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Hollywood is a veritable poster child for Apple products, where Macs have long been favored over Windows for creative tasks from scriptwriting through post-production. While Adobe has offered solutions for the latter almost from the company’s inception, it has only recently dipped its toes into the former with the cloud-based Story.
Available in both free and subscription-based editions, Adobe Story attempts to go beyond simply writing a screenplay or scheduling a production, uniting both in collaboration-based workflow that will help producers see their vision through from inception to completion.
Unlike the majority of Adobe’s creative applications, Story lives entirely in the cloud. There’s no Mac native desktop app to install, but because the service is written using the company’s Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), you have a choice of using a modern web browser (Safari, Firefox, or Chrome) or an AIR-enabled build for Mac and Windows.
Adobe Story Plus is also capable of working offline when you use the AIR app, allowing you to get work done when an internet connection isn’t available. Coming from an old-school film production background with Mac software such as Final Draft and Movie Magic, the web-based workflow was initially a turn-off, although a younger, always-on generation accustomed to Google Docs or a Chromebook will surely feel more comfortable with the concept right out of the gate.
For those of us still living in the past, the good news is that Adobe Story acknowledges our Stone Age ways and is perfectly happy to import files from just about anywhere, including Microsoft Word and the aforementioned production-centric desktop apps. In fact, Story can be used to create a wide variety of documents including character bios, synopses, and even pitches.
The Adobe Story UI is immediately familiar to users of the company’s current Creative Suite products, with dark colors that help keep the focus on your work. Projects live on the left-hand side, and each can include any number of available document types.
For film or TV scripts, you can get started with an appropriate template, which can be altered to your satisfaction prior to creating a new document and even saved for later use. Opening a script in Editor view shows an outline of scene changes at left with the script itself rightfully dominating the majority of the screen.
Competing applications first need to export script data in order to use it in schedules or other production tools, but Story integrates everything in one place using metadata. After creating a schedule, it’s as easy as selecting the script you want to link to, and within seconds, scenes appear in a table, ready to be rearranged or sorted to your heart’s content.
Likewise, Adobe Story really shines in its ability to generate production reports, which can be as simple as a cast list or locations needed to more extensive options including a full character breakdown, a feature that worked quite well despite the beta label attached to it during this review.
The true power of Adobe Story only becomes apparent under the pressure of an ever-changing production. Last-minute script changes — no matter how big or small — can be synced right back to any linked schedules, all by just saving the screenplay and then clicking Sync from the opened schedule.
Adobe also allows an entire production team to collaborate with Story by easily sharing individual documents or even entire projects, with granular controls over which user can access what by tagging them as a co-author, reviewer or reader.
Although powerful, Adobe Story isn’t quite perfect. We were unable to get any further than logging in using Safari 6 no matter what we did, although the app worked fine with both the desktop AIR app as well as the Chrome browser. Because the entire UI is web-based, it tends to be less responsive than a native Mac app, occasionally missing button clicks, for example.
Adobe also offers a free companion app for the iPhone, but it only allows access to scripts -- no schedules or reports. You also can’t write or revise scripts with the app; it’s strictly for being notified of changes and being able to review them on the go, which is probably for the best since it’s not optimized for the larger displays of either the iPhone 5 or iPad.
The bottom line. Adobe has gone a long way toward making film and television production more seamless, but ultimately we’d still prefer Story to be a native Mac application. For those who don’t need the full Creative Cloud bundle, Story also gets a bit on the expensive side for fledgling filmmakers who don’t need access to the app year round. But for those who do, Adobe Story is a worthy rival to standalone tools, especially for those who need to get things done quickly.
Adobe Story Plus Build 1091
Mac OS 10.6.8 or later with 1GHz or faster processor; 512MB of RAM; 1280x768 display; Safari 5, Firefox 9, or Chrome 16 or higher; Internet connection; Adobe Flash Player 10.1 or higher
Free version offers full-featured screenwriting for those on a budget. Tight integration between script and schedule. Offline mode for working without an Internet connection.
Web- or AIR-only interface. Can be sluggish to respond at times. Plus version requires subscription, no standalone version available.