App of the Week – Celtx Mobile

Welcome to my first Film App of the Week Column post. I’m going to try to get a new post out each Friday with an app that I can’t live without as a filmmaker. In addition to just telling you about the app and what it can do, I’ll list a few of the ways I use it that I think may be unique or different, or that I haven’t seen others do before. All of my posts will relate to iOS apps only, since I have never and will never use Android, diehard Apple fanboy that I am.

Hopefully you’ll find this useful. If not, go read another fucking blog.

Kidding. Love you. You’re intelligent and sexy. Please don’t go.

Since this is the first week of this, let’s begin with the beginning of the filmmaking process.

CELTX MOBILE

I’m cheating slightly here, since I’ll actually be covering a few apps, not just one – the “Celtx Suite”, if you will. But this is my first App of the Week post so let’s start with a bang.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Celtx is a screenwriter software available online. The software is completely free, although you can also upgrade to Celtx+ at the recurring cost of $5.00 per month.

Though Final Draft is generally held as the industry standard for screenwriting software, I’ve never used it, and maybe I never will. Celtx is cheaper and comes with way too many goodies that I’m currently too used to using, so I have no desire to make the switch.

After their desktop software became quite popular, Celtx released a number of mobile apps all designed to integrate with and complement the desktop software. Though it’s true many of the functions of the mobile apps can be done on your desktop, you’ll find that having the ability to work on the go can be invaluable.

CELTX SCRIPT

Write on the Go

Celtx Script – Click to see it in the App Store

First up is Celtx’s scriptwriting software. This is the priciest of their app suite, coming in at $7.99. To be honest, it’s also their mobile app I use least, because I prefer to write at home, in my office, undistracted. That being said, when I stayed in Wellington for a month, I spent a lot of time riding buses with nothing else to do, and wrote almost an entire screenplay on my iPad with this app, using a keyboard case.

Celtx Script writing app

Celtx Script – if you’re going to do much work on it, use an iPad because typing on your iPhone is a pain

That being said, the app ONLY lets you write. There’s no ability to do breakdowns, scene summaries, print sides or any of the other awesome features of the desktop software. So as I said, this is the mobile app that I use the least.

HOW I USE IT

This app provides a great way to make script changes on set. Most people will write the changes down on a hard copy of the script, then input them into the softcopy script later. Instead, I have my iPad handy and input my changes directly. If your script is saved in the Cloud (which all of mine are – another great thing about Celtx) the changes are automatically synced when your iPad/iPhone is connected to the internet.

CELTX SCOUT

Celtx Scout in the App Store

Celtx Scout – click to see it in the App Store

Here’s where things start getting cool.

First of all, this app is available for the much better price of $1.99. Hooray for cheapness!

This app is (surprise) designed for scouting. Location scouting, sure, but any scouting, really. With your phone (or iPad, if you’ve got one with a camera [I don’t]) you can photograph anything from locations and sets, to props, wardrobe, actors, even crew. These all get saved in your Celtx cloud.

Celtx Cloud

Celtx’s cloud as viewed from a Web Browser

To stay organized, you can create your own file structure and organization for each project. You can do this from your phone, though it’s a bit wonky. I prefer to create folders and do file management from my desktop, and only use my phone to save photos to the folders that I’ve created.

When accessing the app from your mobile device, you first choose the folder to save your shots to:

Choosing a folder in Celtx Scout

Then the app provides you with a view similar to the iPhone’s own camera app:

Camera app in Celtx Scout

Scout’s Camera App

Once you take the photo, you’re prompted for comments. You can write anything you want here, and I’ll generally use it to name what the shot is for.

Photo Comments in Celtx Scout

Comment view in Celtx Scout

These comments are then saved to the photo in your Cloud.

Celtx Scout photo view

Photo view in Celtx Scout. Note there’s space to the right for people you share the photo with to insert their own comments. This is invaluable when you’re collaborating on your project.

One thing that sucks is that you can’t use the photos from Scout in your Celtx storyboards in the desktop app. I’ve submitted this as a suggestion in the App Store, but who knows if it will ever happen. Currently I have to save the image to my computer and then add it to the Celtx storyboard manually.

Celtx Storyboard with photo imported

A Celtx Storyboard with photo imported – manually, unfortunately

Then when I’m ready to print my shots summary, I’ll replace the storyboard photo with a screen grab from the footage.

Celtx Storyboard with final shot

Celtx storyboard with the final shot imported for the shot summary.
Oh, and Giggity.

If the ability to use your Scout shots in your storyboards is included with a future update of Celtx Scout, it will make it all the more awesome. For now, it’s still a great app for scouting many aspects of your production and collaborating on them with the rest of your team.

HOW I USE IT:

Unfortunately the limited functionality of this app doesn’t open it up to an unusually creative application – or at least I haven’t found one yet. That being said, it’s very good at what it does.

CELTX SHOTS

Celtx Shots - the big daddy of the Celtx mobile suite

Celtx Shots – click to see it in the App Store

Awww yeah. This is the Big Kahuna of the Celtx mobile apps group (in my own entirely un-humble opinion). Without question this is the app I get the most mileage out of.

This app is my go-to setups planning app. It’s also quite usable for storyboarding (though I prefer Cinemek Storyboard for that) and shot listing (though I prefer Shot Lister).

This, like Celtx Script, is an app you’ll only want to use on your iPad. Trying to work with it on your iPhone’s relatively tiny screen is a massive pain in the ass. However, on the iPad, it’s beautiful.

Here’s your home screen:

Home screen of Celtx Shots app

Home screen of the Celtx Shots app. Pretty…

The plus sign in the top left corner lets you import scripts from your Celtx cloud storage. Importing the script creates a new storyboard for it (which is, annoyingly, named “Storyboard,” rather than adopting the name of the imported script. You have to change the name manually).

Celtx Shots automatically creates sequences for each of the scenes in your script. These sequences are automatically named after the scenes they’re created from. You can add as many shots as you want to each scene.

Celtx Shots scene view

Scene view for Celtx shots, with a setups diagram for a bathroom scene

You can create sketches for each shot showing your blocking, camera placement, etc. A ton of free clip art is included with the app, in my experience enough for almost anything you’d want to sketch out. You can purchase additional packs of Clip Art for decent prices within the app.

A sketched out scene in Celtx Shots

Sketches like these take about two minutes but can save you half an hour in wasted setup time – invaluable no matter how big your budget is

FYI: The same clip art that comes with the app (which costs $1.99) costs you $10.00 if you buy it for your Celtx desktop program. Bargain, bitches!

The app also gives you the ability to import images for a storyboard. I don’t use this function of the app very often, most because I tend to use Cinemek for my storyboarding. However, the storyboarding in Celtx Shots is great if you don’t want to shell out $20 for Cinemek. The app comes with a demo storyboard for the Wizard of Oz that has some incredible, very elaborately sketched storyboard frames:

Wizard of Oz Storyboard

OK, someone spent WAY too much time sketching these frames

If you happen to be a great sketch artist, you can use any of the many, various iPad sketching apps to create your own storyboard frames and then use them in your Celtx Shots storyboards. Or a storyboard artist working for you can sketch them and send you digital or scanned files for your use.

All of this enables you to work on your storyboards and blocking diagrams from anywhere. How useful is this? You tell me – how much do you like preproduction? I met with my DP Wednesday and did all of the planning we needed to do for a short film I’m shooting tomorrow. All told, including driving to the location and scouting it, the whole process took us a little less than two hours.

All for $1.99. Yeah, I’m fucking sold, thank you.

This is not the only, but is the cheapest and best bang-for-the-buck app in my filmmaking arsenal. That being said, it has one extremely annoying “feature” (bug, imho) that I wish they’d fix. The only way to get your storyboard and sketches out of the app and back to your desktop is sending it through iTunes, by syncing your iPad with your computer. You cannot email the storyboard, syncing with your computer is the only way to get it out.

If you are going to have the iPad on set, there’s no reason you couldn’t just use the diagrams within the app without having to export it. But that eliminates your ability to have a copy for your DP, your gaffer, your cam ops, and the producer if that’s wanted. Me personally, I like to work with an informed crew. I’m not saying every PA needs a copy of your setups diagrams, but I want my camera and lighting team to have a few copies between them so we’re all on the same page, and I sure as hell want my DP and I to have a reference document we can both refer to. Plus, by the time I’m on set, I am using my iPad for too much other shit to want to have to use it to view what should already be printed on paper and in my production binder.

HOW I USE IT

This is Celtx’s newest mobile app, and I’m still fully exploring its abilities. I haven’t thought up anything creative or amazing that I’ve never seen anyone do before. Rest assured, the moment I do, you’ll be the first to know. (Well, depending on how closely you keep up with my blog. If you refresh this page every five minutes, you’ll probably fine out first – you’ll probably also get a restraining order. You’ve been warned).

TOTAL COST: $11.97

USEFULNESS: 4 OUT OF 5

So there’s your first “Film App of the Week” column. I’ve got a good lineup for the next few weeks, however, if you’ve got some little app that just gets your panties all wet and in a twist, mention it in the comments, and if it blows my hair back I’ll be sure to mention it in a future article.

Bye for now.

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