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Four Cool Apps That Help Turn Phones Into Pro-Grade Cameras

By Nijla Mumin | Indiewire August 23, 2011 at 4:43AM

One of the reasons Cisco killed the popular Flip cam was its users' phones did nearly the same thing. They were right; Flip's death now looks like the start of a filmmaking revolution.
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Four Cool Apps That Help Turn Phones Into Pro-Grade Cameras
Clockwise, from top left: The GoPro camera, Artemis, Camer8 and Helios.

One of the reasons Cisco killed the popular Flip cam was its users' phones did nearly the same thing. They were right; Flip's death now looks like the start of a filmmaking revolution.

In its purest form, it's called iphoneography -- still or moving images shot and edited with only an iPhone. However, the underlying idea applies to any smartphone, and even to new forms of cameras that cost less than, well, an iPhone.

The affordability means pro-grade tools are in many more hands; according to Nic Sadler, lead product designer at app house Chemical Wedding, people buying these products range from “film students to Academy Award winners.”

And it seems possible, at some point, that a full-fledged shoot will require only camera apps and phone attachments. That said: Buying an app doesn't make anyone a filmmaker.

Here's a look at some of the coolest camera apps and gadgets we've seen.

Artemis. This director's viewfinder is designed to extend the use of the traditional viewfinder by allowing users to save images with data that can be helpful in planning. Produced by cinematographer and Chemical Wedding lead product designer Nic Sadler, he said it was designed for the professional cinematographer. “They weren’t aimed at the amateur market, though we have a wide cross-section of users,” he says. Price: $29.99. Available for Android and iPhones at the Android Market. Producer: Chemical Wedding.


Helios. A sun position calculator that graphically predicts the path of the sun through out the day. Perfect for filmmakers who need to plan a shoot around changing sunlight. A lifesaver for filmmakers whose productions rely on daylight, as it graphically represents the position of the sun through out the day. It incorporates a database of over 30,000 locations around the world, including daylight savings, time zone and latitude information. Both apps are available for $29.99 on iTunes Preview. Price: $29.99; available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Producer: Chemical Wedding.


Camer8. This iPhone app is dedicated to authentic Super 8 video processing while providing HD resolution. Comes equipped with a super 8 viewfinder, trigger button, interchangeable frame rate and six filters. “Looks great, I think," says Bruce Cheung, an independent filmmaker and grad student at NYU film school. "Really vintage and has a great mood. I’m feeling like it's harder to tell the difference now between film and digital." The price is right, but users reviews complain of crashes since its most recent update. Price: .99. Available for iPhone or iPod Touch at iTunes Preview. Producer: Bits of Cat Software.


GoPro Cameras. This one isn't phone based, but it's so impressive we had to include it: Compact HD cameras, the size of small point-and-shoot devices, that can be attached to cars, surfboards, helmets, and bikes for high-action shooting. Captures HD-quality footage in most high-octane situations. Great for low-budget filmmakers attempting risky, sports-related, or action shots. Price: $180-$300. Available at GoPro Official Store. Producer: GoPro.

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit