Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Celtx won’t write your script for you, but it will ensure it has the format and features demanded by the film industry. Learn to use Celtx along with insider secrets of screenwriting and script-marketing into the bargain.


Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide

Celtx: Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide

Write and market Hollywood-perfect movie scripts the free way!

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What is an audio-visual production?

The term audio-visual production basically covers anything in the known universe that combines varying components of movement, sound, and light.

Movies are nothing more than big expensive (really expensive) audio-visual shows. Television programs; the fireworks, performed music, and laser lights of a major rock concert; a business presentation; Uncle Spud showing slides of his vacation in Idaho—all are audio-visual productions.

A complex audio-visual production, such as the big rock concert, combines many types of contents and is called a multimedia show, which combine sounds and music, projections of video and photos (often several at once), lights, spoken words, text on screens, and more.

Audio visual shows, those of an educational nature as well as for entertainment value, might be produced with equipment such as the following:

  • Dioramas
  • Magic lanterns
  • Planetarium
  • Film projectors
  • Slide projectors
  • Opaque projectors
  • Overhead projectors
  • Tape recorders
  • Television
  • Video
  • Camcorders
  • Video projectors
  • Interactive whiteboards
  • Digital video clips

Also productions such as TV commercials, instructional videos, those moving displays you see in airports, even the new digital billboards along our highways—all are audio-visual productions (even the ones without sound).

My favorite type of production, documentaries (I've done literally hundreds of them), are audio-visual shows.

A documentary is a nonfiction movie and includes newsreels, travel, politics, docudramas, nature films and animal films, music videos, and much more.

In short, as we can see from the preceding discussion, you can throw just about everything into a production including your kitchen sink. Turn the faucet on and off while blasting inspiring music and hitting it with colored spotlights, and plumbers will flock to buy tickets to the show!

Now, while just about every conceivable project falls into the audio-visual category, Celtx (as shown in the next screenshot) offers us specific categories that narrow the field down a little.

The following screenshot from Celtx's splash page shows those categories. Film handles movies and television shows, Theatre (love that Canadian spelling, eh?) is for stage plays, Audio Play is designed for radio programs and podcasts, Storyboard is for visual planning, and Comic Book is for writing anything from comic strips to epic graphic novels.

Text (not shown in the following screenshot) is the other project type that comes with Celtx and is great for doing loglines, synopses, treatments, outlines, and anything else calling for a text editor rather than a script formatter.

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Just about everything else can be written in an Audio-Visual project container! Let's think about that for a moment. This means that Audio-Visual is by far and away the most powerful project provided by Celtx.

In the script element drop-down box, there are only five script elements—Scene Heading, Shot, Character, Dialog, and Parenthetical—whereas Film has eight! Yet, thanks to Celtx magic, these five elements, as I will show you in this article, are a lot more flexible than in Film and the other projects. It's pretty amazing.

So, time to start an audio-visual project of our own.

Starting an AV project in Celtx

What better example to use than a short documentary on... wait for it... Celtx. This film I actually plan on producing and using to both promote Celtx (which certainly deserves letting people know about it) and also showing that this article is great for learning all this marvelous power of Celtx.

The title: "Celtx Loves Indies."

Indies is slang for independent producers. An independent producer is a company or quite often an individual who makes films outside Hollywood or Bollywood or any other studio system. Big studios have scores or even hundreds of people to do all those tasks needed in producing a film. Indies often have very few people, sometimes just one or two doing all the crewing and production work. Low budget (not spending too much money on making films) is our watchword. Celtx is perfect for indies—it is, as I point out in the documentary—like having a studio in a box!

So, my example project for this chapter is how I set up "Celtx Loves Indies" in Celtx.

Time for action — beginning our new AV project

We start our project, as we did our spec script in the last chapter, by making a directory on our computer. Having a separate directory for our projects makes it a lot easier to organize and to find stuff when we need it.

Therefore, I first create the new empty directory on my hard drive named Celtx Loves Indies, as shown in the following screenshot:

Now, fire up Celtx. In a moment, we'll left click on Audio-Visual to open a project container that has an Audio-Visual script in it. However, first, since I have not mentioned it to date, look at the items outside the Project Templates and Recent Project boxes in the lower part of the splash page, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

As Celtx is connected to the Internet, we get some information each time Celtx starts up from the servers at: .

This information from online includes links to news, help features, ads for Celtx add-ons, and announcements.

The big news here is that Celtx has added an app (application) to synchronize projects with iPhones and iPadsHowever, check these messages out each time you open Celtx.

Next, we open an Audio-Visual project in Celtx.

This gives us a chance to check out those five script elements we met earlier by left clicking on the downward arrow next to Scene Heading. In the next section, we'll examine each and use them.

Time for action – setting up the container

Continuing with our initial setup of the container for this project, rename the A/V Script in the Project Library. I renamed mine, naturally, Celtx Loves Indies. Also, remember we can have hundreds of files, directories, subdirectories, and so on in the Project Library—our research and more. This is why a Celtx project is really a container.

Just right click on A/V Script, choose Rename... and type in the new title, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Left click on File at the top left of the Celtx screen, then on Save Project As... (or use the Ctrl+Shift+S key shortcut) to save the project into your new directory, all properly titled and ready for action, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

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Title page

I like to add a title page to all my scripts. To have a title page included in the print out of an Audio-Visual project, left click on the TypeSet/PDF button at the bottom of the main script window, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

When the Typeset/PDF screen opens in the main script window of Celtx, left click on the Format Options button at the top. The Format Options dialog box opens, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Under the General tab of the Format Options dialog box (in the preceding screenshot), we need to make sure several options are checked off.

Paper Size is the print output page size of the PDF file (not necessarily that of your printer).

For example, you might live in Europe and print on A4 paper using the Print button at the top of the Celtx screen. However, the script is being submitted to a producer in America, who would be printing on the U.S. Letter. Using the Paper Size option, we can generate PDFs having different paper sizes than might be our local standard.

Next, down in the box, click in the circle to the left of Two Columns.

Industry standard audio-visual scripts use a two-column format. The left column contains camera shots and the other directions. The right column has characters and dialog (who speaks and what they say). This is shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

As we're right at it, let me mention the Shot List choice. Once our audio-visual script is finished, we can check here to generate and print a list of shots. This would be useful for the camera operator in setting up scenes, and looks like the following:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

For now, we want the two-columns format selected. To finish out this tab, check Show Scene Headers (we want to see the titles of the scenes in our sample script) and Title Page because as stated earlier, we want to include a title page.

We won't use the Script Header tab in this project, but if you ever want to, it replaces the title page with a data page listing the fields that can be filled out in this tab, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

You would find a script header more useful for internal use in a large company where several people work on the project and the data is more important than appearances. This dialog box does not allow you to select both if you wanted a title page and the script heading data. However, that's easy to get around; just duplicate the finished script by right clicking on its name in the Projects Library and selecting Duplicate. You'll have two scripts of the same name. In one, you can have a title page and in the other the PDF prints out with the script header data. You might want to change the name slightly, so it's obvious which has what.

Time for action — adding a title page

Okay, now that we've told Celtx we want a title page included, let's set one up. Left click on the Title Page button at the bottom of the main script window, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

The title page form appears in the main script window of the Celtx screen, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Fill it out by typing in the boxes. I've entered my title, my name as author, the work it's based on, and my contact information.

Also add a copyright! Use a c in parentheses (c) to indicate the copyright symbol. While you could type the Alt-0169 key combination for an actual "c in a circle" copyright symbol, the PDF conversion program out there on the Internet does not convert it correctly, so use the above workaround. It's just as legal.

Not putting a copyright only applies to spec scripts. Everything else, including audio-visual scripts, should have a copyright notice.

Now, the way copyrights work is simple, especially under U.S. law (Title 17, U.S. Code is the law covering copyrights). When you finish a work, it is automatically copyrighted. Filling out forms and sending in money only registers the copyright, which already exists. It's another layer of legal protection. However, if you do want it, just do it online (currently costs $25).

Do not go to an attorney to get a copyright done. As a publisher, I come across authors who have. They paid $250 or so for the attorney (or more likely one of his or her paralegals) to do what they could have done themselves for a whole lot less.

Unless your job is for big bucks or with someone you have reason not to trust (and in that case, why are you working with them?), the copyright notice is all you really need. With the title page entries all filled out, we're ready to see what it looks like after the PDF is generated—both to check for errors and as encouragement for us to write the rest of the script. Hey, you got one page done already, eh?

Click on the TypeSet/PDF button again (bottom of the main script window), as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Celtx sends our title page out on the Internet, formats it, and returns it to our computer, displaying it in the main script window, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

We could save the title page as a PDF file to our hard disk by clicking on the Save PDF button at the top of the main script window, but it's not worth it until we have some of the script written.

The data we filled out and changes in configuration made already are saved every time the Celtx project gets saved, so nothing is lost.

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(For more resources on a similar subject, see here.)

Celtx power

Now, just as a reminder of Celtx's power. Look at the Project Library box and double-click on Master Catalog (the main database of Celtx). I've already started my script, so it has one entry so far, myself as a character, narrating, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

This entry was made automatically by Celtx as the script was being written, we can fill out the data fields in the various categories that Celtx tracks for us. Currently (in Version 2.7 of Celtx) there are 35 categories tracked. We find those on the right side of the main script window when a script is open for editing.

Again, we are not limited to only 35—we can create and add literally hundreds of categories, whatever needs tracking. The power of Celtx compared to the high dollar programs, that basically only write scripts, is immense. Not bad for free!

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

It's time now to actually write our audio-visual script. Go to the script by clicking on the Script button at the bottom of the main script window (see the following screenshot) or double click on the script's name in the Project Library.

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

Writing an AV project in Celtx

An audio-visual script is written using the five script elements in the Audio-Visual project script, which are Scene Heading, Shot, Character, Dialog, and Parenthetical.

A script in progress—my Celtx Loves Indies—is shown in the following screenshot:

A few pages ago, we discussed how wide a variety of audio-visual productions Celtx's audio-visual project script edit covers, and all done with those five script elements found in the drop-down menu at the top of Celtx's main script window. You can see it in the preceding screenshot; it is showing Dialog at the moment.

Once finished and sent out on the Internet for an almost instant conversion to PDF, a completed page looks like the following:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

All nice and neat, and to get it that way, we must be careful to tag each item we write with the correct script element. I emphasized that in the previous chapter, I'm doing it again now, and I'll do it two or three more times before this book ends. It is critical.

Do that and it's amazing, the power we have in crafting all those zillions of types of audio-visual shows, presentations, and more.

So, let's go through and look at what each of the script elements does for us.

Scene heading

Scene headings work precisely like they do while writing the spec script, only they look a bit different. The word INTRODUCTION: in the following screenshot is the name of this scene:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx

We type the scene heading in any mix of upper and lower case and, so long as we have Scene Heading selected in the script elements drop-down menu, Celtx puts it in ALL CAPS and adds a colon when it formats into a PDF. The preceding screenshot shows how it looks in our script. Here it is when formatted into a PDF:

Scene headings automatically appear in the Scenes box to the left of the Celtx window under the Project Library. As in any type of Celtx script, we can use these scene headings in the box to move scenes around in the script, delete scenes, or as a navigation aid in moving to a selected scene in the script. Also, clicking on the small box with a plus sign (+) in it (if more than one shot is in the scene) gives us a list of shots, as shown in the following screenshot:

Documentaries and Other Audio-Visual Projects with Celtx


The Shots script element refers to camera shots. These can be industry standard shot names, or more informal instructions for the camera operator or video editor, or a combination like the following:

Selecting the Shot script element and typing the shot causes Celtx to format it in the left column when the PDF is created.


The Character script element denotes someone who speaks. In the preceding example, that would be me. When we type a character name with the Character element selected, Celtx capitalizes and underlines it, and places it in the right column.

Oh yes, Celtx makes our typing faster by prompting us. Type a scene heading, hit the Enter key, and we are automatically in shot mode. Type the shot and hit Enter, we are in character, then in dialog, and back in character, and so forth. We covered key shortcuts earlier; they can really speed up your productivity.


The Dialog element is for the spoken word. Celtx formats it, when PDFs are created, in the right column. Remember, in your script, just click on any groups of words and the script elements box shows you which element it is in. To change the type of script element, simply select that element in the drop-down menu. Dialog looks like the following screenshot in the finished PDF (right column):


This is a kind of "catch all" for anything that does not easily fit in the other four script elements of Celtx's Audio-Visual project. Anything we type in Parenthetical is formatted in the right column with parentheses around it.


In this article, we took a look at the many types of productions falling under the term "audio-visual" and how Celtx makes them easier to create and use. We learned how to build a Celtx project container for our AV project and to use the AV script elements of Scene Heading, Shot, Character, Dialog, and Parenthetical.

Further resources on similar subjects:

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