Review: Montage

Innovative features for script writers. (February 26th, 2007)

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Product Manufacturer: Mariner Software

Price: $149.95 box; $139.95 download US

The Good

  • Effective screenwriting automation. Powerful Smart Views feature. Complete story support system.

The Bad

  • User Guide needs links to content. Bugs in script import and formatting display.

Montage is a screenplay program that surrounds your story like a dedicated midwife. It is suitable for every level of screen writer who uses Mac OS X 10.3.9 or above .

Installation

The Mariner disc includes the Montage program folder and a ReadMe with no installation instructions. Install information is only in the User Guide PDF, which is installed afterward. The download version has text instructions on the .dmg file to drag the application to your Applications folder.

I dragged the folder into my Applications folder and launched it, but during registration I was offered a downloadable update. I ended up with two open versions of Montage and a registration error alert. After I quit both versions and relaunched the program, only one copy was left in the Montage folder, and it was correctly updated. This is an awkward introduction to an interesting program. The User Guide PDF covers the product well, but needs its table of contents hot-linked to content.

complete story management

When you launch Montage a gallery of templates appears, such as BBC, Warner Brothers, Stage Play formats, and others. There is little information on each of these templates, but instructions in the manual do cover creating your own templates.

When the blank work screen appears, you immediately see a design departure from competing programs. There is an iTunes-like sidebar list of Script, Scenes, Outline, Characters, and more. This acts like a database mechanism that supports your story effort, including Research and To-Do lists. Final Draft offers an Index Card feature, but Montage offers an Outline view. You can also add new views of your script, using a highly customizable function called SmartView. For example, you can tag and then suppress early draft material from later work, for efficient appraisal.

Unique Features

Many users may want to hide the display list when intensely engaged in crafting a scene, but there is no Hide switch. The solution is the most unique feature of Montage: Full Screen View. This view removes all distracting features, including window title and tool bar. It is easy to return to the standard work screen by pressing the Escape key. Full Screen View preferences allow you to change text and background color plus page magnification and you can turn on speech. For many, this view feature is worth its weight in gold statuettes.

The second cool feature is Scene view, which gives each scene its own round-corner window that expands as you type. This supports the idea of each scene as a story module. Scenes are also navigable from a palette list.

script automation

Montage gives you autocomplete insert of INT or EXT location, time of day, pre-established characters, and locations. Automation also features Return and Tab indents. For example, Tab sends your cursor to the Character Name column, and when you type a letter, a pop-up menu presents a full character list. When you highlight the correct name press Return and it autocompletes the entry. These are standard features in competing programs and they work well in Montage.

database features

Montage gives you a handy summary of the characters that appear in particular scenes in the Characters view; no separate report generation is required. You can even store character photographs. There is a similar Locations View. A Contacts view stores names and phone numbers of studios and production companies that are downloadable from within Montage. These are integrated into your Mac OS X Address Book as a special directory called Montage Contacts. Query view stores your letters to agents and studios, and comes with some handy tips.

Importing a script from Final Draft format did not go as smoothly as generating new material. In Scene View, I had to correct text margins. Script View was worse, because the text truncated to a 2.5-inch column, which is an obvious bug. Corey Johnson, Director of Product Development at Mariner, informs me these issues are addressed in dedicated Final Draft import support in an upcoming release. Presently Montage version 1.1.1 beta is available as a download on the site. The software is supports Universal Binary.

Montage has panache, with a few bugs to work out, but should serve many scriptwriters well.

by Loren S. Miller


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