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13 Power iPhone Apps for Filmmakers

The past three years have been a very exciting time to be a filmmaker with the many changes in digital technology. I think back to a time before “Act of Valor” and if I was asked to shoot a movie on a still camera, I would have thought the director had gone mad. The speed that you now have to function at has increased dramatically. Budgets are getting tighter and time is more valuable. Multi-tasking is one of the only ways to survive.

Along with all this disruptive technology, the App Store has grown. Who ever wanted to write an app now has a captive audience in the film community. I wanted to go through the ones that make my life easier as a cinematographer. My “life line” apps.

Tracking the sun is such an important tool for a cinematographer. Planning your days to try and shoot in the right place at the right time for light is paramount. Having the ability to calculate this anywhere in the world on any day of the week, even years in advance, is incredible. I have two Apps that I use:

Sun Scout:

 

 

Helios:

Pcam: Figuring out depth of field and field of view are important tools. Say you have a massive top down wide shot of a Toyota Tundra ripping into a rodeo ring. The widest lens we have in our arsenal that won’t bend the crap out of the image was a 14.5mm Panavision Prime.

I was able to quickly calculate on the Pcam App to fulfill the director’s vision. I needed to get a 120’ Condor and sling Mike Svitak in that baby to get the Rodeo Ring as well as some of the seats.  The ring was 160’ across so at 110’ on a 14.5mm lens, my 16:9 field of view would be 180’ wide and 101’ high.  That seemed perfect.  This would grab some seats on the left and right side.


The program calculates depth of field, hyper focal, which is so essential for those set the focus and forget it shots, like car rigs, crash cams, etc.  The hyper focal is the distance that you set your lens at which will take in the largest range of focus.  Seeing the car come at you in focus and being able to hold its impact in focus is important. On Deadfall, I set a Canon 5D on a snow covered road where we wanted the car to slide over the top of it as it goes into a skid after it had just impacted a deer.  We tested the shot with a bottle of water and our stunt man slide right over that baby.  Smash cut to putting down our 5D in the middle of the road and “Action.”

I find that when you say action, there is a slight adrenaline rush that happens in every stunt man.  So the car comes speeding at the camera, our hyper-focal on the 24mm lens is holding perfectly, oh no, that doesn’t seem like he is lining up with the camera correctly.

SMASH

The 5D is impacted head on by the Town Car’s tire and blasted ass over tea kettle 50 yards down the icy road into a snow bank.  The camera was still on and recording.  Here is the shot:

 

 

PCam does so many other things:

 

Match Lens: is an App that I use quite a lot.  The purpose of this app is to compare what I know as my benchmark, 35mm Motion picture lens field of view.  So when I slap a 14mm on my 5D, I like to know what the equivalent would be if it was on a 35mm camera.  That calculation is done so quickly and you can select your aspect ratio as well.  A 14mm on the full frame 5D is a 9.4mm on a 35mm camera with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

DSLR Slate: this baby has saved me on a few shoots.  Grabbing that cool little shot when you are out on your own and you want to keep editorial in the loop.  You can load all the camera info into the slate.  Color temp, shutter speed, ISO, you name it and it is on there.

Artemis: Carrying around a scouting camera package is not always possible, so for those shots that you want to line up with the director and choose lenses, enter Artemis.  This App gives you frame lines on your iphone depending on your lens size and aspect ratio.  Here is an example of using this tool to the max.  On AAA, we were shooting at Fontana raceway with three Nascar star drivers.  We went up in the stands to see what lens would be required to duplicate the Fox Sports camera coverage.  Now slinging around 500-800mm lenses in a scout package is kind of ridiculous, but with Artemis, you have all of them at a touch of a button on your phone with whatever camera you choose to shoot with, it will emulate your field of view from your position with frame lines.

CameraOrder: While you are choosing lens sizes and camera, you can now turn to CameraOrder App where you can plug in job and production company info.  Then systematically put your camera order together with the most extensive list of camera and lenses I have ever seen.  Once your order is completed, you can now send it out to the rental house as well as the production company with a few touch screen taps.

iTorch4: is a portable sun gun.  I have used this to bounce and light the SEALs in dark rooms operating at 1600 ISO and go deep to a 1.2. I have successfully lit a scene with this.  Utilizing  flash function on the iphone 4, this gives you a powerful source to bounce, go direct or whatever you prefer.

Photosyth: Scouting panoramas are so helpful and there is a new App that does this.  You simply fill up all the grey areas on your iphone screen by panning around 360 as well as your overhead and your underfoot areas.  Once you fill in the grey areas, the App seamlessly fuses all the pictures you have taken together and you can scroll around in your virtual perfect global panoramic.  An example of how this is helpful is for remembering details such as if there were street lamps that could flood the area at night. You overhead above you, can you get a condor or a crane in there? The surface that you were walking on, was it uneven, smooth, could you dolly on it?  These save time and money.  All these notes you never have the time to write down or slam into your memory banks.  On my recent Azerbaijan Olympic spot, I drove around in a van for 6 days scouting 187 different locations. We stayed approximately 5 to 10 minutes at each stop. Just enough to take my panorama and then figure out how I was going to light it and when it would be best for sunlight.  “Moving on” director Rupert Wainwright would say and I knew I had just enough information to pull it off with the Elite Team.

iHandy Carpenter:  This App gives you essential filmmaking tools on measuring distances and inclinations for tilt on camera VFX shots, as well as spirit & bubble levels.

FlickerFree Calculator: is a wonderful app that I stumbled onto.  I always have had my charts in my lighter pouch.  They miraculous disappeared while in Baku, so I quickly downloaded this app and it will calculate any frame rate and match it with a shutter speed so that you don’t get boned with all the different hertz sources.

Weather Bug (Elite): Weather forecasting is never an exact science but being in the know as much as possible is important.  Looking ahead in your schedule and trying to plan around possible weather coming in is a powerful tool.  Need a weather update that pulls from a location that is not the rocky mountains?  This is what Weather Bug (Elite) does.  You can pin point the closest weather station to you and get hour by hour forecasts.  This saved me in Oklahoma on Case IH. We could dodge the tornados that were heading towards us and relocate to a safe place to shoot combines churning up wheat.

Weather Radar: This app shows gorgeous animated graphics of weather moving your way.  Essential in tracking storms in New Mexico on Terminator Salvation.  This was our go to tool in watching the storms roll in from the North.

I hope this gives you a glimpse into my App Arsenal.  What Apps have you found that help you as a filmmaker?  We would love to hear your feedback.

Author: Shane

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36 Comments

  1. Thank you for this powerful round up of the most useful apps for us.

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  2. Awesome post, as always, Shane. Gonna try out some of those apps. Some apps to add to your list would be Sun Seeker, Panascout and Storyboard by Cinemek. Happy New Year!

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  3. Like Eric, I use and love Sun Seeker, I’d also add KataData, ViewFinder Cine (similar to Artemis, a little cheaper), TheGripApp (great when I have no idea what terms my grip is throwing at me!), and setLighting (great for deciding my lighting needs).

    Great suggestions Shane, may pick a couple of these up! Thanks!

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  4. Excellent list of apps Shane. Are there any frame rate calculators that you would recommend? For example, rate percentages that you can apply in post to simulate common shooting speeds, or 24fps playback speeds for common overcranking rates? Any Android equivalents in this list that you guys know of?

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  5. Some old friends here, and some new ones too. I would second Marko with KataData – just invaluable for calculating run times with Epic or Alexa for any given compression ratio/ card size/ fps etc. I also really like iSwatch which covers all my gel queries. It’s a great full on resource. Thanks, as ever.

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  6. Shane; Your list is great. The more the merrier.

    Several iPad2/iPhone film making apps I have found very useful are:
    Movie*Slate / Producer / CallSheet and ShotList.
    Cheers.

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  7. Download a few missing apps thanks to your great efforts Shane.

    Cheers Vision Wrangler

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  8. Writing to You from Poland! I’m a 5th year cinematography student i Lodz Filmschool. I’m writing my Master’s thesis on the topic of DSLR’s in film… First I’d like say Your blog is a great help! Right now I am writing about exsposur problems using flat picture styles like Technicolors Cine Style. I read the articel from Americna Cinematographer 2010-01 were You wrote: “The 7D’s smaller sensor results in
    greater depth-of-field compared to the
    5D, meaning you can shoot at a T2
    instead of a T5.6 and still have a fighting
    chance of keeping things in focus. On
    both cameras, though, the latitude is
    pretty extraordinary, and I’ve learned that
    you can’t use a light meter. I’ve been in
    situations where my meter read T.7 and
    we were exposing at a T4, and the subject
    looked like he was keyed.” Do I get something wrong? If the light meter shows You T.7 and You decide to exposure at a T.4 then ofcourse the beckground will gest overexposed and You’ll have the efect “like it was keyd”. But If You exposed it for what the lightmeter said, wouldn’t it be better? Thanks! Best regards

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    • Michal Gruszczynski, what I am saying is that I find to starve the sensor with light and try to underexpose more looks more filmic. That has bee my secret recipe.

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        • Michal Gruszczynski, not a problem. That is what I am here for.

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      • Shane, would you expand a little more on the response to Michal. It seems you said you are over-exposing (meter said T7 and I shot at T4) but that would mean you’re not starving the sensor of light but rather sending too much light to the sensor (T4 instead of what the meter indicated should be a T7). Would you take another swing please?

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        • Fletcher Murray, that is a .7 not a 7, which means I am underexposing it. I am all over the place with exposures with what looks good to my eye, but a good pearl is to underexpose at least 1 stop.

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  9. Another great App is Tech Scout. Its free and allows you to make Grip and Electric order forms easily and you can email them to a producer or rental house from the App.

    AJA calculator is a great one for figuring out how many Gb a clip would be at a certain run time and codec.

    Thanks Shane for an awesome blog, I read it a lot. It has a very large influence on my own cinematography. Keep up the good work, and I will keep reading!

    N

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  10. Wow, some of these apps are really clever. Who would have thought! There’s an app so that your shots can have the perfect amount of sun in them. Photosyth is pretty cool too. Panoramas in your pocket! These are truly wild (in a good way, of course).

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  11. Shane,

    Soon we will elect you the DSLR CZAR. Thanks for all the iPhone apps.

    My question is about picture styles. We found that Magic Bullet can only do so much before “banding” starts to appear in post. Would you recommend CineStyle as the best start point in recording the image initially. Or, if not, what do you set as your User Pref. so that Magic Bullet can have maximum flexibility with the image in post. Second question – though Canon doesn’t talk about it, I understand the 5D is a line-skipping camera. Does the 7D skip lines also? Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge, Shane.

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    • Fletcher Murray, thank you so much for your kind words. I use my own custom picture styles that I made, secret sauce. Yes, the 5D skips as well as the 7D. This is what gives you the moire effect when shooting tight patterns.

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  12. Hi Shane,

    Thanks for listing these apps. I’m curious as to why you use Match Lens when PCAM has the focal length match feature. Is there some advantage?

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  13. Be sure to check out Setkick (http://www.setkick.com) once they have their native iPad/iPhone app. It’s fully usable as a web app on the iPad, but their native apps will be out soon. Regardless this is a tool that will greatly speed up the scheduling, cast/crew management, and report generation for filmmakers, ADs and producers!

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    • Matt. Thanks for the suggestion, I will check it out.

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  14. Another app to consider is Map-A-Pic Location Scout — for location scouting.

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  15. I was wondering if there is an app or way to convert shutter degrees like – 180 degree shutter into what that would be on a Dslr? I have charts and things for shooting different frame rates but they are in the standard 180 degree shutter terms and not a Dslr converted format. Any help would be appreciated.

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    • Hi Chad.I always shoot with a 50th shutter on Hdslrs when shooting 24fps which is like a 180 degree shutter angle. 100th will will be a a 90, and so on.

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  16. Shane, I’m obviously a bit after-the-fact on this particular post, but I wanted to bring up the Lighting Designer app for iPad. It’s the only app out there that helps you create graphical layouts of your setups, to share with your crew. Check it out in the App Store!

    And the more feedback I get, the better. I’m updating constantly, so if there are any features you’d like to see, let me know! (I’m already working on power distribution, photometrics, and DMX control.)

    Keep up your fantastic work!

    Post a Reply
    • Clayton Combe. Thanks for the kind words and support. Sounds like a great app, I will have to check it out.

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    • Hb. Good suggestions. Thanks for the comment and support.

      Post a Reply
  17. Great article, although I’d like to add some pre-production app recommendations for story-boarding and script development.

    Index Cards – Has helped me tons in the initial stages of compiling ideas and structuring my story. Had color coded cards. Icing on the cake, it even syncs with Scrivener.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/index-card/id389358786?mt=8

    Scripts Pro – I’ve been using Scripts Pro for writing screenplays for over 3 years. It imports/export .txt and .fdx files and exports .pdf files. Files stay synced over iCloud. Easy to use, intuitive interface. Highly recommended for screenwriting.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scripts-pro/id348543183?mt=8

    Thanks Shane!

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  18. Hi Shane and everybody , I got some useful apps I use all the time , but is good to feed from others knowledge as well ,
    got some goodies after reading this blog, thanks for sharing all the Know How.
    This are some I use ….
    Set Lighting : has a vaste source of Light sources , pretty handy if you shoot around the world and have to adapt to different types of lights.
    http://esthegripapp.weebly.com/index.html

    Light Calc Lite
    When you have to calculate the power of a Lamp in a determined distance. Hope it helps someone

    Hope

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    • charly ritter, thanks for all of your kind words and the insight on this app.

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  19. there is also now DuoVid app, which allows you to display 2 videos side by side within the App. We use it for test shooting scenes, to get the right angle before we do the real one.

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    • craig, that is cool, thanks so much for sharing and supporting us

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