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Using web tools to collaborate between creatives.

Wisdom from the masses

By Steve Hullfish | May 16, 2008

Wisdom from the masses - In depth on using web tools to collaborate between creatives.

A few weeks ago there was a short but interesting thread on CML-pro (The Cinematographer's Mailing List) about how to collaborate with other creatives on a production team using web-based tools. The original poster wanted a solution - a "group scrapbook" - that would allow a small pre-production team to share images, photos and notes. Expanding on the idea a little further, it would be good to be able to communicate across the group, share schedules, comments and video.

There were basically six good solutions presented by members of the list:

? Google Sites - basically a free on-line website creator.

? Celtx - free software that links to free shared web storage specifically for film and TV productions.

? BackPackIt - subscription-based team collaboration website

? BaseCamp - subscription-based team collaboration website

? Picassa Web - on-line photo sharing

? .mac account with iWeb - simple website creation with annual subscription for serving.

I examined each of these concepts for a project I'm beginning. There are pros and cons to each approach and I figure that you might benefit from all of my legwork.

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Graham Futerfas: | May, 16, 2008

Hi Stephen, I should probably get back to this on CML.  I was the original poster trying to find a creative solution. 

I tried Celtx for two days, thinking it would be the best, but it was too buggy and hard to use.  I guess I had a very different experience than you, but I didn’t find it professional or reliable enough.  There is no user’s manual that I could find, only a crowd-sourced forum and a video tutorial that doesn’t answer a lot of my questions. 

I had a bunch of TIFF’s that I’d created as reference images (using Snap N Drag to grab many of them from DVD’s), but Celtx wouldn’t take them.  They had to be JPEGs, and I could only get them in to the Storyboard application.  And They could only be brought in one at a time, not as a group.  Pain in the ass when you have 30 images to bring in. 

As for scripts, I had to get a Final Draft version of our script (only had a PDF on me), copy and paste it into a Text file, then copy that into Celtx.  Fine, but that’s when the software wigged out.  I kept getting the multi-colored spinning wheel of death and had to Force Quit Celtx multiple times.  This was a full feature-length script, so maybe it couldn’t handle the size.

I’m also a little afraid about publishing our script to another unknown server, even if it is password protected.  They do claim their administrators have full access.

At any rate, I didn’t find Celtx useful or reliable for us, but others seem to have had better experiences.  I only gave it a couple of days of trial and error tearing my hair out, but that was enough.  My director’s a techno-phobe, so I need something that’s bullet proof.  He has iPhoto, which I thought to use that and .Mac iDisk, but his iPhoto is having problems crashing his computer.  Maybe I’ll try to help him re-install, because it should be a very user-friendly (if not slow) process.

Thanks for the other reviews… maybe I’ll keep pressing on with the other options.  Thanks to everyone on CML who offered suggestions, and to you for test driving them!

Joel Smith: | May, 17, 2008

Great stuff.  I’ve loved using CelTx for scripting and production docs.

Vyew is also a great collaboration tool that is gaining steam.  The biggest thing is that it’s free, for now.  You can do a ton of stuff with it.  It’s a Skype on steroids.  It’s a great tool for live collaboration and teleconferencing.

Richard Harrington: | May, 20, 2008

Posted a link over at my blog.. great article

uphill: | May, 20, 2008

Check out Apeer. It’s like IM for digital files. It’s the first and only application that enables individuals to enter into a synchronous and instant multi-user, participatory exchange where all parties can simultaneously view photos, hear music, and see videos in real time over the internet - all in one window. It also provides conversational tools with built-in voice and chat.

geoperdis: | May, 21, 2008

Hi Steve,

I am a collaboration blogger for a company called Octopz and a mediamaker with a film and video background, so I think I can chime in here with an additional, albeit biased, suggestion.

You and other film and video pros might want to have a look at our web-based collaboration software service at

In a nutshell, Octopz allows a filmmaker or videographer to collaborate with clients and colleagues throughout the whole cycle of a project, from brainstorming, storyboarding, scripting and visualization right through to final cut and client approval.

It is a fully integrated web collaboration service that is specifically designed for creative pros, including filmmakers and videographers. In fact, our support for rich media, video and 3D is one of the key areas that distinguish us from other similar offerings which are geared more to print or web designers.

We are also the only fully released service (not alpha or beta) in this category of visual collaboration software to fully support integrated text, voice an video chat.

All anyone needs to use Octopz, on a PC, Mac or Linux, is a popular web-browser (Explorer, Firefox, Safari) and the Adobe Flash plug-in.

Octopz is not a free service, but it compares very well with other services that have similar capabilities, like Adobe Connect Professional.

A 15-day trial account is available on our website and I would be happy to meet you and any other PVC writers and readers in an Octopz room to go through its capabilities, and more importantly, to get any feedback you or others might have on our service.

For more on Octopz, including acclaim, awards and posts on creative collaboration you can visit the blog I edit at



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