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Old 05-07-2012, 09:48 PM   #1
mcforman
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Screenplay Format for Kindle

Hi there -

I'm a new user to both Calibre as well as kindle. Does anyone have any instruction on how to take a screenplay formatted pdf and convert it in Calibre so I can then transfer it to kindle for easy reading? I tried it and while it will convert, the formatting is not perfect or ideal. Ideally, I would like to be able to use the font sizing function in kindle and NOT have to "zoom" into the text so that I continually move around screen just to read a page.

Truly appreciate it!
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:28 AM   #2
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PDF will rarely convert cleanly to other formats. Extensive manual editing is generally required to get anything resembling a readable document.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:00 AM   #3
mcforman
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Understood, but...

it seems as though there are specific settings that will get the format pretty close. I've been experimenting but just can't seem to get the correct combination
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:52 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcforman View Post
it seems as though there are specific settings that will get the format pretty close...
No, there are not any such magic settings.

PDF is an extremely flexible and complex format. There are a vast number of different ways to structure a PDF file. Hence, there is not and never will be an easy reliable conversion process. Trial-and-Terror experimenting with the conversion settings to find the best settings for each file and then manual editing of the results will always be the only way.

When converting for Kindle/Mobi its generally considered best to convert to some editable intermediary format. Editing that conversion to fix the flaws you can't find conversion settings to deal with and then converting the edited file to MOBI. Generally ePub and HTML are the preferred editable intermediary formats. RTF is also a reasonable choice.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:56 AM   #5
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There is no "but" about it I'm afraid, HarryT is spot on. PDF is a problem format to convert from, end of story. There is a whole sticky dedicated to it here. There are no "magic settings" that can be generalised. You *might* find some tweaking of the fudging in the heuristics makes *some* parts of the document look a little better, but it will likely be at the expense of readability of other parts.

The only sure fire guaranteed way is to edit and reformat the whole document manually, line by line, usually having the PDF open on one screen and your edited version on another, fixing line breaks, hyphenation issues, OCR issues, scene breaks, page breaks, ligatures, images, tables, indentation, character substitutions and all the other "issues" that PDFs can have depending on their original content and fonts chosen.

They are a nightmare. Your best bet is to buy a reader like a tablet so you can view the PDFs full size and forget about converting them. Or you can try other third party PDF converters which people report varying success with but the same caveats will apply.

Edit: dwig beat me
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:22 PM   #6
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DWIBG and kiwidude -

really appreciate the responses and generally understand what you are saying. BUt here's the thing -- just reading it on a kindle tablet is not an option. Yes, you can keep the formatting but the problem is the only way to read it is to use the zoom function which makes reading it a nightmare.

Screenplays follow a fairly strict format and calibre does a pretty close job of getting the conversion right. The issue is that after the conversion, some of the line breaks between she of this formatting are wrong. I'm searching for a global way to fix them. Let me try to break it down more clearly -

As you may/may not be aware, screenplay formatting has very specific definitions, such as:

Scene/Action formatting which looks something like this:

INT. OFFICE BLDG - NIGHT
A lone man sits inside a cramped office feverishly working at his computer. He's unaware that all his colleagues have gone home.

Next comes character and dialogue formatting which generally has the character's name centered on the page and then the dialogue off set left justified and looks something like this:

MICHAEL
They all laughed at me when I tried
to tell the them the world was coming to
and end. Well, they won't be laughing any
longer...

This repeats multiple times with different characters and new scenes/action, etc.

I don't care so much about the indenting of the character names and keeping that formatting. However, I really need to keep the line spacing of Character/name/scenes/action, etc., appropriate.

Below is an example of how Calibre formatted one of the screenplays I was using:

EXT. COLORADO HIGHWAY - MOMENTS LATER

3

Boon gets out of the pickup, strapping on his gun belt, smiles at the men as he walks calmly towards them.

The highway has TUFTS OF GRASS poking through cracks in the concrete. The paint is faded. In the distance are one or two ABANDONED CARS. A bullet blasted ROAD SIGN says I-70.

The Skinny Bandit spits on the ground.
SKINNY BANDIT
Hip, he’s armed.
FAT BANDIT
Stranger, hold it right there.
Both men have their guns casually aimed towards Boon.
Boon raises a polite hand, acknowledging.
The Fat Bandit coughs to find his most impressive voice.
FAT BANDIT
We here are Colorado Rangers doing road patrol. Looking for bandits and all sorts of troublemakers on the road to Denver.
SKINNY BANDIT
All sorts of trouble.
Trouble. Boon grins at the slip.

As you can see, i need to figure out how to keep the breaks between the Action the then the CHARACTER and the the character's dialogue.

Does this all make sense or am I just pissing in the wind?

Regardless, really appreciate the back and forth on this.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:35 PM   #7
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You keep trying to slip that "but" in there. You are indeed facing upwind.
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:36 PM   #8
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I've been round this loop a couple of times over the last couple of years, trying to help users to read screenplays. The closest look & feel I could achieve was to
  1. open the PDF, highlight all the text and paste into a TXT file. Naturally this will lose any bold and italic formatting. See next post for update
  2. transfer the TXT file to the reader (i.e. no conversion) and read, preferably in landscape mode. It would look best if it could be read using the reader's monospace font
  3. if you have no option but to do a calibre conversion, then it needed to be a TXT to EPUB and use TXT input conversion options which preserve all whitespace and make no attempt to reflow lines into paragraphs, i.e. assume every line is a paragraph. I also specified body {font-family: monospace} in Look&Feel - ExtraCSS

This worked not too badly with my WinXP/Sony reader setup.

What typically went wrong for Mac users was that they were not able to copy/paste in step 1 without losing all leading spaces - thereby losing any semblance of positional formating e.g. centered dialog. Not having any clue at all about Mac I was not able to offer any suggestions.

Also I have no idea whether a Kindle can directly read a raw TXT file or whether you would get a similar result if converting TXT to MOBI with the monospace option.

Maybe there's some ideas here you can try.

Last edited by jackie_w; 05-09-2012 at 10:18 AM.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:16 AM   #9
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Follow-up...

I'm sorry to have misled you. I relooked at this. Step 1 in the post above is not what I actually used to create a TXT file with all formatting spaces preserved.

What I actually used was the pdftotext.exe utility which is part of the XPDF collection of free utilities. I used it in commandline mode, so the command is something like this in a Windows command box:
Code:
pdftotext -layout screenplay_in.pdf screenplay_out.txt
Whether the XPDF utilities run on anything other than Windows, I don't know. Nor do I know whether anyone has written a GUI front-end
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:33 AM   #10
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Now I don't have a screenplay to try and convert, but what I do with other PDF's is convert them to HTML using Acrobat Pro and then use Sigil to make an ePub. Once I have the epub looking how I want it I use Calibre or KindleGen to convert for the Kindle.

There are probably other programs to get the PDF into HTML (IIRC Mobipocket Creator {free} will do it, but IIRC the results weren't as good most of the time) and some might be free or less costly than Acrobat Pro.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:51 AM   #11
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Hi Jackie -

Thanks for the reply. I'm a MAC guy so the windows stuff is problematic for me. That said, really appreciate the input.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:56 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcforman View Post
BUt here's the thing -- just reading it on a kindle tablet is not an option. Yes, you can keep the formatting but the problem is the only way to read it is to use the zoom function which makes reading it a nightmare.
Very true. The only real solution is to read it on a tablet with a sufficiently large screen that allows you to read it without zooming. An iPad with the "Goodreader" app is a superb PDF reader.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:03 AM   #13
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Yes, I have an iPad...

Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Very true. The only real solution is to read it on a tablet with a sufficiently large screen that allows you to read it without zooming. An iPad with the "Goodreader" app is a superb PDF reader.
... and it's GREAT! But the problem is that for constant script reading, the "e" ink is much easier on the eyes.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:55 AM   #14
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@mcforman,

I've attached an epub and mobi of a sample screenplay. Is the mobi readable on your Kindle?

The problem you will have is that to preserve the formatting there is no line-wrap, hence you may need to read it in landscape at a smaller font-size.

It's a calibre conversion of a manually created HTML file where the TXT output (from step 1 detailed above) was simply copy/pasted into a reusable HTML boilerplate template.

The issue of performing step 1 on a Mac still remains, though. Somehow, I just knew you were going to be a Mac user
Attached Files
File Type: mobi Screenplay.mobi (22.2 KB, 42 views)
File Type: epub Screenplay.epub (8.6 KB, 42 views)
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Old 05-09-2012, 12:18 PM   #15
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Was hopeful, but...

I've attached jogs of how it looks on kindle. the first two were with no conversion. The last shot, 0266, was with me running it through calibre. Damn, so close!
Attached Thumbnails
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