A couple of months ago, I did a post that featured three useful cinematography/camera assisting iPhone apps to have on set. In my introduction, I stated that “the Apple iPhone is undoubtedly one of the most powerful phones out on the market today” and that “there are plenty of apps to help you become more efficient on set and make the iPhone one of your essential tools.”
Now with the release of the iPhone 4, the app store has only become larger as well as the user base of the phone, even within the few months since my last post. Since then, many apps have come into the store that I wasn’t able to cover in my original post.
Below you’ll find five apps that have the potential to turn your iPhone into a powerful tool on set for cinematographers, directors, and camera assistants.
Within the past year, especially with the boon to the worldwide box office from Avatar, 3D has exploded onto the mainstream market (as well as this site). This iPhone app has just recently debuted last month to help those shooting in stereoscopic 3D.
While I have yet to shoot in 3D (hoping to sometime this Fall if all goes well) I can imagine there is a relative scarcity of resources for information and tools for it. This app should help solve the problem.
Developed by Ian Macmillan, the app provides depth of field, parallax and convergence calculations for stereoscopic 3D and also provides a glossary of terms. It’s a simple app with a clean design – perfect for quick input and easy data retrieving.
The app is incredibly detailed, even letting you see pixel offset between the two images needed to provide a three dimensional image. For anyone about to shoot 3D, I’d recommend this app as it seems to be the only one able to do all this and it’s fairly cheap for what it does.
Toland ASC Digital Assistant
The American Society of Cinematographers is one of the most respected brands in the motion picture industry. Responsible for the American Cinematographers Manual as well as the American Cinematographer magazine, the ASC is constantly providing it’s members and the public with resources that seek to further the art of cinematography for future generations.
Despite great offerings for depth-of-field calculators such as pCam, the ASC came out with it’s own app.
This app, however, goes much further than a simple DoF calculator. It can calculate stops you lose to filters, varispeed and shutter angles and even takes into account lenses, film stock and format.
It’s highly comprehensive (I especially like the “Flicker Alert”) and from the reviews, it seems to be very complicated, though it rewards you with the ability to manipulate the app to a high degree if you read the manual. Sort of like Photoshop – frustrating if you don’t know how to use it, but extremely powerful if you do.
Yes it stands at a steep $39.99, but the app has a clean design and is more powerful than similar options such as pCam mentioned above and in the last post. This app even lets you log clips, a sort of digital camera report. All very useful.
Kodak Cinema Tools
Kodak is another respected name in the film industry as a major provider of motion picture film stock. They’re constantly advertising in American Cinematographer about shooting on film and it’s advantages over digital.
In an attempt to help this push against technology with technology itself, Kodak has released their own iPhone app.
Though I’ve listed many depth-of-field calculators both in this post and the last, the Kodak one has the great advantage of being offered free.
And unlike iSee4k, the other free depth of field app, the Kodak one offers a cleaner and more pleasant user interface.
Though those shooting on digital will be disappointed that Kodak only offers DoF calculations for film which shouldn’t be surprising given their vested interest in the medium. Beyond simple DoF, the app also advertises itself as a film footage calculator as well as a highly comprehensive glossary of terms – like having the Filmmaker’s Handbook in your pocket.
My guess is if you’re worrying about slating, you probably have access to a real slate already no matter how cheap or expensive it may be.
That said, there are situations that arise that it may be useful to have a slate app on your iPhone. Some situations could be an insert slate, when shooting run and gun, or if you are shooting something small and don’t want to attract attention with a bigger slate.
The app is it’s own timecode slate, letting you set the timecode to time of day or manual jam-sync it. To slap the sticks you flick your wrist or simply tap them. A great feature is that you can also email log notes that are taken with timecode notation to anybody in production.
There’s not much else to say except that it’s a slate that is on a phone – not very practical for anything major but has a great use as an insert slate of some kind.
If you haven’t noticed the trend in this post it’s that well-branded companies in the film industry have started to release apps for the iPhone. Panavision is the latest to make their entry into the app store with Panascout.
From the company that provides most of the equipment to the highest budget movies in the industry, Panavision’s app has a quality and service to live up to.
To be honest, from Panavision, the app leaves something to be desired but perhaps that’s because I downloaded and used the “Lite” version. The whole idea behind Panascout is to provide a companion app for location scouting. It allows you to use the iPhone camera to snap pictures of locations with the “Panaframe” that frames up different aspect ratios.
It also geotags the picture as well as records metadata for sun position and sunrise/sunset so that you aren’t caught chasing the sun. You can then email this data to various centers of information to store.
While it certainly isn’t the most valuable app or the most important, it is somewhat useful for cinematographers with an extra $10 to spend. The lite version limits you only to Panaframe, date/time and email.
Turn Your Phone into a Powerful Tool for Your Kit
Many of these apps are highly specialized such as 3D ST or Panascout, yet some of them are very applicable such as the ASC app or Kodak Cinema Tools. If you have money to spend in the app store, you can turn your iPhone into an invaluable tool on set. If you have an old iPhone and bought a new iPhone 4, it just might be the perfect reason to slip an iPhone into your kit permanently.