Audiovisual scriptwriting software solves nagging
Every now and then a product comes along that works well and eliminates
some annoyance or extra work from your daily routine. That's how
I would describe Final Draft AV 2.5, the script formatting software
from the same people who develop Final Draft, the top-selling script
formatter for motion picture and television scripts.
This sequence of screenshots (at right, top to bottom) illustrates
how the Re-arrange Guide Line function works in Final Draft AV 2.5.
Edit one column, and the other column remains in synch.
Audiovisual scripts used for commercials, documentaries, corporate
communications, and broadcast production follow a vertical two-column
format. One column is for video description, and the other is for
audio description (dialogue, narration, and sound effects). What
could be simpler? Lots of things, actually, because as it turns
out, this type of format is all but impossible in a word processing
program — especially Microsoft Word.
The big gotcha
In a standard word processor, lining up the video column with the
audio column is relatively easy, at least until you begin to edit
the script. As you add or delete descriptions, shots, or words,
the two columns quickly go out of synch. Adding page breaks only
makes it worse, and you find it's impossible to make a script presentable
quickly after significant changes are added. With a five-page script,
you may find you're spending an inordinate amount of time re-arranging
everything every time a few lines are added or deleted. If you like
to rewrite your scripts or have clients that do, prepare for the
Fortunately, Final Draft AV has Rearrange Guide Line, a simple
tool to correct this problem that's basically foolproof. Rearrange
Guide Line is a line that crosses both columns and lets you select
where to enter new text in either column. The tool ensures that
your shots and their corresponding audio descriptions remain in
synch. Rearrange Guide Line is completely visual and lets you add
new text, delete text, or drag and drop existing shots and dialogue
to new locations. Synchronicity between elements is automatically
preserved. You can create any new insertion point at the beginning
of a shot or a sentence, or in the middle of a sentence, in either
the video or audio column.
Flip the script
While Rearrange Guide Line is the main feature that makes Final
Draft AV an obvious purchase for AV scriptwriters, the software
also has the same kind of formatting features that all scriptwriters
expect. These include basic commands for text entry. This can be
done with hot keys or in the Toolbar at the top of the screen. There
are buttons for Insert Video (shot or scene) and Insert Audio (dialogue,
narration, and parentheticals).
This automatically places the selected element in the right place
and in the right style. For instance, shot titles are in caps and
character names are in caps and underlined. However, you can customize
the formatting of these and all other elements in Final Draft AV
and save them as a template. Also, a dropdown menu with the same
text element categories allows you to select or change a previously
entered element. Like the company's movie formatting software, Final
Draft AV intelligently flows text from page to page without breaking
up shots and scenes.
Another very useful feature is the ability to export Final Draft
AV scripts to most teleprompters in Mac or Windows format. This
saves a step in the production process and eliminates the errors
introduced when teleprompter scripts are retyped.
Final Draft AV can also create PDFs or Rich Text Format documents
for use in other word processors, so your scripts can be shared
with clients without Final Draft AV. However, the results may not
be exactly the same as they are in Final Draft AV, and any editing
in this format means out-of-synch video and audio descriptions will
begin to emerge.
Final Draft has been innovating in the business of script formatting
and writer services for a long time. Many of the useful features
from the company's movie formatting product have found their way
into Final Draft AV. For example, there is automatic linking to
a Writers Guild of America West web site for the script registry
service. This is equivalent to copyrighting your work at the Library
of Congress. Final Draft is the only scriptwriting software with
an authorized agreement with the WGAW online registry service.
As you might expect, a robust spell-checker and thesaurus are available
in several languages. The interface is clean and nicely designed.
After years of working with writers, Final Draft has settled on
an efficient workflow that looks good and is rock-solid. The Mac
and Windows versions are completely compatible. Nothing is worse
than not being able to share your scripts — especially in
corporate production, where scripts are routinely shared with clients
and production people.
As enthusiastic as I might sound, Final Draft AV is not without
shortcomings. Mainly, there's its inability to incorporate images.
For many companies and most ad agencies, the two-column AV script
typically has story-board frames in the video column. This is not
essential for every script, but the absence of this capability is
a deal killer for ad agencies. Agencies live by storyboards —
for them they're an even more standard form of communication than
an AV script. Final Draft has a partial workaround for the lack
of support for images. A new feature in Final Draft AV 2.5 lets
you export a script into Apple's Keynote presentation software —
essentially, the PowerPoint killer on the Mac. This requires an
additional template. Keynote is a good product, but a slideshow
is not a substitute for a script.
The final word
Final Draft AV is a full-featured word processor with a column
editor that's an absolute must-have for anyone writing AV scripts.
I doubt if anyone will need more than an afternoon to learn all
the hot keys. Even though I'm one of the people who needs images
in many of the projects I'm working on, at the price of Final Draft
AV ($178), it's worth the investment even if I use it only a few
times a year.
Final Draft is a responsive software company that listens to its
users. I have had nothing but positive experiences with the company
for more than eight years, and have frequently used the thorough
online support and clear documentation with good results. I'm new
to Final Draft AV 2.5, but it has already become my standard tool
for AV script writing. I highly recommend it.