Wicked Awesome Motion Picture Production System
by Peter Bohush
There are a lot of things that Hollywood features, television shows, indie productions, corporate videos and commercials don't have in common. But one thing they do have in common is a need to manage the production process effectively from final draft to final edit.
Enter Cinergy 2000 Motion Picture Production System by Mindstar Productions Inc. (http://www.mindstarprods.com), an integrated suite of Windows-based applications to track your production from beginning to end. Cinergy takes the features found in products such as Movie Magic Budgeting, Scheduling and Screenwriter and combines them into one product that moves information seamlessly from pre-production to production through post-production.
Cinergy is separated into four modules:
All the modules may be purchased ($3,499). Or modules may be purchased individually or in bundles (e.g. $399 for Budgeting only; $799 for shot logging.) A production company or studio may purchase separate modules for different users, such as one for the script supervisor, another for the editors, etc. To use Cinergy, a hardware hasp is required. This attaches to the printer port of the user's computer, and identifies which modules have been licensed.
Host of Tools
Cinergy provides a number of tools for pre-production, production and post-production activities. The beauty of Cinergy is that the data flows from user to user and task to task, with no reentry or conversion of data.
The full suite provides:
The basic premise of using Cinergy relies on importing data at the time it becomes available (such as on the set), which is more efficient than entering it after the fact.
The process begins at the beginning (well, almost at the beginning -- nobody includes the writer's pain and suffering as part of the production process.) Take a completed script, import it into Cinergy and watch it automatically identify scene headings, character names and other information. Pre-production staff can view the script and quickly tag elements in it, such as props, costumes, locations, vehicles, special effects,electrical/grip needs, and more.
Once the breakdown is complete, Cinergy outputs full breakdown reports for each scene. This information is also used to create full production boards (the shooting schedule). Just like other production board software, Cinergy allows drag and drop of the color-coded day strips. Out of the production board, call sheets are created for cast and crew. The call sheets even include rehearsals and travel days.
The budgeting module is a stand-alone spreadsheet application, pre-built with standard categories and formulas for film production, including fringe benefits. Custom templates can also be created. Cinergy's budgeting allows for variables, such as shooting days, to be inserted into the budget. So if a budget was created for a 25-day shooting schedule, and money suddenly fell from the sky and allowed for a 35-day schedule, only one variable field would need to be changed and the entire budget would be recalculated.
Staff records can be created, and numerous reports generated, such as cast breakdowns by various categories, prop lists, film credits, etc.
On set, Cinergy is mostly a script supervisor's tool. The script can be viewed onscreen, and notes and shots are logged according to the scene information in the original script breakdown.
The script supervisor's tools allow logging of shots, scene descriptions, takes, timecode, good/no good, sound info, camera info, tail slates and much more. Each scene is essentially one record, with info on multiple takes listed in a hierarchical structure in a sub-window.
Camera roll info, including processing information, film gauge and roll size, is entered in the Details section.
A visually represented Slate allows the script supervisor to quickly input shot information, just like on a regular slate. The Roll Camera button is clicked to log camera and action times, calculated automatically.
Perhaps more useful is the SuperSlate function. Onscreen, this looks like a regular slate (or clapper board), except the scene being shot is visible in the bottom two-thirds of the screen. This allows the script supervisor to mark lines in the script that have been covered, or shot. Continuity markers can be added to help with covering or matching this shot at a later time.
A Coverage List report displays all the coverage that was shot for each scene, regardless of when it was shot. This is a quick and easy way to see if the director got all the necessary close-ups, cut-aways and angles.
Productions that don't use a script, such as documentaries, sporting events, nature shoots, can use the Free Run Mode in Cinergy. Instead of the normal mode of entering the script data and logging the production takes to that, Free Run lets you make a log on the fly, then add the details of what you shot after the take is completed.
After the shoot is done, the fun of post-production begins. Usually this starts with a tedious process of reentering data, finding lost log reports, logging dailies, etc.
With Cinergy, much of this data is already entered, ready to be imported into Avid or Media 100 for offline editing. The Log View shows a list of every take of every shot on each roll.
A future version of Cinergy will allow creation of an Edit Decision List out of Avid or Media 100.
Cinergy can control video decks that conform to the Sony Serial Control Protocol. Telecine transfers can be facilitated by connecting Cinergy to the video deck and adding the timecode IN and OUT points to information already logged on the set.
Cinergy is jam-packed with features for the pre-production and production crowd. In post-production, the major function required by an editor is to get the shot lists, camera logs and director's notes. All these are provided by Cinergy.
Breaking down the script and assisting in the creation of production boards and call sheets are wonderfully helpful to the pre-production staff. On set, Cinergy is mostly a script supervisor's tool -- and if he/she uses it correctly, will greatly improve the production and post-production phases.
Cinergy is not without some drawbacks, as any product is. The interface is generally not intuitive -- don't even try to use Cinergy without the manual to guide you. Fortunately, the manual is pretty good. There's a fairly steep learning curve to the product as a whole; however, users of individual modules may be up and running like a pro with one or two days' practice. A Mac version would be nice, considering the number of Hollywood-types running around with new PowerBooks.
The Cinergy team was responsive to my issues with graphical user interface problems. It seems that the version first shipped to me did not allow users to change the default Windows screen display settings without corrupting the window views in Cinergy. I received two incremental version updates (version reviewed is 3.04.0003, which I guess is three ten-thousandths better than the first version I received.) Many of the issues I had were resolved.
I would like to see the ability to further customize the way Cinergy's windows look to me, but from a functional standpoint they do the job.
A new addition is Cinergy Online, where production staff can post Cinergy-created reports online for cast and crew to view and download. It's one more step in making the production process easier for everyone involved.
Kudos to MindStar Productions for the hard work put into Cinergy 2000, a product long overdue.
A neo-Luddite, Peter Bohush considers duct tape the ultimate high-tech tool for film production, and once created a feature film production board entirely out of sticky notes and carbon paper. Check out his electron-based Web site at www.WriterDirector.com.