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Software Review-Showbiz Budgeting

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What You SeeMedia Services’ Showbiz Budgeting is lots more than monitor-candy. Unusually smart and clever, it manages budgeting tricks like you’ve never seen before.From its roots in budgeting commercials, Showbiz has become a chameleon, assuming whatever look (and style) is needed. To the usual film templates, add AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) and AICE (Association of Independent Creative Editors) forms, plus forms for such categories as foreign productions, animations, stills and documentaries. Future plans call for templates (as well as the program itself) to be written in Spanish, Russian and French.Oddly, its pretty face comes undone at the Top Sheet (here dubbed the Summary) where gray replaces a rainbow of colors.Come work time, you’ll have to fetch your own budget—your latest work won’t open by default with the program. Too bad.What You GetOther budgeting programs give you their unique view of the work process; Showbiz delivers an entirely new paradigm. There is nothing else like it because of two fundamental advances it has made.To begin, Showbiz doesn’t just act like many different programs, it actually becomes those programs, with varying styles, formats and workflows. The feat is achieved by reinventing the role of the column. And the impact is huge.Traditional budgets list one item per row, breaking the item into smaller and smaller units (from Categories down to Accounts, Details and Sub-Details). Columns have always been used to enumerate things—how many, how much, how long.Showbiz has tucked all that information into a breakdown form that sits below the budget. Separating all the details into a separate section creates a new way of looking at a budget. And the view is refreshing.You can see more of your budget. And you can do new things. Once columns are freed from the minutia of math, they can be repurposed to group all sorts of data. And the results are wonderful.Columns are used to isolate such items as general costs (which can be green, for example), production in Florida (blue), a shoot in New York (peach) and a Totals column (pink). Not restricted to locations of course, columns might isolate TV episodes or production units, or prep vs. shoot, etc.Almost every program can whack a budget into sections (called Subgroups in Movie Magic and SubBudgets” in ProductionPro), but no other program can display every “sub” in an array like this. Adding a Totals column (on the right in pink) turns this view into a major winner, delivering breakdown information that’s easy to understand at a glance.Showbiz’s second remarkable feat is its ability to do Actuals. That is, it tracks real costs against estimates, showing exactly where you stand vis-à-vis the budget.Of course, any budgeting program can track actuals—it’s an old indie trick that’s been around since MM ran in DOS. Showbiz, however, turns that old plum into a full subset of the program, adding serious tools to track Petty Cash, write Purchase Orders and access vendor information. This is a major advance for every self-contained show.What’s GoodA chameleon at heart, Showbiz shifts from AICP forms to feature budgeting with every essential doodad intact.Instant adaptability makes it ideal for every production office that shoots features today, commercials tomorrow and industrials the day after.Details can be entered into the below-the-budget form. Or directly into the budget at the Account level. That’s revolutionary and a huge timesaver when your only details are “allow” or “flat.” What’s BadExploring new paradigms may be exciting, but getting your head wrapped around Showbiz requires some serious mental adjustments.The difficultly isn’t helped by inconsistencies in the program. Some items, for example, sort with a click on the column. Others move with an up-down arrow. And some can’t be sorted at all.There are no Tool Tips or context-sensitive F1 help. Icons and toolbars can’t be changed.Globals won’t do math; not a lick. They merely accept a single number. There’s no way to total various shooting phases like PREP + SHOOT + WRAP and call it ALL for easy budget entry (and updates). Globals can’t even do math within the budget. That leaves no way to enter a late-arriving assistant for PREP/2 weeks.Globals and math are so tightly integrated that it’s amazing how a program this good could have missed something so basic and essential.BonusColumns in Showbiz can reference a range of other columns. That allows the budget to calculate across any group of Accounts. Use it for finders fees or a surcharge or a per-episode portion of amortized costs. It’s handy, versatile and (as far as I know) unique.Company-specific headers and entire lists of vendors can be moved from job to job. That’s ideal for anyone who shifts about, estimating here one week, shooting there the next.Look for an upcoming interface with QuickBooks. Expect (minimally) an easy export of the Chart of Accounts plus (presumably) the budget numbers and any actual costs.Who It’s ForUse Showbiz Budgeting if your work shifts between commercials, docs and features. It’s the only program that can track actuals and handle petty cash. And it’s for anyone who wants to explore a new, more effective way to make a budget.Look for frequent sales to buy this impressive program. You’ll need extra time to learn its myriad features and know that the next upgrade will likely turn this into a top-tier program. If you prefer, pick up the free 30-day trial first. Either way, it’s worth the effort.

Written by Norman Berns

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