Below we’ve gathered handful of apps that cinematographers can’t seem to get enough of. Though our first piece in this series had a few on there already, this round is specifically dedicated to our dear camera crews.
FiLMiC Pro (for all iOS devices – $7.99)
In a nutshell, this app gives your iPhone better zoom, better control over frame rates and better audio recording options, like line level audio input through disabling the AGC (automatic gain control) and stereo microphone support. You can actually record footage at up to 50mbps. And like an actual DSLR, FiLMic Pro has many presets that are customizable, like adjustable frame rate and resolutions, framing options, image stabilization and audio and video encoding levels. In the iOS 8 version, you not only get control over exposure, focus and white balance, but additional manual control over exposure compensation, shutter speed, color temperature and ISO. You can even pull focus. Using the Extreme encoding option, FiLMiC Pro beat the $5,000 Sony FS100 and tied the $13,000 Canon C300 in blind audience testing at the 2012 Zacuto: Revenge of the Great Camera Shoot Out. Granted, it was the iOS6 version of FiLMiC Pro on an iPhone 4S that was featured in the Zacuto shootout, but the same 50mbps FiLMiC Extreme encoding that was used in that test is in the app today.
This app might be best for the young buck who is making a living wherever s/he can, trying to build up a reel while making rent in Los Angeles. Or if you’re shooting a super low-budget indie and need some easy footage for your social media campaign, Switcher Studio would work for that too. They’ve had a radio station use it to stream live video of their Saturday morning talk show, too. The point is, this app – which debuted only six months ago – is for anyone/everyone. It functions as a video “switching” tool that allows users to sync up to four iOS devices, switching between each unit’s built-in camera, and allowing users to record the final mixed video and stream a live video feed to services like Ustream and YouTube Live. A subscription of $20/month for unlimited streaming allows you to work across the devices on the same WiFi network (yes, you need WiFi to use it) within 1,000 feet of each other. One device acts as the master controller and that device operator serves as the video “producer.” For $500 a year you get access to all the Switcher Studio Pro features, like being able to pull stills from your photo library to add to the final product.
Shotlister (for iPhone, iPad – $13.99)
While this app won’t eliminate the need for an assistant director, it will certainly reduce your paper waste on set. Shotlister, which does exactly as its title suggests, does a few other cool things too: the ability to update/change the shots in real time and share with everyone immediately, storyboards images corresponding with each shot, tells you if you’re ahead, behind or on schedule, exports the project and much more. At two-and-a-half years old, it’s certainly not the only shot list app on the market – as it boldly claims – but it’s one of the most popular and highest rated.
This is one of those things that will make us stupider (think: calculator), but it sure is handy. While solar panel installers are using it at the same time the gardener next door is too, it’s still a must-have for filmmakers. Sun Surveyor predicts the position of the sun and the moon (azimuth, altitude, time) for any given time and place. Planning shots with that perfect shadow has never been easier, and with a 3D compass, interactive map and street view, augmented reality and a detailed ephemeris, it all just got really fun as well. There are a host of other sun positioning apps available as well, including Sun Seeker, which is only one star below Sun Surveyor in overall ratings, and also costs $6.99.
The original Cine Meter app was only five bucks, but it also wasn’t nearly as good as the second version is. I think it will take a lot to completely do away with light meters, and people like Wally Pfister, ASC will never entirely do away with them, but Cine Meter II is allegedly giving the 100-year-old contraption a run for its legacy. In its infancy, it already offered more than a traditional light meter – waveform monitor and false color display – and now it’s giving cinematographers lots more. Now you can set shutter angle, ND filter compensation, and arbitrary filter factors, use the front-facing camera for “light meter selfies,” the spot meter zooms in up to 15x, and there’s the option to add a Luxi photosphere for incident-light readings for $30. Best of all, Cine Meter II doesn’t require a WiFi connection, nor does it use any of your phone’s data.
Yet another option for replacing a brick-and-mortar version of on-set relics – (Anyone else getting nostalgic yet?) – is Artemis, a director’s viewfinder app. Having been among the first viewfinder apps out there back in 2009, Artemis is bound to be on most directors’ and cinematographers’ mobile devices. The app gives the user frame lines according to the lens size and aspect ratio you enter. Version 6 debuted in 2012, and included a redesigned UI, support for AirPlay and the ability to store snapshots a la metadata into a gallery.