It’s important to understand what you stand to gain by using the correct software for your purposes. Let me demystify it for you. Here’s a list of software that I recommend you use:
The best screenplay writing software (as long as you are not writing to any Indian screenplay standard – which, by the way, is non-existent) is Final Draft. It formats your screenplay perfectly according to Hollywood standards, and is very fast and easy to use. Forget everything else.
Documents, Breakdowns, Accounting, Budgeting and Scheduling
Even though there are many specialized budgeting and scheduling software out there, nothing beats the great Microsoft Office suite of tools, mainly Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and all the other tools you can use to get a handle on every aspect of your production. I have personally realized through experience that, in the long run, Microsoft Office is faster, more accurate, more stable and easier to use than any ‘specialized’ software.
There might be many people claiming to know how to draw storyboards, and many companies who claim to have the perfect storyboarding software, but none comes close to FrameForge Previz Studio.
You can create characters, locations and cameras precisely enough to match the scenarios you have created, and also get a practical view of the challenges you might face while on location. What more can you ask for? By the way, did I mention Frameforge also does Stereoscopy? Ask some artist to try that by hand sometime.
Image Manipulation and Editing
Adobe Photoshop. Period.
Footage Ingest and Logging.
If you’re shooting video you have to use Prelude. Ingest footage the right way, transcode if you have to, log and rename them, add comments and even do some basic editing that can be opened in Premiere Pro!
I stick to the Adobe suite. And I’ve always used Adobe Premiere Pro. It works perfectly, and it allows me to use my files natively. I also love its round trip ability with other Adobe software. With the mercury playback engine, it uses the GPU to render effects in real-time. There isn’t anything else like it out there.
Sound Editing and Mixing
My favorite editing and mixing software is Steinberg Nuendo. There’s nothing it can’t do, and since it’s mostly PC-based, the support, plug-ins, libraries and sounds that you have at your disposal will keep you occupied for the rest of your career.
Motion graphics, titles, basic compositing and finishing
The God of the motion graphics world is Adobe After Effects, and it’s probably the only software you’ll ever need along with your editing program. Other applications look up to this big daddy. If you’re new to VFX, start here.
Advanced Compositing, Tracking and Rotoscoping
The current numero uno for advanced VFX compositing, tracking and rotoscoping (if you’re looking for one software to do it all), is Nuke, by The Foundry. From compositing in 3D space, to working in full 32-bit, to high-end keying, rotoing and tracking, nobody does it better, or faster, than Nuke. If I were a programmer, I would retire after making something like Nuke. It’s that good.
To read more about what Nuke can do for you, click here.
3D CGI and Animation
If Nuke is the king of the hill as far as VFX is concerned, the lord and god of the 3D world is Autodesk Maya. Almost every 3D animation or game that you see has gone through Maya, and even though there are open source or free software out there that are very capable, you will be unwise to disregard Maya. There’s nothing it can’t do. Actually, the new Maya even comes with a compositing app! You can make an entire feature film with this one program. None of the other software on this page can do that.
There are very high end color grading applications that are hardware and software based. The good news is that the days of expensive color grading software is over. My favorite is Adobe SpeedGrade. From H.264 to DPX, you’re set.
You can create menus, encode and author your DVDs and Blu-rays with Adobe Encore. It works like a dream.
If you have the money, the best render management software is Qube! by PipelineFX. If you don’t have the money, and can handle the stress from crashes and wasted time, try the powerful DrQueue. You might fail the software more than it fails you.
Want to build a website quickly? Go for Adobe Dreamweaver. But I know you want Flash, so you’ll also need Adobe Flash. Hey, they come as a package in Creative Suite, so who’s complaining? Between these two you have every tool you’ll ever need to create your website. I don’t have to remind you that Flash is also used to create animations and trailers in the FLV format.
You might see a lot of Adobe software mentioned. There’s a reason why Adobe is the leader in today’s film production market. For a complete overview of what Adobe has to offer, read my Adobe CS6 Master Collection Guide.
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