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.
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.
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.