Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

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Test Drive SPMD

Martin Vilcans is in the process of updating Screenplain to use SPMD. You can give it a test run here. Try feeding it this sample file, or make your own. Any text file that contains anything remotely like a screenplay should work well.

This is a very early work in progress without any real utility yet—the only output is a simple “look, it works” page—but it’s still exciting to see. There’s no forced line break support yet, nor any text emphasis, but he does have dual dialog working.

Martin is not the only developer to express interest in SPMD, but he’s the first to show progress. Nice work Martin, can’t wait to see more!

Reader Comments (14)

Very cool! Great start! I uploaded a simple text file I wrote in Notepad, uploaded it and it was parsed with correct formatting. Nice!

September 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterRob Unck

Tried it too and it seems to work great. The title didn't format unless it is supposed to be set out the way it is in the parsed file, but I like it. Would love to see this rolled into Screenwriting apps like FD and Scrivener.

Why doesn't RG make a little iOS app that can convert this formatting into FDX and other script thingies.

One day we will be able to write on anything and simply transfer it seamlessly to another machine. We'll have flying cars next!

September 7, 2011 | Registered CommenterAlan Eddy

Second prize is a set of steak knives. Or: SPMD import for Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software.

September 8, 2011 | Registered CommenterKT

I find several issues:
1) Parser is not correct parse dual dialog (see my screenshot)
2) Do not support international encoding (for example Russian)

P.S. Sorry for my English

September 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterChainick

Nice work Kent!

I noticed only one case in the HURT LOCKER example file where Fade In failed to recognize a Scene Heading: "LAPTOP SCREEN." Maybe something about the note fooled your parser?

Anyway, very exciting stuff.

And yes, your Fade In mobile apps might seem to obviate the need for using .spmd as a working file format, but as Markdown teaches, there are many nice reasons to use plain text even when fancier solutions are plentiful. I hope you're working toward allowing Fade In to work natively in .spmd.

September 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Oh, and per your observation that the title page syntax is a bit loose, I added some detail to the spec in that area, as well as a manual divider to make it crystal clear where the title page ends. I opted to use the Markdown convention of three consecutive dashes on their own line for this. Let me know what you think of that.

September 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

I just gave it a try with a plain text file derived from a RTF file exported from Montage. It didn't work at all because there were no line feeds between the lines of text. IOW
Allison sips coffee from her back porch rocking chair.
Daddy, what day is it?

etc... with the whole script interpreted as a slug line.
Final Draft 8 had no problem turning the txt file into a properly formatted script.

When I threw in a paragraph between segments things worked just fine. It would be better if an extra paragraph between lines wasn't required.

September 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterRick Gerard

Rick, it just plain wouldn't work to not require the extra lines. We use them to denote intentional line breaks, to force sluglines, and to make the SPMD file readable. The goal of most text importers in screenwriting apps is to import anything and do as good a job as possible, but the goal of SPMD is different—it's to store everything useful about a screenplay in plaintext with only one obvious way of interpreting it.

September 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

I see your point. The problem seems to be going from a formatted document to a plain text to the SPMD markup because every exporter I've checked does not insert the extra line feeds. A simple find and replace doesn't work with most text editors because they ignore line feeds (paragraphs).

I'll also check the text file importers to see if Final Draft and the other screenplay apps I have will parse the text files with extra line feeds properly. I can see an advantage in working with plain text files on mobile devices but the advantage is lost if you can't bring the text files into FD w/o extra lines.

September 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterRick Gerard

SPMD is not designed to import into existing, non-SPMD-aware apps. It is designed to be a viable primary format for working on a screenplay—and this will require new features in existing apps, and/or new apps entirely.

I agree that proper import into Final Draft is required, which is why the spec describes a class of SPMD app that would export a valid .fdx file. There's already one in the works here:

Remember that, while Final Draft imports text files, it doesn't support any text emphasis, dual dialog, forced line breaks, forced sluglines, and many other common screenplay features.

Don't expect SPMD to be useful just yet. But based on the hard work of Kent and others, it might be very soon.

September 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Actually, I'd say SPMD is useful already. You can write a screenplay (or part of a screenplay) on your phone, using whatever simple text editor you wish, then import it into a professional-caliber screenwriting program.

And now, with the latest update, you can export back to SPMD.

(Still no title page support yet, but it'll come.)

As for .spmd import to the mobile application, that's presumably going to come, too -- it's just a little more engineering than it was for the desktop application, since the desktop application already supported formatted text import. So it's on the list.

(Of course, some people would also like mobile import/export of .fdx to be on the list, too...but I don't see why I should do all of Final Draft's work for them.)

September 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterKT

True enough KT.

I agree with you about skipping mobile import/export and FDX conversion. If I could nudge your efforts in any direction, it would be to stop considering SPMD as an import/export format and start thinking of it as a primary format for working in Fade In. That way we can use Fade In on the desktop, save to Dropbox, and then make edits from anywhere, using any text editing app.

That's the SPMD dream, and you're by far the closest to making it real.

September 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

That's definitely the goal. I have quite a bit of confidence that workflows (both mine and others') will evolve to make desktop→SPMD→device→SPMD→desktop a much more robust path. I'm very interested to see how people will be using it in the field.

That said, I'll be continuing to work on making SPMD more useful in its (and FI's) current incarnation, including improving import correctness, adding import support (for things like dual dialogue, which is its own thing), and actively looking for feedback from others who are using it to see how I can make things better on the application side of things.

P.S. According to Vanity Fair, Angelina Jolie apparently wrote her new movie without screenwriting software. Maybe she could be the first celebrity endorsement for SPMD.

September 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterKT

I love that you call out the big dogs on their shamefully bad handling of dual dialog. Inexcusable in all cases given the focus of the apps and their price points. Good for you for doing it right.

September 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu
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