Mar 15, 2009

How To Work With A Laptop?

I love reader questions, not only because I don't have to write some lame story about my life on the set, but because I hope it's answering some of the burning questions you have out there in cyber space, and that my blog might, just might be of some use to my faithful readers!

Dear Script Goddess:

I am taking the ScriptE training seminar this weekend. I've resisted the transition, fearing I would not be mobile enough to be within ear shot of the director/dp/ad at all moments of the day, to stay on the same page they are on. But my production friends are advising me that I will be losing work over taking my notes by hand. I can see that production loves the jump drive hand-off over copying notes, and delivering or faxing them to the transfer and editor.
I am concerned about how to manage all the stuff that goes with a laptop....cables, switchers, etc. How do you manage to move your portable laptop stand, with all the extra stuff, cables etc. when on location? I've never been one to expect the PA's to move my stuff, and sometimes they are nowhere to be seen when you break a set-up and need to move. Would you please share some detailed thoughts on how to manage sitting near the director with my bulky new laptop stand, and how to move all the stuff around....especially on a hectic location shoot. It seems like my kit will certainly double in weight and bulk. And what if there is room for a scripty to crouch in a small room, but no room for stand and chair? Do you take notes by hand and then type into the program later?
I did recently hear that VTR operators hate it when scripty asks to borrow a cable for downloading video stills, and when moving to the next location, drops the cable for him to wrangle.
Thanks for sharing your ideas!!!!

As I have stated before I do use my laptop on any and all stage shoots, but when it comes to location work, I do it old fashioned. Mainly because I'm old and hate lugging stuff around.

That said I did round up some professional laptop users to give you a better perspective:

Reagan says:

The only basic cable you need is your power cord to your laptop and maybe a cube tap. If you want to do video capture, make sure you have your own cables. Don't rely on VTR. And yes, they probably will get angry at you for using their cables. All my equipment: laptop, file folder, cables/switcher, extra battery, laptop stand, and printer if needed fit all in my back pack. (I got my backpack from REI since their backpacks are bigger than standard ones.) I'm in my 30's and my back can still handle the load I have to carry. When my back can't take it any more, I'll switch to a small rolling cart or bag. I can get up and move just as fast as with paper and pen. I have my own script bag, which is very helpful on moves. I just shove everything loose in there and easily move to the next location.

Production and editing love the electronic notes. I email them out to everyone who needs them. I just purchased the Internet connect card to be able to email paperwork out when I'm at a location where there isn't any wireless signal.

Getting up and moving isn't as tough as you might think. If I'm connected to the monitors and we have to move, I just unhook everything from my laptop and leave it on the VTR cart as we roll to the next location. None of the VTR's I've worked with ever minded me leaving my cords on their cart as we moved. Now, if I didn't gather them up every night, then they would probably get angry. And depending on where you are, sometimes you won't be able to do video capturing. I just put, no image.

The camera department will most likely get angry if you try to get a feed directly from the back of the camera. I've heard of scriptys who have gotten yelled at for it.

If we're on the process trailer, I usually take my laptop and the sides with me. I write down the info on the sides and after cut, I just transfer them to the laptop. If it's raining and there isn't a pop up tent, I put my laptop away in my waterproof bag and take notes on my waterproof paper, then transfer the notes later. Since laptops do make a little noise, and if we're very close to the mic, I just turn it off and take notes on the sides. When we're moving onto another set up, I turn it back on and transfer the info. I do save everything to a 4GB flash drive after every set up. And I also research where the closest Best Buy is from the location just in case I need to run out and grab another laptop if my primary one happens to die. (I did have a back up, but the mother board finally died on me after 6 years.)

I now have started carrying a small complete script which I take notes on more than sides. I still have the full script in my file folder just in case something happens to my laptop and I need the script. Both work and fits perfectly in my backpack. Also everyone says I look like I've going hiking.

I was a little scared at first to trust my laptop, but I soon got confident that it can handle what I do to it and the environments I take it in.

Tony says:

Hello Scripty,

Cabling all depends on the job.

If you have a VTR operator on the job, they should handle your cable for you. Of course, we should be grateful and friendly but cabling is their job.

If there is no VTR then the local 600 person (CAM IN NY) will run the my cables.

Non-union - anything goes.

As far as weight. I'm now working with an InStand computer stand, which is very stable and easily portable and light. If I have to leave one set and quickly move to the next for rehearsal. I put on my back pack, unplug the video cables, pick up my stand and move. I can do the entire move in the same time it took me to pack away my old binder in the past. Another plus is that I can stand or sit to work. My stand can be clamped to a car rig or process trailer and it even has a hood so I can work in direct sunlight without any glare.

I'm also able to get away from the click clack of blackberries in video village (if I need to) and move my stand just off camera onto set. This is particularly valuable when I need to read off-camera lines, or feed lines, or to get closer to a director that uses her own monitor or stands beside camera and watches the onboard monitor of the camera.

My computer is fastened securely to my stand via heavy duty velcro, so I often just close the lid and carry it fastened to my stand. Whomever wrote the question saw all this at the ScriptE demo 2 day training seminar we held in LA this past weekend. Script Supervisors can now get a 5% discount on all InStands and accessories purchased through the equipment page on the ScriptE website:

As far as size - even a 15" laptop is smaller and lighter than a full 4" binder. With my Instand, I can stand to work and fit in spaces where I could never work with a paper script.

Hope that helps! As always anyone else is free to comment!


moneypenny said...

oh God how I feel obsolete! Or, better: how is the entire italian film business obsolete! Sometimes I think that it would be great being on the set with just a laptop, leaving behind script sheets flying in the wind, production and editors would be very unhappy if I just try to email them my notes. They just don't know how to handle them. Pity. One question: all of you technological scripties use mac computers? I've seen that the wonderful scriptE is only for mac users. No chances for the others?

Scripty said...

I am MAC user all the way, so no help here, you'll have to ask Tony if he'll do an application for that other computer.. Hee! Thanks for the comment as always such a pleasure to hear from Italy!!!

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ScriptEsupervision said...

Hello Script Goddess and Moneypenny,
Yes, we are nearing completion on a PC version of ScriptE right now. We should be beta-testing shortly. There were a many requests from Script Supervisors in Europe and Asia as well as many North American PC diehards. Mac and Mac curious would-be ScriptE Users can get 5% discounts on all new and used MACs through our business rep (visit our site: But for those of you committed PC users, drop me a line if you'd like to be added to the list of potential beta testers. Thanks for asking,Tony ScriptE Systems - 917-991-7465 NY, 310-744-4987 LA

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