Cinefex Diaries – Writing for the iPad

Cinefex iPad Edition

I woke up this morning fully intending to work on my draft article for Cinefex 157. My email inbox had other ideas, containing as it did all the resources I needed to write the iPad captions for my two articles in Cinefex 156. What’s that saying about best-laid plans?

With any magazine issue, writing iPad captions is my final editorial task, and by the time it comes around the production department is usually rushing towards its deadline with steam pouring from its ears. That’s why I like to jump on it right away. So the next article will just have to wait.

Cinefex iPad captions serve the same purpose as the captions in our print edition – namely describing the content of the images while at the same time delivering a condensed summary of the article as a whole. A lot of the time I can simply duplicate the print captions, but there are two important differences that mean it’s not always that straightforward.

Firstly, we publish a lot more pictures in the iPad edition. The print versions of my Thor: Ragnarok and The Shape of Water articles contain 24 and 19 images respectively. On the iPad, those numbers go up to 48 and 40. That’s around double the content.

Secondly, I have to obey some slightly funky iPad formatting rules. When our publisher Gregg Shay does the layout, he assigns a code to each caption. There are nine different codes, each corresponding to a slightly different page design. Using a specific typeface, point size and line length, I have to make sure my text conforms to the maximum space allowed by each code – this can be anywhere between 4 and 8.5 lines.

Writing the iPad captions is therefore a mix of straightforward copying from the print edition, editing the print captions down to make sure the new versions conform to the required line length, and writing completely new captions for pictures I’ve never seen before. It’s not as big a job as doing the print captions, but it has its own unique quirks. The most entertaining of these is trying to cut a lean-as-it-gets 100-word caption down to half its length, without losing any of the essential meaning.

Anyway, the work is now done, which means my work on Cinefex 156 as a whole is done. My print caption word count for both articles combined was about 2,500 words. For the iPad, I’ve written just short of 3,300 words. Looking at those numbers, a thought occurs to me: the word count for Cinefex picture captions alone exceeds the word count of most internet articles you’ll read on the same subject.

Just saying.

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