Archive for the ‘iDevices’ Category

Three iPad Apps for Serious Moviemaking

Monday, May 7th, 2012

I’m about to start production again on both a classroom video project and an independent short movie outside of the classroom.  The planning stages are an exciting time, especially after taking a break from moviemaking for a couple of years.  This is the first time I’m shooting without tape.  We’re using a DSLR with interchangeable lenses.  And it’s the first time I’m shooting with the aid of both an iPhone and iPad.  The iPad wasn’t even invented the last time I made a movie.  It’s amazing to see how the iDevices are changing the filmmaking process.

I had the opportunity to receive evaluation copies of three iPad apps that I have included for a long time on my app wish list.  Each app currently costs $29.99 so they are relatively expensive as far as apps go.  I’ve been working with each of them for about two weeks and I’ll explain here what they do so you can make a decision on whether they would help your production.

Artemis (Director’s Viewfinder) HD

With Director’s Viewfinder, you select your camera and choose the lenses that you own.  The app shows you how much of the image you will see (referred to as Field of View) when using lenses of different focal lengths on your camera.  Most DSLR cameras crop the image because of the relatively small size of their sensor.  This app corrects for that cropping and shows you precisely what you’d be seeing with your lenses.

On a single screen you can see what the scene would look like when using any one of your lenses.  This is much easier than changing lenses  on a DSLR multiple times to find the best lens.

You can also take a picture of the scene at a particular focal length and record information about the focal length on the frame.  The captured frames can be used within the Storyboard app below to show you exactly what you’re going to see on screen or you can simply print them out or e-mail them to crew members.

Physical Director’s Viewfinders can cost hundreds of dollars and this app is far less than that.  If you are using a DSLR as your camera, this app is pretty much indispensable.  We are using it both for deciding which lenses we will need to purchase and to plan out our shots.

It’s been practical as well as educational.  I am used to shooting video with a fixed lens so I have a lot to learn about focal lengths.  I’ve fired up this app several times just for a refresher on how different focal lengths would affect the image.

Director’s Viewfinder from Artemis is not universal so you would need to purchase both the iPhone and iPad version if you need both.  The iPad real estate makes for a far better app experience but then again, the iPhone camera is generally easier to use and of better quality than the iPad’s camera.

Storyboard Composer HD is the app that I imagine would be most valuable to typical classrooms doing moviemaking.  You take a picture of a location (ideally the location where you’ll be shooting) and then you can insert people into the image.  You have the option of inserting men or women and positioning them forwards or to the side.  You can also easily simulate camera motion (pans and zoos).  We’ve been using the app in combination with Director’s Viewfinder…inserting images shot with Director’s Viewfinder into storyboard composer and completing sample storyboards there.

You can easily export PDFs of your storyboards which will be helpful for sharing boards with crew members.

Storyboard Composer HD is universal so you only need to buy it once for iPhones and iPads.  The bigger iPad user interface provides a better ease of use.  However, as I said, unless you have the newest iPad, photos you take with your iPad will likely be a little grainy and so the iPhone is preferable in that respect.

I still haven’t decided if it’s easier to storyboard using software or using paper and pencil but I am someone who has had much experience with the latter.  If someone has never storyboarded before this is an excellent tool for teaching them how to do it and it provides an advantage in terms of accuracy, sharing potential, and and clarity of vision.  It’s clearly the best software storyboarding tool I’ve used so far.

Movie*Slate (Clapperboard and Shot Log)

Whereas the other two apps are useful in the preproduction stages of moviemaking, Movie*Slate is for your production use.

Movie*Slate is a digital clapperboard and has many advantages over a chalk clapperboard in that it automatically advances the shot numbers and provides the time onscreen.  Although Final Cut Pro X has a feature to automatically sync audio and video captured from two separate devices, in the event that anything goes wrong it will be invaluable to have the accurate time information provided by this app.  The app also allows you to take notes after each take which will help in the editing process since those notes can be exported.

There are several bonus features like screens for focusing and setting exposure.  The app can also be greatly expanded through in-app purchases for sound and timecode which I haven’t tried.  Movie*Slate is universal but the small size of the phone probably makes for a less optimal experience if you need to be able to read the text on screen of your video camera.


It’s awesome when you find that there are apps that can transform the iPad into new tools.  All three of these apps are well designed and provide useful functionality for your production.  The apps work well as a team but if you can only afford one you must decide what your production needs are and what can be accomplished (albeit less efficiently) without the apps.

If you have any questions about the apps I’m happy to answer them below.  If you have movie making apps you’d like to suggest you can leave them down below as well.


iPhoneography: Unleash Creativity

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Follow me on Instagram. Username: needleworks

Follow me on Instagram. Username: needleworks

My latest creative interest has been iPhoneography. Last year I purchased a DSLR camera, lenses, cases, accessories, and more. I took a class and I’ve even gotten pretty good at using the manual settings. However, on a recent vacation I found myself reaching for the phone much more often than I did the DSLR. It’s small, it’s fast, and it’s immediate. I would take photos with the iPhone, have them transfer wirelessly via Photostream to my iPad back at the hotel and then edit the photos with the iPad.

The DSLR photos are certainly sharper and the lenses give me much more flexibility than I have with the iPhone. However, I much prefer the editing apps on the iPad than my desktop tools. The tactile nature of touching and swiping make it a breeze to quickly add effects.

My favorite photo editing apps are Photo Wizard HD and Snapseed. Both apps are frequently available for free if you wait long enough. The best app for sharing photos is Instagram. With Instagram, I am able to quickly share photos to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s built in social network. The feedback, or lack thereof, from other users encourage greater picture taking.

My photos are now so much more dramatic and I feel like I am have photographic success. I am trying to post at least one photo per day. I find that the process of taking pictures is leading to greater creativity overall in my life. Imagine what it could do for your classroom.

Our iPad Apps

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

When deploying iPads to my schools I chose to place all of the apps in folders so that teachers who were not familiar with the apps would feel comfortable exploring apps based on what they were trying to teach.  Below you’ll see  a screenshot of one of our iPads which gives you an idea of our organizational system.

Here is iPad Apps Installed List.  The location column lists the folder in which I installed the apps.  The apps shown in the picture below may vary slightly since this is a screen shot from the iPad I’m using and some apps aren’t necessarily installed on everyone else’s device.

Not every app is used often or used at all.  I did a lot of downloading of free apps and sent them out to teachers to see if they might find use of them.

How to Add a Favorite Web Page to Home Screen

Monday, February 13th, 2012

You may wish to add favorite web sites to home screen.  We do this at our school to have easy access to attendance, DIBELS, and

Here are step by step directions.

1.  Visit favorite web site.

2.  Select share icon to the left of address bar.

3.  Choose “Add to Home Screen”

4.  Confirm that the name makes sense (for web sites with long names, you may have to abbreviate) and click the word “Add.”

5.  Find your favorite web site on your home screen.  By default it will appear at the bottom of one of your pages but feel free to move the app to a folder or another page.  You can also rename it later if you wish.  (Click and hold on any icon until it starts to slightly wiggle  to move the app or rename).



Is There a Place for “Drill and Kill” on the iPad?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Last week, I posted on Twitter when a highly engaging math app went on sale for 60% off.  I didn’t oversell it by any means:

It’s just drill and kill simple math facts with fancy graphics and music but it’s fun.

I’m torn on whether to mention the name of the app here (I will list all the apps we use in a future post).  However, imagine an app with a first class movie soundtrack, mission impossible-like graphics, and an excitement that is not present in many other apps.  Yes, I do consider it “drill and kill” but as an app of this kind, it’s best in class.

I received this self-righteous response from a twitterer I don’t know and won’t mention:

How can anyone consider drill and kill fun?  Lets move onward & stop promoting these kind of apps!

I don’t consider this particular app fun.  My math intervention students do.

The twitterer went on to tell me that what I was doing was “immoral” and suggested I have students make an iMovie or Doodlecast about how they found their answers instead.

Let me back up and explain a little bit how I used the app.  With our single iPad hooked up to a projector at the beginning of class, my intervention students trickled in from recess, students shouted out answers to questions as they came up on the screen.  I sometimes guided students to count backward 9-2 or count up 9-5.  We discussed adding and subtracting doubles (3+3, 8-4) and near-doubles (3+4, 8-5).  Then as a treat, small groups of students used the iPad individually to complete some of the games.

If we bought the iPads just to do games like these I would say that we’ve wasted a lot of money.  The first PD I lead for teachers on using the iPads (after the one about how to turn the device on) is how to use iMovie.  I begin the PDs discussing both Bloom’s Taxonomy and Needleman’s Technology Taxonomy:

However, to say that we should not use any apps that encourage the memorizing of facts stinks to me of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I wrote a post Are You Smarter Than a Google Search? suggesting that how you collect, synthesize, and apply knowledge is more important than having it memorized.  However, the idea that you don’t need to have any knowledge at all is ridiculous.  While I encourage kindergarten teachers to teach the meaning of numbers (e.g. 3 is 2 and 1 more) in addition to teaching students to count.  However, I also see that students who do not know basic math facts struggle when doing anything else related to math.

“Drill and Kill” is just one of the many things you can do on an iPad.  If it’s the only thing you’re doing then you might as well invest in a good set of flashcards.  I don’t want it to be the toolbox but I do think it has a place in the toolbox.

If you think I’m doing it all wrong.  Let me know in the comments.

Also worth reading is Diane Darrow’s mapping of iOS apps to Bloom’s Taxonomy.