W/T: Starting With a Story
If you’re a Mac user and you’re seeking a cure for “writer’s block” on your next production, Storyist Software may be the ticket. The application offers writers an easy-to-use tool for short scripts and even feature-length movies. The Storyist interface is both familiar and intuitive, all in the name of unleashing creativity. The Project Pane shows your entire project at a glance – Plot, Characters and all – while the Storyboard Layout allows drag-and-drop functionality for photos and text. The results of utilizing Storyist range from having a professionally formatted script ready for a Hollywood audition to gaining a new level of understanding in an independent production.
Act I- A Familiar Face
Storyist’s interface is of particular note because of its simplicity and bare-bones functionality. Without a doubt, if you’re used to Mac OS X and iLife you’ll feel right at home with Storyist. There are just enough features to warrant the price tag, but it intentionally doesn’t get bogged down with extensive options. The interface is meant to aid in the creative process from the ground up, and it shows. Storyist takes a number of cues from Apple’s iLife suite and OS X’s Finder. A customizable toolbar, web browser-like buttons, search fields and dynamically scalable layouts are all standard. Only basic word processing features are present. Storyist also gains functionality when used with OS X 10.5 “Leopard,” which adds basic photo-editing tools such as cropping and effects.
Act II- The Layout Game
Four main windows make up the creative space in Storyist. The Main View is a large window and is the domain of the text manuscript. Importing text is limited to Word Documents (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf) and HTML formats. The default 12-point font is set to the typewriter-ish Courier, a standard for scripts. Your story can be edited in a final manuscript fashion or with word processor-like page breaks. The Storyboard view is the most dynamic; it’s where a series of photos and virtual 3×5 cards can be placed and re-arranged on a large corkboard. The third window, called the Project Pane, is a column where your entire project can be seen at once. The drop-down menu reveals icons and descriptions for Scenes, Characters and Plot, among others. Double clicking a Character in the Project Pane, for instance, loads an editable page for the chosen Character into the Main View, along with all other Characters’ photos into the Storyboard. Each window can be rearranged a number of ways and sent away temporarily using the Rotate Workspace command. The Tool Bar is the mainstay of Storyist’s layout. It can be hidden or customized in the same way as the Finder in OS X. Icons such as Print, Color, Fonts and Notebook can be added without text to reduce clutter. This customization can be saved, exported as a template, and shared with collaborators.
Using Storyist is fun and intuitive. We import a previously made script (created in another application) and build on it in a positive way from here. We’re really enamored with Storyist’s ability to organize multiple characters, locations, and how they interact. This ability adds more to our story. By creating Story Sheets of each character with photos and notes, we get a better sense of how they interact with each other. We can also add hyperlinks from story items in our project to the web. Rotating our multi-window layout is something else we do with consistent results. By eliminating the Main View at certain creative points, we have the Storyboard full-screen and ready for our attention. Again, using Story Sheets and moving around the virtual 3×5 note cards adds to the creative process. But don’t try to plop on a video or PDF file. Our machine running OS X 10.4.11 “Tiger” balked when we tried to add these files. JPEG photos worked delightfully, though. Also, there isn’t an easy way to change the color of our note cards. We think adding this ability to color-coordinate would help further organization. Navigating our project is easy with the Safari-like web-browsing buttons. And finding a forgotten element takes little time with the instantly updated search field. While the interface customizations are fine overall, sometimes we have to use the “zoom in” feature in the Storyboard window to read our text. That said, zooming in lets us put more detailed notes on our note cards. We added Color Picker and Font icons to our Tool Bar by simply going to View-> Customize Toolbar from the top menu. Storyist doesn’t ship with many stock templates, but we readily scored some new templates from their user forum over at http://forums.storyist.com/. A really nice feature is the Backup Utility. With our story in a good state, we saved versions to the Desktop and backed up our work to our USB thumb drive, automatically.
Storyist as a tool in the videographer’s pocket offers a better creative environment than the standard word processor. Its simplicity harkens back to the philosophy of “less is more” by offering a clutter-free interface that’s easy and familiar.
System requirements: Mac OSX 10.4 or later (A PowerPC G3, G4, G5 processor or more)
Works With Leopard: Yes
Universal Binary: Yes
- Storyboard layout
- Template options
Storyist provides the video producer with great organization and little clutter to distract from the creative writing process.
Andrew Burke has worked in all areas of video production on three continents around the world
819 Ticonderoga Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Price: $59 (Download),
or $69 (Download w/ CD)