Test Bench Head-to-Head:Final Draft Audio Video vs. Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000

Final Draft Audio Video
$249
Final Draft Inc.
16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 800
Encino, CA 91436
(800) 231-4055
www.finaldraft.com

Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000
$269
Screenplay Systems Inc.
150 E. Olive Ave., Suite 203
Burbank, CA 91502-1849
(800) 847-8679
www.screenplay.com

As technological advances in software design increase, so does the developers’ ability to target products to meet specific end-user needs. Videographers, producers and scriptwriters may breathe a collective sigh of relief over the newest scriptwriting software from Final Draft and Screenplay Systems, but choosing between them may be a challenge.

Fade In

Final Draft’s scriptwriting software release, Audio Video, is intended for industrial scriptwriting projects, such as instructional videos, shorts, documentaries, corporate video productions, television and radio advertising. Final Draft AV has responded to a long-term market need with this innovative, new platform. Its hallmark feature is an easy-to-use, multi-purpose, dual-column, audio video script format.


Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 incorporates multiple formats for novels as well as performance scripts, intuitive pop-up menus, and industry standard auto-formatting. This product aims to meet the needs of screenwriters, playwrights, directors and producers of film and video; those in the industry who have demanded a versatile, sophisticated program for writing and editing scripts.

On the Test Bench

Final Draft AV and Screenwriter 2000 were tested on a Pentium III, 800 MHz, HP Pavilion with 64MB of RAM and a 43GB hard drive, running Windows ME.


Final Draft AV’s installation was quick and effortless; the software was up and running in less than five minutes. Aside from its dual-column formatting abilities, the first thing in Final Draft AV that caught our eye was its spare, almost Spartan interface. There are no bells and whistles here; nothing to distract from the creative process. The user’s manual, a modest 89 pages, is the only thing that comes packaged with the software. The learning curve with Final Draft AV is rapid; the intuitive keystrokes and pull-down menus are second nature to users familiar with standard word-processing programs. We mastered the Final Draft AV program in less than an hour.


Installing Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 was also simple; there were no problems and the program functioned within minutes. Movie Magic’s interface is complex but manageable. Toolbars, called "speedbars," appear top and right of the work area and a status bar provides important information at the bottom of the screen, including task descriptions of speedbar buttons and document statistics. The learning curve for this program is extensive, a fact to which the 296-plus page user’s manual attests. However, the number of tools and features this program boasts ensures that the time spent mastering the program is worthwhile. Bells and whistles notwithstanding, expect to sit down and use the program efficiently while educating yourself about additional components. The package includes a demo disk of Screenplay Systems’ other programs, a pamphlet of resources, FAQs and printer index cards.

Putting Them Through Their Paces

We created several scripts to test Final Draft AV and Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000, among them a script for a television commercial.


Final Draft’s slogan is "Just add words," and entering text directly into the script format is all that a majority of users needs to do. Additional options can be accessed from the View Layout menu, including single or double spacing for dialogue, the use of narrow or wide video columns, and whether character names appear in-line with or above the dialogue. There are customizable headers and footers, useful for keeping production and editing information handy for reference.


Screenplay is Movie Magic’s default format; text entry begins with the first action line of the script. Using pull-down menus or speedbars, this is easily changed. In fact, almost every aspect of Movie Magic is customizable, from the script format to the program’s start-up appearance. It is even possible to define personal script formatting needs and save them as a template. All content entered is automatically adjusted to fit industry standards, enabling even a novice to produce a professional-looking script.

Word Processing and More

Final Draft AV functions as a specialized word processor, with the benefits of a spell-checker and a thesaurus. This software also enables dedicated keystrokes within the script format, easing transitions between the Character, Dialogue and Parenthetical Descriptions headings. Unfortunately, this utility does not carry over for Camera Shots, Scene Descriptions or anything else entered into the Video column.


Though Movie Magic lacks the simplicity of most word processors, it makes up for it by providing numerous useful options, which even the most sophisticated word-processing and writing programs fail to include. Movie Magic offers a real-time spell-checker and auto-correction feature, thesaurus, customizable dictionary and homonym checker. Movie Magic’s SmartCheck component evaluates scripts for common formatting errors. Script Analysis breaks down the script by elements, i.e. number of scenes, how often each character speaks and for how many lines, etc. The program can also read a script (or portions of it) aloud. A word of caution: we were unable to get the Voice Readback option to work during testing. The program went through the initialization process, and either froze up or flickered into the "blue-screen-of-death" each time we performed the test.

Other Worthy Features

Arguably, the best feature of Final Draft AV, in addition to the dual-column formatting, was the ability to edit, delete and add text to a video or an audio column while maintaining paragraph alignment. Pagination was automatically readjusted during this process. Auto-formatting makes working with multiple drafts and types of scripts simple and efficient, maximizing production time and output. Test scripts printed without complication. Margins were clean and ready for brads, with columns, labels and texts clearly readable.


Movie Magic allows for setting up and printing side-by-side text/dialogue. Type in the text, highlight it, choose "format" and "change element type" and then select either "left column" or "right column." Text viewed on-screen is staggered, but prints with proper alignment; yet without the benefit of column headings, separator lines, and scene and header boxes, the overall effect is less professional than Final Draft AV. In terms of non-audio video scripts, including multimedia/CD-ROM, Movie Magic produces a clean, professional copy, including editable headers and industry standard title page.


For individuals and companies collaborating between platforms, Final Draft AV boasts seamless transfers between Mac and Windows operating systems. Documents saved in .rtf (rich text format) may also import into and export from Final Draft AV to other word-processing or scriptwriting programs. However, in several importing and exporting tests performed on the product we received for review, formatting was lost and scripts had to be re-entered manually.

Limitations

Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 does not support cross-platform collaboration, but presents several alternatives. Importing and exporting of files from many Windows programs, as well as several other scriptwriting programs is an option. This works well as long as each script element occurs on a separate line. For those with Internet access, there is a live chat function usable with voice, text or both.


The current version of Final Draft AV does not support storyboarding. There is no method for importing graphics, still images or video clips into a script, nor is any provision made for linking to graphics or storyboards in another program. Final Draft, Inc. developers assert that this component will be available in a future edition of the software.


Storyboard linking is only available to Movie Magic’s PC users. But to apply this element, you must purchase StoryView, an additional software package, from Screenplay Systems, Inc. Barring the use of graphics, images or video clips, Movie Magic does include a valuable resource that can be used for storyboarding, the Index Card View. Index cards appear onscreen in batches of four, six, nine or 12. Text may be entered directly into the cards and transferred to and from different script formats. The cards may be shuffled, reordered, deleted, edited, added or printed. Changes made to scripts within the Index Card View incorporate themselves into the existing script.

Fade to Black

Final Draft Audio Video provides the answer that many scriptwriters, producers and directors have been waiting for, a streamlined, uncomplicated program that supports dual column audio and video formatting. The lack of a storyboarding component is a drawback, as are those missing shortcuts, such as drop-down camera directions and auto-formatting in the video column. Video enthusiasts, both professionals and hobbyists will appreciate the friendly interface and the professional quality of the printed product. It is not necessary to spend time manually formatting columns and aligning paragraphs. Instead, users can devote more time in pre- or post-production, shooting or editing. For those producing commercial or industrial scripts and videos, this software is a welcome and a necessary tool.


Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 meets the complex writing, editing and production needs of screen or television professionals. This program offers an innately more functional set of tools for multiple types of projects and stages in the production process. Users will appreciate the myriad of details and shortcuts available to them, whether brainstorming, drafting, editing or producing. The ability to network with collaborators online and automatically register a script to the Internet are timesaving bonuses.


Software solutions targeted to the various needs of similar market users broaden the range of available choices. Evaluating these two scriptwriting programs from the points of view of industrial and screenwriting clients enables educated decisions prior to purchase. Determining which will more effectively meet your needs, Final Draft Audio Video or Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000, will ultimately lead to ownership of an excellent, well-crafted product, geared to differing niches within the screenwriting/production community. With these intuitive tools, you can focus more on your scriptwriting craft and less on your software.

TECH SPECS Final Draft Audio Video

Platform:

PC/Mac

Minimum System Requirements

Operating System:

PC: Windows 98+

MAC: OS 8.1+

Processor:

PC: Pentium or faster

Mac: PowerPC or faster

RAM: 32MB

Available Hard Disc Space:

PC: 50MB

Mac: 20MB

Other:

CD-ROM Drive

STRENGTHS

  • Dual-column A/V format
  • Simple, intuitive interface
  • Auto-formatting function

    WEAKNESSES

  • Formatting loss during transfers
  • Lacks storyboarding component

    SUMMARY

  • Excellent scriptwriting tool that fills a market void and streamlines the production of dual column, audio video scripts.

    TECH SPECS Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000

    Platform:

    PC/Mac

    Minimum System Requirements

    Operating System:

    PC: Windows 95+

    Mac: OS 7.1+

    Processor:

    PC: 486DX or faster

    Mac: 68030 or faster

    RAM:

    PC: 8MB

    Mac: 12MB

    Available Hard Disk Space:

    PC: 25MB

    MAC: 15MB

    Other:

    CD-ROM Drive PC: iPartner and FirstUse

    features require Internet connection.

    Microphone and speakers necessary for

    live chat. Mac: iPartner and FirstUse features require Internet connection. Microphone and speakers necessary for live chat.

    Speak Script feature requires Mac Speech extensions.

    STRENGTHS

  • Multiple script formats
  • Intuitive pop-up menus
  • Industry standard auto-format

    WEAKNESSES

  • No dual-column A/V format
  • Lengthy learning curve
  • No import graphics function

    SUMMARY

  • Powerful multi-purpose scriptwriting program with the intuitive tools to facilitate almost any script format or function.
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