The term “Digital Script Supervisor” is a little bit confusing. It could imply that I only work on digital formats, such as hard drives, instead of film. This is entirely untrue. The “digital” refers to my preferred method of note taking, which is via computer or tablet. Of course I always am ready with pencil and paper as a backup to my backup, but digital is really the best and clearest way to transfer information to everyone who needs it. Gone are the days of the script supervisor with a giant binder and thousands of pages standing by a copier. Everything I produce can be sent out instantly to whoever needs it in a clear fashion that is readable on any device.
Using my digital kit I can:
- Import script revisions on the fly, even on set! Need new sides for those pages in a hurry? I can make a PDF of just the scenes needed and give it to the AD dept to print and distribute in all of 2 minutes.
- Use my laptop as a personal full HD monitor, while also allowing me to have the script and all notes all right in front of me at once.
- Jam timecode, just like you would a smart slate.
- Take high quality screen grabs during takes for easy reference to things like frame size and eyelines and invaluable to keeping the highest continuity possible. Please note that I do not record video or audio of takes, just simple stills for reference.
- Provide a “coverage report” that allows you to see all the shots in a scene and what they actually look like side by side with a glance.
- Match up storyboards to actual stills from shooting.
- Edit the script right on set. (Note that I will never change a shooting script myself, it is only under the expressed permission of the writers and producers that any permanent change is ever made to the script page itself).
- Automatically have first shot times generated based on when the first shot actually started based on my atomic clock sync’d time on my computer.
- Easily sync notes with other units shooting at the same time.
That’s just a few of many things that digital script supervising allows me to do with ease so I can focus on the actual shooting.
You’re probably wondering if this is a lot more expensive. I mean a computer costs more than a pencil and paper. But in the long run this is actually the cheaper option. Think of all the paper and ink you can save from copies and printouts. Not to mention time saved. I essentially take the brunt of the expense myself, which is why I do charge a kit fee but we can discuss this by contacting me. It’s lower than you’d think.
There is a thought I’ve heard mumbled by usually inexperienced or just plain not very good producers who figure if I’m using commercially available software, they could just buy a copy and have a PA take notes. I mean the computer really does all the work and this is essentially data entry right? That couldn’t be more wrong. I do use commercially available software, ScriptE Multi-Unit for Mac and ScriptE for iPad, which was developed by a script supervisor to meet the needs of today’s script supervisors. It is a very specialized piece of software that is meant to be operated by a professional who is familiar with the actual job of the script supervisor. You cannot just place anyone in front of it. It’d be akin to setting a PA in front of a full AVID bay and expecting them to deliver a polished cut of something. If you can’t do the job the old fashioned way, all the computers in the world won’t help you. The software really just helps us to do our jobs better both for us and for your production. And in the case of ScriptE MU, I personally alpha and beta tested the software, allowing me to know it’s every in and out better than most.
A lot of productions do fear something happening when you’re using such high tech equipment on sets. To this I say aren’t the cameras and sound equipment also very expensive high tech equipment? Those get taken care of pretty well and I do take extreme care with my gear. Also there’s a redundant system of backups so notes don’t get lost, including an offsite backup. Weather too bad for a laptop? I just swap right to an iPad that’s super protected. iPad acting up? I jump to paper. It’s really that simple. I can input those paper notes into the computer later, on my own time. This system works on remote locations as well as it does in a studio.
Also being digital doesn’t restrict my movements or take extra time to set up. In fact it’s so much easier than lugging a giant binder around and having to flip through pages to find things. My Macbook Pro is extremely light and portable and even paired with the video input device and laptop stand, I can still move within seconds and be ready to shoot. Setting up at a new location takes about a minute.