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Simple, elegant screenwriting.

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    by Stu Maschwitz
Thursday
Dec082011

Screenplay Markdown Lives!

Thanks to the hard work of Brett Terpstra, creator of the Markdown preview app Marked, along with Martin Vilcans and Jonathan Poritsky, there is now a functional workflow for SPMD.

Screenplay Markdown, or SPMD, began as some musings here and matured into a full syntax proposal. Martin adapted his pre-existing Screenplain engine to SPMD’s syntax, and Brett was able to use that engine within Marked to create HTML that could, via a CSS style sheet, be formatted to look exactly like a screenplay. Jonathan stepped up and worked on the CSS, dialing it in to match Final Draft’s formatting, and making sure that it would print as accurately as possible.

If you’re not familiar with Marked, here’s what it says on the tin:

Marked opens MultiMarkdown, Markdown, Text or HTML files and previews them as HTML documents. It watches the file for changes, updating the preview any time the file is saved. With a full set of preview styles, Marked adds an ideal “live” Markdown preview to any text editor.

Marked is designed for Markdown, but flexible enough to use a custom processing engine. So you download Screenplain, point Marked at it, and then add Jonathan’s CSS file to Marked’s Custom CSS list. Complete instructions and download links can be found on the Marked support site, and on Jonathan’s blog.

Once you have this configured, you can type your screenplay text in your favorite text editor, and Marked will show you a preview, updated every time you save.

Martin’s updated Screenplain engine is live at screenplain.appspot.com, where you can upload an SPMD document and get a PDF or Final Draft .FDX file in return.

Like the Markdown syntax that inspired it, SPMD is designed to be as transparent as possible. If you just type some text that looks like a screenplay, SPMD should do a darn good job of interpreting it. If you want to do fancy things like text emphasis, non-standard sluglines, or overlapping dialog, there are simple tags to learn—and Marked will show you right away whether you’ve got the hang of it.

So now you can write a screenplay anywhere, using any writing software you like, on any device you like, without sacrificing any formatting capabilities.

You can also, for free, on any platform, convert this text-only screenplay document to printable HTML or or a legit Final Draft document.

For the tiny cost of four dollars you can get a live preview of your screenplay while you work on your Mac, and print to paper or PDF.

Awesome.

I’m so inspired by this whole process—four guys who have never met in person collaborated on making something awesome, and now it works.

Are we done? Not even close.

There’s room for writing applications, whether WYSIWYG or more Byword-MultiMarkdown-preview-style, that support SPMD internally as their native format (Fade In currently has limited SPMD support via import/export). And not every feature of SPMD is implemented in Screenplain, notably cover pages and notes.

I’m not sure how fun it would be to work on a very long screenplay using the Marked workflow, even with the super cool feature of navigating by sluglines. And screenwriters think in pages, so a screenwriting tool that doesn’t paginate will rapidly feel like a car without a speedometer.

What something like this needs most is users, and I’m thrilled that we’re at that stage that you, the Prolost reader, could use SPMD for your creative work. We need the feedback to keep this project going.

See also: Brett’s blog post, Jonathan’s blog post, and Martin’s blog post.

Buy Marked on the Mac app store.

Reader Comments (7)

Hi Stu. I would like to do something like this with my iphone mark 1 (iOS 3.13). Can you recommend the best app for this device so I could get scripty bits written on the phone over to scrivener on the Mac...

...I can't believe the scrivener people have developed a pc version before an iOS version. I would love to have complete Scrivener nirvana on iOS and MacOS.

December 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterAlan Eddy

Hi Alan, you could see if Elements or WriteUp work on iOS 3. I use Elements with Scrivener's Dropbox text syncing workflow.

December 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Alan: I second Stu's recommendations. Another option would be Plaintext, though I'm not positive if it's still supported on iOS 3.

One more thing to check out is Brett's Marked "watch script" for Scrivener. Using that, you can actually preview your SPMD or standard Markdown writings from Scrivener in Marked. You're going to have to use Terminal a bit to get up to speed, but once you get it working it's one of the best Marked workflows around. And it works great with SPMD. Enjoy:

December 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterJonathan Poritsky

Hey Stu,

I'm sure you have already heard about the new Magic lantern HDR video for the 550d, 60d, and 600d. I was hoping you could direct some attention to it with your all of your video brilliance or at least shoot an email over to someone at magic bullet about the post processing workflow.

Thanks in advance


Josh
(sorry to post off topic.)

December 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterJosh Piersma

Stu - Have you or someone you know tried Storyist for writing screenplays on the iPad? I'm curious about it being a solution until Final Draft or Scrivener gets something out...

Gerry

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterGerry

Storyist is pretty cool and seems very stable on the iPad. I haven't done much with it, but it's worth a look for sure.

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterStu

OK. Well. I finally put everything Screenplay Markdown into place. After using iA Writer (my favorite) on the iPad in a cafe, then later this evening Elements on the iPhone while waiting for a table out to dinner -- I get it. I'm hooked. This IS falling into the addiction category. What fun! Thanks for doing this!

January 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterGerry
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