywood screenwriters endorsing their use.  I remember a post did a while back regarding George RR Martin and what he uses for his writing, and old DOS machine. Which he gets to work it enables him to write his books and then export it and send it to the publisher for editing and finally publishing.  Does anyone of these products enable you to write a BETTER script, no, since that is up to you.  If I pay the money for Final Draft and more academy award winning screenwriters use it does that statistically mean I will receive an academy award one day or at leats have a statistical chance to get one.  Well one thing I can say is statistics do not take into account other than actual numbers and under those I would say yes, there is a statistical chance if I use it I will get one.  But the reality is, I have an equal chance of getting an award for screenwriting using ANY of the above products.

So which do I use, which platform do I decide to sink my teeth or my money into.  Well the biggest draws at the moment are Adobe Story or Celtx for one main reason, collaboration.  I can, with my friend sit down with the application open, and run through at different locations and use Skype and update the script.  My friend has been my First AD and chances are will remain to, while I direct as he is the best one I have worked with and his work ethic is second to none.  But I am looking at it from a project by project aspect and it isn’t an easy choice but at least Story enables importing Final Draft which I do have documents of floating around but the Celtx offering still enables so much more than script writing and as a pre-production took, like the Sophocles product I used to use, it is a stand out.

I am wary of a leap of faith again and I might keep my options often and export and keep backups of all my version in a nice open format that I can use anywhere depending on the situation and what happens to my platform of choice, like Celtx and Sophocles of past.

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Web Applications not Always the Best

WritingAs I am getting my creative world back on track I have needed to revisit all of my old files.  This is OK, except they are in a couple of formats, Final Draft (which I have a physical copy of on CD) and the other is in Celtx.  Celtx was an open source application (which I will go on more about later) that enable not only screenwriting but provide initially basic pre-production tools to which I could breakdown a script, budget, schedule, etc.… with relative ease.  It wasn’t the prettiest but often when it comes to Open Source they are rarely are.

They offered a decent cloud based solution that enabled you to save your files onto the servers on the web and save multiple versions as well.  Each save prompted you with a comment dialog and then you could save it online for access by another user.  The subscription for accessing this service was reasonable I believe it was $49.90 a year.

Now.  Between the last time I renewed the subscription to know something has changed.  Firstly, they do not offer a version of their desktop application for Windows.  They make no apologies about it they provide one that is for Mac only.  OK.  This leaves me in a little bit of a bind as both myself and my friend had many scripts on this server with multiple version on there and all kinds of notes which we like as we often brain storm in this manner.

I have gone onto their site and they provide NO help on this.  “We do not provide a version for Windows.”  they say, “Download the legacy desktop application to connect to the legacy studio to be able to save your old projects to your computer”  um, didn’t I just read there is no legacy desktop application for Windows.

So, if you run a Windows PC and have many of your scripts on the Legacy site then chances are you are fairly screwed and the support people don’t seem to want a bar from you

So.  I dug around the traps and found Celtx on a site that is NOT Celtx.  This version was the last version I have used.

CNet, this is where I got the version I tried.  Download it and install it.

Next go to https://studio.celtx.com – and log in.  The reset password functionality does work so if you forgot your password.

Once logged in, you can do a couple of things.

Celtx and Signing in

Celtx has a Studio which is the web site allows you to view and administer the users of the system and the desktop application which is where most of the work is done.

imageWhen you open Celtx and this is the first time you will need to log in.  Make sure you select Legacy Studio as the location.  Enter the username and password you sued to log into the Celtx site.

Click OK and this should sign you in, at the time of writing this it did.  Once signed in, if you select Sign in on Startup it means you don’t need to worry about selecting it when opening up from the web.

Latest Version

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Click the Projects icon.  This will bring up the Projects window.  Click each icon in there will show information on the last time it was updated, if you are sharing this project, who the owner is and the number of version available.  I will explain about the versions below but at the moment I will show how to get the latest version.

Click the Project

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Click Edit.  This will open the newly installed desktop application.  You can choose to edit it if you like from within the Celtx application or save it, but don’t hit the save button as this will try (and I am unsure if this works) and save back to the cloud service. 

If you haven’t logged the Celtx application into the service then you will need to open sign in with that.  

Once in Celtx, Click File | Save Project As (Ctrl + Shift + S)  This will open a save dialog and will enable you to save the file anywhere on your local PC or network shares if available.

This will give you the latest version only.  But if that is all you want then you are good to go.  But if you want to save all the versions of your script then this process is similar but will take considerably longer.

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All Version

I wish there was an easy way to do this but there isn’t.  It isn’t elegant either and once saved I am unable to provide advice on how you should manage all the version other than just files on a file system.

Instead of click Project you want to click Archives instead.  This will show you all of your projects as folders.

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So, in there if you double click the folder another “window” will open and show you the versions of the application you have.

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Like opening the latest version it is simple once here.  But Select the version you want to open.  In the case above 1, through 4.  Then click Open Selected Version. 

You then see Celtx open locally and it will download the contents to your computer.  From there, you save the file locally like before Clicking File | Save Project As (Ctrl + Shift + S), browse to the location you wish to save the file.

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I type the version number 01 – [Name of Project], click save.  Make sure you put a zero at the front to enable proper sorting of the versions.  If you have more than 100 then use 001 or more than 1000 then use 0001 and so on.  This will ensure that numbers are sorted correctly when compared to the Alphabet.

Once this is done, close Celtx, go back to the studio site, click the next version and Click Open Selected Version and repeat the process until all versions are complete.  I am sorry if you have many versions my greatest was 72 thus far, but if you have more, you have my sympathies.

PDF Services

This is a note.  Celtx offers the ability to print and save your document in the right format, one the script document there is a tab called Typeset/PDF.  Click it and you will find it takes sometime before it produces the output needed.  From there you can then save as a PDF file.

There is nothing wrong with this, it works, but for how long, is it a method they implement on their servers or is it a 3rd Party that is offering the solution that they are merely calling the web API to do the hard yards.

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Not to mention you get this nice little ad popping up spruiking their current offering and their need to get an account.  15 days free trial.

What Next

I can’t tell you what to do next.  You now have a folder that has many different version of files or many files.  You could go with the solution for Celtx Online Studio, to write scripts is a free service but the desktop application they provided previously allowed;

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Yes, all of those items.  But now, their free service is just screenwriting.  Their next version at $10 a month offers all the same as the original desktop application, which you have just installed to get the files off their legacy studio.

So this is where I am very disappointed.  Celtx was an OK product, it wasn’t the best screenwriting application, it wasn’t the best scheduling application and so on.  But it was by far greater than the mere sum of its parts as it offered a centralised solution for your pre-production services. 

imageSo if you have an extensive collteciton of Celtx files then I would say that you should maintain using Celtx.  Convesion from the old style to the new one has the ability to upload files into the new account.  Log into the Celtx Studio and at the top left there is an upload Icon.

Click the upload icon you are given a fly out dialog, you can drag a heap of files in there or Click Browse your Computer and you will be presented with a traditional file dialog. 

You will then see the application will upload the document, once complete click the Close button and you will then see the file name of the file you uploaded in

imageyour file list. Expand it and you will be presented with all scripts that were in the file.  All of them and nothing else.  So if you had breakdowns and other documents in there including overviews, treatments and so on they will not exists in the new folder.  Not one of them is carried over.

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It looks very much like the previous Celtx desktop, a little slicker but all in all it is much the same.  So, if you have just scripts by all means use the online version, it is free.  BUT.  You have also lost all version tracking which the previous studio version supported (if you had the legacy studio and you had your script online, if you click save it would then save the file as a new version (that included everything in the file) with comments.  Now, no.

As for the Standard version which includes all of the things you got for free that you now have to pay for, the transition to this would be based on your own needs and financial state.  My opinion is, to now pay MORE for a service that has less feature than a product that was free.  To its credit it does have some benefits, but using a service like One Drive or Drop Box makes this feature seem fairly unimpressive.

I will just provide some details on what the service offers in the new world to what wasn’t in the old.

Scratchpads

This was a great way to just throw down ideas quickly and easily and get access to then later without the need of creating a new document.  They have implemented a notes feature in their online version, which the original desktop version had. 

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But the scratch pad is gone.

Index cards

A feature just part of the script, it creates a new index card per scene.  Now, this is a feature you pay for and is only part of the standard subscription.  I used to like using the index cards, as I used them physically stuck to the walls of my room.

Find and Replace

Wow, this was something we have had in our software since Windows 3.1 (possibly in DOS days too) to have a new fancy script editing application and to then say, we don’t have this feature, sorry, but if you up vote it then we might include it.

Versions

They did include this one, thankfully.  Slightly different but I think implemented better.

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It shows all of the versions, which one is the latest and which is the working copy (the latest and you have the option restore (only if you upgrade to the Subscribe to the standard subscription model).  I included it as it is something that SHOULD be included in free version.

Celtx went from being a solution that met the needs of people wanting a complete solution for everything rather than expensive software for something they will only use a small portion of.  It is now even less for more money if you go one of the subscriptions now than the cost of the previous legacy studio subscription.

Why did they feel this was the best use of their time when migrating to a web application solution.  I am very disappointed in the direction they took and in reality I would rather use Sophocles an equally unsupported software than has many of the same functions of Celtx in the desktop but there are some additions and some missing options.  Sophocles is difficult to find at the best of times and I might provide a link through if there is requests for it. 

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But it enables scheduling, step outlines, budgeting, full revision support.  It is a beta software released ages ago but the developer has since disappeared from the face of the earth and with many people who have speculated as to what happened no one can say.  But, his quality software does live on.