First peek: Final Draft 10

A new version of the screenwriting software Final Draft for Mac and Windows has just been released. I was on the beta test program but still I’m going to call this a first peek: call it a full and frank review of the price rather than of the program itself.

The quick summary is that this is definitely the nicest version of Final Draft we’ve had and it does add new features but nothing that would make you pause with your mug of tea halfway to your open mouth. I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the new features but we’ll come to know whether they’re good or just gimmicks when we’ve been writing scripts in the app.

Script formatting hasn’t changed since time began and the ways in which Final Draft speeds up that part of the job can only go so far. They’ve gone so far. It’s unlikely that there will be some enormous new feature that you must have but there is something that I want. I want Final Draft to stop betraying the fact that it’s written for both Windows and Mac: it has always felt lowest-common denominator, it has always felt like an ancient PC app.

Of course it’s great that the app is on both platforms, the problem is that doesn’t feel as if it’s on either: it previously hasn’t kept up with Microsoft or Apple’s operating system.

Final Draft 10… still can’t quite shake that. Oddly, although the Mac version does still look like a Windows app, it’s still not as ugly as the actual Windows version.

It’s better. It’s getting there. And the reason for buying Final Draft at all remains how great it is at helping you zoom through a scene: forget writing out each character’s name in a fight, just write their line, trade their blow, hit return and give the other guy some words. This is the key part of the software, it is the key reason why it’s used: it means you can write down scenes just about as fast as you can hear them in your head.

If you don’t already have Final Draft, that would be the reason to get it. There are these new features, though. It is features, plural, as it really comes down to two. I’m being harsh: the makers would point to more but then they are obsessed with how Final Draft paginates and every time they boast about that, I think of how it is substantially less important than it was.

The two features that are worth examining begin with the story map. Sorry, Story Map(TM). They must be serious about it, they’ve trademarked it. Click on this and along the top of your screen where you might usually see a ruler, you get a timeline. Every scene has a mark on that time line and significant ones get bigger blobs. Click anywhere to go that screen. Or just look at the spacing between what you’ve said are the bigger blobby scenes.

Then there’s the Beat Board (also trademarked) which is to modern screenwriting what the cork board was to it before. If the cork board is for a single writer to plan out a single project, the beat board is more for a room of writers breaking a TV series.

That said, Final Draft still feels like an app for an individual, not a group. But there is now a collaborative feature: I’ve yet to test it out in anger or even really at all so I can’t tell yet whether it’s Google Docs-level collaboration. It’s certainly a way for many people to see the same script and exchange instant messages about it.

If you’re new to Final Draft then note that it retails for £188.40 ($249) but is temporarily on sale for £127.37 ($169. Education or military people can get some reduced price and upgrades can get version 10 for £75.36 ($99.99), temporarily reduced to £59.54 ($79.99). The reason for the odd Sterling price is Brexit. It will vary every time you look at it, but the trend ain’t going down.

You can buy the software from the official website where there is also a trial edition of both the Windows and Mac versions.

You can’t get a trial of the iPad and iPhone versions of either Final Draft Writer or Final Draft Reader. Never bother with Final Draft Reader. Just don’t. The Writer iOS app has been updated to work with Final Draft 10 features and if you already had it lurking away on your iPad or iPhone, you’ve just got the update for free. If you haven’t, then you need to buy and it costs approximately £23 ($29.99) temporarily discounted to £7.99 ($9.99). You can get this iPad and iPhone version here.

Trailer: Crafted by Morgan Spurlock

Apologies for the ad at the start.

*|YOUTUBE:[$vid=O3SpW03UJ0k]|*

Read more about the film and if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, watch the whole 25-minute movie now for various prices that I’m sure Amazon details.

Writing as a career – in 1940s America

Say, are you a young boy looking to make a career in hard news journalism or a young girl who wants to write about cake decorations? Never fear: Arthur P. Twogood tells you all you need to know in this instructional careers video from around the 1940s. Apart from a so-painful-it’s-funny segment about women journalists, it is rather fist-on-your-chin fascinating to see how news writing used to be. If you redid this video today, we’d see someone receive a PR email, copy and paste it into a website and go home.

Weekend read: How Film is Made Today

Just absorbing.

Visiting the Eastman Kodak factory in Rochester, NY was the first visit in my month-long journey. I wanted to document how Kodak film, which starts as an acetate or polyester base and chemicals, reaches the movie theater screen in a digital era. That process today is quite different from 50 years ago when technicians developed camera negatives by hand and editors cut film with scissors. It’s one that blends the physical and the digital mediums. I interviewed Kodak factory workers, filmmakers, negative processing technicians and colorists, toured labs and offices, all the while witnessing firsthand film’s entire course. Even though the process does integrate digital technology today, I found there’s something special about shooting a movie on film, and part of my journey was to discover why that is.

How Motion Picture Film is Made – Ryan Cavataro, Gear Patrol (22 March 2015)

Read the full piece.

Weekend read – especially for old radio hands

My heart punched forward a beat at the sight of simply the name. Nagra. I started in BBC Radio and wore a groove into my shoulder carrying a portable Nagra tape recorder around. And I remember being shown the continuity suite in BBC Radio 4 where Nagras were used to play in clips because they were so quiet and moreover they started instantly. No lurching up to speed, just on, bang, go.

I am choked with nostalgia for this stuff and yet I never knew any of its history. Until now:

Stefan Kudelski didn’t set out to make a sound recorder. He was interested in robotics, and in the 1950s, one of the ways to create robotic memory was to use magnetic tape. As a student, working with that tape, he built a machine that doubled as a recorder. Nobody was interested in the robotics aspect of the project, he said later: “But people were very excited about the recorder that I created. So, I became a manufacturer of recorders. That’s how it started.”

This first recorder, the Nagra, was, in Kudelski’s words, “just a gadget.” The second was “very serious equipment.” But the third one, built in 1961, when Kudelski was 27, was “a good machine.”

The Sound Recorder That Changed Film – Sarah Laskownov, The Atlantic (28 November 2014)

Join me in reading the full piece.

Final Draft on sale (pretty briefly)

You’ve got until 19 September to get Final Draft version 9 for $149.99 US, approximately 40% off, from the official site here.

The sale includes both the Mac and Windows editions: for Mac you need OS X version 10.7 or later – that’s better known as OS X Lion – and for Windows you need XP or later.

Final Draft doesn’t exactly stretch your computer: it’s funny how old-fashioned the software looks. I have version 8 and don’t really use it enough now to warrant going to 9 nor can I really see much of a difference in the upgrade: there isn’t a killer must-have feature.

But it’s a solid script-writing word processor and if it has more and better competitors today, it is still true that Final Draft is the nearest thing to an industry standard.

If you are an existing user, by the way, you can upgrade to version 9 for $99.99 on the same official site’s store.