Pre-prod: Celtx to the rescue

I mentioned earlier that we’re working on a DVD series. When I made that announcement I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I’m a couple of weeks into the project and I thought I’d give you a peek behind the curtain to show you how I’m creating the content and let you see what the process involves.

The first DVD series will be a 4 DVD set based on my 8-week Digital Photography 101 workshop. Knowing that I’m limited to 4 DVDs on this first release gave me some boundaries and requirements. The first boundary is the time limitation. I’m limited to about 8 hours of content. Knowing that I started my next step.

I gathered all of my class materials and began to decide what would make it in the DVD series and what needed to be left for later. My normal workshop includes Powerpoint slides, videos, whiteboard drawings, printed notes, and homework. It also includes a lot of me showing things that aren’t in the notes anywhere. Step one: write down everything from all of these sources and begin to organize.

I used Microsoft Word to do this. I put Word in Outline mode and began to go session by session and catalog the topics and illustrations. Outline mode is great because it’s easy to move things around. It took about 2 weeks of work to get all of the notes together. In the end I had a solid outline of what I needed to write.

I made a decision to script everything for the video. I’ve learned that although it’s easy for me to shoot from the hip in a workshop setting that doesn’t translate to video very well. In a classroom if something isn’t clear a student can ask for clarification, in a video you have to be clear at all times.

The other reason I decided to script everything is because I need to replace a lot of the whiteboard sessions with animations or on-location examples. This means I need to plan everything in advance. Which led me to my next problem – how do I track everything? I needed a system to allow me to write, edit, rearrange scenes, plan for locations, find models, take notes, schedule everything, and plan for the final edit. I wanted to lock my system in before I started writing so I could be consistent along the way.

I decided to ask the twitterverse for help. I posted a short note on twitter and within minutes I had answers. I evaluated several screenwriting tools but only one met all of my requirements. And I mean ALL of my requirements.


Jon Diener suggested I take a look at Celtx. After taking a quick look I thought it looked too good to be true. I downloaded the software and and then watched all of the training videos. I was sold. This software is amazing – it’s a total pre-production workhorse. I can use it for this project and even use it to produce shoots. It does it all; screenplay, A/V scripts, storyboards, notes, scheduling, tracking actors, props, CGI to be created, shot lists, and more. It has robust reporting and is easy to use.

Celtx is something every content creator should take a close look at. It’s more than just a tool, it’s a community. Check out their blog for more info.

I will be working for the next two or three weeks to finish all of the pre-production work. I don’t mind spending a lot of time planning the work because I know that every minute I spend in planning and preparation I’ll save myself 4 minutes of frustration later on.

Once the planning and prep are all finished we’ll get to business shooting. We’ll be shooting everything with a Canon XH A1 and renting additional cameras or gear when needed. Everything will be edited in Final Cut Studio and output in HD. I’ll post more on the production workflow as we tune that in.

  • Huangshan Tour

    Great post!