The Ultimate Documentary Paper Edit App

Hi there,

I have a suggestion that would make Scrivener the ultimate app for editing documentaries (on paper at least). First, the context. I use scrivener frequently for creating paper edits of long-form documentaries. My process is to import the transcripts into Scrivener and proceed by splitting them into sections and attaching metadata via labels and custom metadata fields. I do this for interviews, b-roll, and any other significant “moments” in the footage. I then proceed to use Scrivener’s lovely tools for outlining, corkboarding, and editing directly in the Scrivenings view.

One of the biggest time sucks in my documentary edit process is that there is no link between all of the rich metadata and editing done in Scrivener and the actual video clips they represent. Every edit or adjustment made in Scrivener has to be recreated by hand in the edit suite, a time consuming and error-prone process. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I recently ran across a program called prEdit ( - have a watch of the demo video to get a sense of what it does.) Video editing software (such as Premiere and Final Cut Pro) allow you to create XML files representing the video clips in the project and link those video clips to their transcripts. What if you could edit the text of the transcript, and have the software translate that into edits of the video clips? prEdit does just that. But it’s not the greatest text editor. What if you could do what prEdit does, but with the brilliant editing & metadata capabilities of Scrivener?

To do this would require Scrivener be able to import these XML files and present the user with the transcripts for editing. Then, after the edit is complete, re-export the XML file with the relevant metadata ready for re-importing into prEdit or FCP/Premiere.

This would be revolutionary in the documentary world. It would tear down a big barrier in the storytelling process, something that Scrivener excels at.

Take a look at prEdit… maybe have a chat with their developers… I’d love to hear your thoughts! (and you know where to look if you need an Alpha tester).

I’ve also got a few other niggling suggestions, since I use Scrivener quite frequently. A few nice-to-have’s:

  • A view mode like email, where clicking on outline view in left panel opens that document in right panel
  • Ability to import & export custom meta-data settings from one Scrivener file to the next
  • quick copy method when dragging & dropping a document, such as holding down “alt” (like in finder) to copy from one folder to another
  • option to see document contents in bottom of inspector side panel for quick editing
  • custom searches (e.g. metadata fields) saveable as smart folders.
  • Ability to search just within a folder in the Binder
  • Undo for more things (like removing documents from a collection!)
  • Have a list of “collections” in the binder rather than in a separate pane above the binder

An amazing piece of software! So glad I found it back in the early days…

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In outline view, at the bottom of the window, there’s a button with two arrows on it, facing opposite ways. This turns that exact function on and off. Took me a while to find it, too.

Oscarmeier: I just downloaded the software to give it a try. Since you are a documentary producer as well, I wondered if you used a particular template?


For existing projects there is of course not a way, but this sort of initial set-up is precisely what the template feature is for. What is probably best is to run a whole project through to completion, and when you are done with it, use Save As to make a temporary copy. Strip all of the data out of it is specific to the project, and then save the shell as a template for your future projects. Once you start doing that, the template meta-data is saved into the project (and each project you create with the template), so repeating this process at the end of the next project if necessary is much easier as all of the naming, custom icon and description info will already be filled out for you.

That should be working. If I drag with the Opt/Alt key held down, I get a full (children included) duplicate.

Try Quick Reference. If it’s not already set up to work this way, check in the Navigation preference tab in the middle “Space key opens selected document in…”. Then you can just select the card, tap the space key, make your edits, and close it.

After you set up your search, use the magnifying glass icon to “Save Search…” at the very bottom of the menu. This will create a dynamic collection tab which you can use to access the search at any point in the future.

Select the folder you wish to search in, then set your search type to “Search Binder Selection Only” in the magnifying glass menu.

I’m probably not getting what you mean, because having them above the binder in a dedicated list is, from an interfacing standpoint, not terribly dissimilar from listing them somewhere in the binder—except that it would limit their usefulness. You could no longer view the contents of the collection in the sidebar and by consequence of that (there are technical reasons for that), no longer automatically hoist the contents of a collection so you can focus on just it. You’d have to scroll to find them rather than always having them available in one predictable location. I don’t know, it just seems like a step backward to me. If you do want to see the contents of a collection and the binder at the same time, you can already do so by loading the collection into the editor, optionally locking it, and returning to the binder.

hey @oscarmeier 10 years later and I’m still trying to figure out this exact same workflow!

Have you come up with any solutions to this?