photo credit: Cristiano Betta
At the time the first installment of this series about useful cinematography apps was written, Apple’s iOS App Store had 150,000 apps, which was a huge number. Now the App Store has over 500,000 apps — more than a 300% increase.
Those apps have been downloaded more than 15 billion times, or about 2 downloads for every person living on the planet!
There’s no arguing with the numbers that the iPhone platform is more powerful than ever. As a resourceful filmmaker, your job is to capitalize on any tool that can help you work on set faster, better, and with more efficiency. Having a smartphone enables you to do just that.
So here’s five useful cinematography iPhone apps that you can put to use on set today.
A major part of pre-production for cinematographers and camera assistants is compiling a list of all the gear needed. From heads and sticks to lenses and filters, every single piece of gear has to be itemized for the producers to negotiate the package with the rental house.
Enter Camera Order, a comprehensive reference tool for almost every conceivable piece of gear you’d be renting.
Until now, you had to cross-reference multiple gear lists, individual rental houses or go off your own knowledge, but Camera Order simplifies that by containing all the gear in one place and even cross-referencing it for you. That means you can find out if you’ll need different matte boxes for different lenses all within the app.
But even as a reference tool itself, Camera Order is worth the $19.99 price tag. It gives you information on each piece of gear’s capabilities such as weight and resolution for cameras and aperture speeds for lenses.
Out of all the apps on this list, Camera Order got me the most excited with its sexy design and full-featured capabilities. This app is a prime example of how camera assistants can benefit from owning a smartphone. Where everyone else is focusing on slate apps or depth-of-field calculators, Camera Order provides something truly useful and unique.
I can’t wait to use it on my next gig.
Though the name implies you have to be shooting on a DSLR to utilize the app, the DSLR Filmmaker Toolkit is actually a comprehensive collection of cinematography tools.
Included in it are:
- Shot Log
- Depth-of-field calculator
- Sunrise/Sunset Tables
That’s a solid list of functions, many of which I have separate apps for, but wouldn’t mind having a single interface to deal with. And what an interface it is — the design of the app is beautiful with crisp, clean lines and textures in just the right places (like traces of chalk on the slate).
When watching the introduction video for the app, you’ll be particularly amazed by the slate functionality. I’ve never been a huge fan of software-based slates, but the DSLR Filmmaker Toolkit approaches it in a smart way: When you “slate,” instead of some cheesy clapping animation, it displays all of the meta-data you enter really fast then flashes the screen with a sound.
Unfortunately, there is one area where the DSLR Filmmaker Toolkit does succumb to its namesake. The DOF Calculator only provides calculations for DSLR cameras. The app is fairly new, however, so perhaps in further updates this will be changed.
ShotList is an app designed for scheduling and the production end of things, but contains one feature that you would enjoy having — the ability to cross off shots and storyboards as you go.
As its name suggests, the app creates and manages shot lists and storyboards for film productions. If you’re like me, you often carry a shot list around for reference and cross off finished setups as you go. In many cases, the director of photography I work for likes for me to keep track of this for him.
ShotList would help achieve that task immensely. The lists can be shared with different production personnel and can also be turned into strip boards. While those features may interest the assistant director type in you, the feature I most want is the giant red “X” overlayed on shots that are long done.
Most of the time when shooting timelapse footage, it’s a guessing game.
You’re given a frame-rate or interval to shoot at, you set the camera, and you record until the particular event is done or when it feels “long enough.” This approach works, but is not as precise as many would hope. Even in instances where I’ve wanted more control, I’ve defaulted to the old count-to-ten and stop recording method.
That’s where cine TimeLapse comes in.
Cine TimeLapse is designed to help you calculate how long you need to run the camera to end with your desired length of footage. This is the perfect app for when you’re on set and unsure of what the best timelapse settings are.
Simply run some numbers in cine TimeLapse and give the director of photography an idea of how long their finished footage will be.
This app is particularly useful for when you will be recording timelapse of longer events. In that case, having the wrong frame interval for the timelapse can waste hours of time and footage. Instead, use the calculator to nail down the precise settings and exact amount of time needed to record. You won’t waste time nor film/media.
When you step on set knowing nothing at all it’s intimidating, especially when there are nicknames and lingo for just about everything. In the last installment of this series, I wrote about Gobo, a filmmaking dictionary that’s fairly comprehensive — enough to warrant a spot on my phone.
TheGripApp, however, takes things a step further with pictures, diagrams, and specifications in addition to teaching you what things are and how they’re used. The list of equipment is divided into four categories: dollies, cranes, hardware, and rigs.
You’d be right to think this app focuses entirely on the grip and electric (G&E) departments, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful to cinematographers and camera assistants. Camera crews can benefit from knowing what kind of rigs, cranes, and dollies exist and how they function to and properly use them.
If you learn enough, maybe you’ll get the dolly grip to buy you a beer.
As a reference on set, theGripApp is great, but as a full-fledged manual it fills a gap in production knowledge for those new to the industry and its focus on teaching safety can’t be overstated.
Unlock the Potential of Your iPhone
Whether you’re looking to learn, adapt, or supplement your job on set, the plethora of useful apps available on the iPhone is growing at a rapid rate. For those of us that seek out new tools everyday, this is great news.
The even better news is your iPhone fits right inside your pocket. You can keep a level, a calculator, and even a slate all within one device in your jeans.
While the digital counterparts to our physical tools aren’t always perfect — or ideal — the potential is there. If you don’t believe me, just step on a film set and count the number of iPhones.
Actually… it might be easier to count the number of phones that aren’t iPhones.