5 Useful Cinematography Android Apps (Part 2)

5 Useful Cinematography Android Apps (Part 2)

The smartphone is one of the best tools you can have in your pocket if you're going to be on a film set. It can be anything you need from a depth-of-field calculator to a clapperboard – if you're armed with the right apps, like these five cinematography apps available for Android.

Step on a film set and you may feel like you’re in an Apple store. All of those iPhones, iPads, Macbooks with the glowing Apple logo – they tend to dominate the electronics that crew use on set.

But Android is as strong as ever, increasingly making space for itself in the toolkit of the filmmaker.

Of course, a smartphone or a tablet by itself isn’t the most useful tool for cinematographers. Sure you can keep a schedule and check email, but the real power of the smartphone is in the apps – specifically apps designed for cinematographers that help calculate, measure, and reference.

And here are five practical, useful apps for those in the camera department with Android devices…

Pocket AC Android App IconPocket AC

Price: $9.99
Download: Google Play Store

I wish they made this app for the iPhone because I would download it in a heartbeat without thinking twice about the affordable $9.99 price tag.

Besides featuring one of the most beautiful digital interfaces I’ve seen in any app, Pocket AC – the AC standing for camera assistant – is packed full of tools, calculators, and references for anybody working within the camera department:

  • Depth of Field Calculator
  • Digital Runtime Calculator
  • Camera Specs Reference
  • Film Stocks Reference
  • Exposure
  • Field of View Calculator
  • Focus Chart
  • Insert Slate
  • And more…

There are too many features to list it all here. As one reviewer wrote, “This is the first genuinely professional AC tool I’ve found for Android, that doesn’t make me miss pCam or Toland on iOS. ”

Pocket AC Android Cinematography App Screenshots

Perhaps the most exciting feature, however, is the well-done camera reports tool. Listed in the app as “Camera Log,” it lets you keep camera reports organized by production, day, and scene. It also does an amazing job of having presets available for T-stops and ISO steps to quickly log info into the report. Best of all, when you want to add another take, you can choose “Use Info from Previous Shot.”

Pocket AC App Camera Log Screenshot

A screenshot of Camera Log mode in landscape.

Once you reach the end of the shoot day, you can then export the reports as a CSV or HTML file and send them along to a D.I.T., editor, or whomever else wants the digital paperwork in their inbox.

The only issue with the Camera Log feature is that it has a place for “Scene” but not for “Take,” so to increment a take, you’d have to manually add a take number to the Scene or, alternatively, put something in the Notes section.

Overall, Pocket AC is sleek, comprehensive, and cheap with only minor grievances. As far as Android apps go, this is “the one to rule them all.” Download it now and never look back.

Shot Designer Android App IconShot Designer

Price: Free ($19.99 for Pro Upgrade)
Download: Google Play Store

If Shot Designer sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s the same app available for iOS that I wrote about the last time we focused on cinematography apps. And, frankly, it’s pretty much the same thing – just now available for Android, too.

As I mentioned last time, Shot Designer might be the only app you need to build lighting, camera, and blocking diagrams. It features a fluid, no-nonsense interface and, while it looks simple, is incredibly powerful. As the developer says, it’s “camera blocking on steroids.”

Watch the video below for an idea of how fluid and dynamic the app can be:

The app is available as a free download initially, but heavy users are going to quickly find themselves having to purchase the “Pro Upgrade” for $19.99 that gives you additional features like multiple scene management, export capabilities, and a desktop version of the app as well.

Just like on iOS, my conclusion on Shot Designer is the same: for anybody who likes to diagram and has been looking for a digital alternative to paper, Shot Designer should be at the top of your list.

Green Screener Android App IconGreen Screener

Price: $9.99
Download: Google Play Store

This app is also from the same developer as Shot Designer and also was previously featured as an iOS app earlier in this series. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t cool and worth downloading.

Because Green Screener is a novel idea in a sea of depth-of-field calculators and storyboarding apps.

What Green Screener does is help you light a green screen as flatly and evenly as possible for an easier key in post-production. The way it works is, using your device’s camera, Green Screener breaks down the image to have less color variables, and then shows you the bands (or strips) of the image as they relate to different levels of light. For more details, we can turn to their website:

Put simply, it takes your device camera and breaks the green channel (or red, blue or luminance) into 4, 8 or 16 bands. We correlate that to roughly 2-Stop, 1-Stop or ½ Stop resolution between the bands.

In reality, the keyer doesn’t know anything about Stops, all it sees is RGB values (256 levels in 8-bit color spaces), and all it cares about is the difference in RGB values. Ideally, we’d like there to be less than 32 RGB values (1/8th of the range) in total variation.

Because Green Screener isn’t completely accurate in a scientific F-stop sense. It’s simply RELIABLE in what it does, and it represents what a keyer sees much closer than a light-meter or a waveform-monitor.

Green Screener Android App Screenshot

A screenshot from the app showing what the banding looks like

Now when you light using Green Screener, you strive to keep that banding as even as possible across the backdrop. It’s an app that will best be supplemented with a trained eye and light meter, but for $10 this is a steal of a tool and a clever method for lighting a nice, even key.

(Also, because it will work on the green, red, blue, or luma channels, you can theoretically use this to light any colored surface evenly —  including blue screens.)

For $9.99, you get to add Green Screener as another item in your lighting toolkit along with your meter, waveforms, and histograms. It may do similar things to those other tools, but in a more comprehensive and visual way.

Android Grip Android App IconAndroid Grip

Price: $5.99
Download: Google Play Store

I’m not sure I could ever be a grip.

I’m terrible at hauling taco carts, I’m clumsy when opening a C-stand, and there’s way too many names and nicknames for all the various bits and bobs of gear in the back of the grip truck.

Well, if I ever decide to step over to the grip side, I could at least get help with the names and nicknames by using the Android Grip app – a solid reference resource for everything grip that helps you learn names, equipment, and more.

Android Grip Android App Screenshots

Those looking for something like The Grip Book in app form may be disappointed as this is more like a reference/spec sheet of different grip gear including dollies, cranes, stands, and other pieces of gear.

But if you’re someone who likes to have the width of a Cardellini jaw readily available or you struggle to remember what a baby double pin looks like, this app is for you.

Light Meter Tools Android App IconLight Meter Tools

Price: $2.99
Download: Google Play Store

This app turns your Android device into a light meter. As the description explains, it’s “a reflected light meter with spot metering (using the device’s camera) and an incident light meter (using the device’s light sensor) in one app. Tested accurate against Gossen and Sekonic meters on most devices.”

I can’t vouch for the accuracy personally, but the reviews are positive with an overall score of 4.3 out of 5 stars. There’s also a trial version if you want to test it yourself before downloading the full version.

Light Meter Tools Screenshot

Along with metering, the app also has a depth of field calculator, an EXIF data reader, and a Sunny Sixteen calculator. Basic tools, but it can’t hurt to save a few taps from switching apps.

It’s unlikely that a consumer device will replace the dedicated light meter sitting squarely on your hip, but if you don’t have a light meter or like the idea of having a backup, Light Meter Tools is your best bet in the Android app world. And at only $3, it beats every meter on the market in price.

The Gap Between Android and Apple is Closing

The big knock against Android for years has been the number of apps available, but that’s beginning to change. Android is starting to close the gap with the same apps as iOS (like Shot Designer) or exclusive apps that look to challenge their Apple competitors (like Pocket AC).

For cinematographers, this is great news! It means more options for devices to bring to set and a more robust kit of not just physical tools, but advanced software apps.

Digital cinematography may traditionally refer to cinema cameras outfitted with digital sensors, but it’s also about the other digital tools we adopt that change how we light, shoot, and make movies.

All you need is a smartphone or tablet to join the revolution…

Click Here for More Useful Cinematography Apps

  • Gerald Wiblin

    I’ve tested Light Meter Tools on the S3 against my Minolta Autometer IV and it gives wildly different results. The app is meant to apply a profile for each phone’s light sensor, but I don’t trust it much. Might be acceptable for figuring out ratios, but I wouldn’t trust it as my primary meter or even for setting my exposure.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Thanks for the figures/tests on that Gerald! I don’t have an Android phone nor a light meter myself, so it made it difficult to judge the accuracy. Some of the reviews on the app site claim that it’s just as accurate, but it makes sense that it would vary by phone model since some sensors may be more sensitive than others.

      Interesting to see it tested against a Minolta though, so thanks for sharing.