Desktop software is giving indie filmmakers the ability to operate like a studio pro

Desktop software is giving indie filmmakers the ability to operate like a studio pro. With so many low-cost programs out there, Variety surveyed some of their users about top choices and their effectiveness.

MovieMagic Screenwriter
($250)
Script formatting program interacts with MovieMagic Scheduling.
Why it’s hot: Text/voice chat fuctions, so that two scribes in different locations can talk while editing.
Filmmakers say: Greg Harrison is using it for his upcoming project “Radioactive Boyscout.” He says it’s a “solid and more integrated script solution for production.”

CompanyMove ShowPlanner
($200)
Scheduling program places everyone from prep to post.
Why it’s hot: Costs less than industry standard MovieMagic Scheduling ($400)
Filmmakers say: “The call sheets look identical and it’s pretty user-friendly,” says Jackson Waite, who used it on his short “Sense Memory.” Waite says he had to upgrade to Final Draft 7 to import files.

Final Cut Studio
($1,300)
Mac-based, includes Final Cut Pro 5 — with SD, DV and HD editing — Motion 2, Soundtrack Pro and DVD Studio Pro 4 with SD and HD DVD authoring.
Why it’s hot: Programs integrate into Final Cut; new HD capabilities
Filmmakers say: “It’s easy to use and very friendly with a lot of formats,” says Morgan Spurlock, who used its cross-compatibility to import animation from Adobe After Effects for “Super Size Me.”

Avid Xpress Pro HD
($1,696)
Video/film, audio, effects, music creation, DVD authoring tools under one roof; HD version exclusively for PCs
Why it’s hot: New HDV update this month as alternative to Final Cut
Filmmakers say: “The match frame accuracy is what separates this from Final Cut,” says Howard Leder, who used Avid programs on “A/K/A/ Tommy Chong.” He says the traditional Avid design is awkward for users of “click and drop” word processors.

Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5
($700)
Editing software works hand in hand with Photoshop and After Effects.
Why it’s hot: Premiere’s sister programs are used by industry pros and amateurs alike.
Filmmakers say: “Basic assembling was really efficient on the system,” says Jacob Rosenberg, who imported nine different film formats for “Dust to Glory.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more