Smart phones and apps are making all of our jobs easier, particularly those of us that work in film and television. With hundreds of iOS apps available that target filmmaking, which ones are actually used by industry professionals? I put the question on Facebook, and rounded up the apps that my colleagues use the most on the job. Since this my blog, I also included my favorites that I can’t work without.
Remember to write-off any technology purchases that help you do your job. (This includes your iPhone, iPad, any work-related premium apps, and monthly usage fees.)
This app is the one that made me realize how versatile and helpful smartphones can be on set. At a price tag of $29.99 (plus $49.99 for in-app purchases), MovieSlate is far from cheap — yet it provides several perks that mere clapperboard apps do not, such as timecode synchronization via headphone jack.
Also download: Timecode Buddy
This is iPhone app is dearly loved by directors, directors of photography, gaffers, and photographers. When scouting a location, it’s rare that the time of day of the scout matches the time of day when you’ll actually film there. That’s when this app is a lifesaver, and helps DPs make decisions on how much additional lighting support they’ll need.
pCam Film + Digital Pro
pCam has been making calculations for photographers, cinematographers, camera operators, camera assistants, gaffers, script supervisors, etc. for 17 years — since the early days of the Palm. Designed specifically for photographers and filmmakers, pCam comes with a long list of features worthy of its own blog post — and it may be the most popular app in the film industry.
First ADs and directors on the go are fans of the Shot Lister app, an app designed by fellow filmmakers. With Shot Lister, you can organize, schedule, and share shot lists; you can also continually tweak while you’re on set. The super-techy will love that it’s also compatible with Apple Watch.
Cine Meter II
Light meters still have a broader range of capabilities (they’re also much more expensive), but as app technology gets better and more versatile, Cine Meter II has grown in popularity as a spotmeter for cinematographers. Its niche is very specific, designed solely for film and video use, and it can’t measure strobing. Be sure to read the fine print to be certain it’ll fit your needs. (To learn more about light metering, here’s an outline.)
I’m no audio geek, but I’ve been told this app is a must-have for audio mixers and sound engineers that are constantly dealing with new environments. FreqFinder is dearly loved by some of the industry’s top field mixers as it allows them to keep track of available frequencies.
This app is a wonderful idea, and fills a need for beginners and professionals alike! theGripApp defines every piece of grip gear, along with explaining the application and how and when to use the gear. It’s a great way to learn the inside of a grip truck without having to pester the best boy.
This app was designed originally for camera assistants to jot quick notes, but even as a segment producer, it’s the app I use the most on set. The key is to manually sync the app’s timecode the same time your cameramen jam-sync their cameras, so that your notes will make sense for anyone in post production that will use your field notes as a guide.
I find the app somewhat limiting when taking detailed field notes (and the way it gets exported isn’t very visually appealing), but I often use the timecode as reference when monitors aren’t available.
Crew Time Card
Timecards are the most important piece of paper on a set. A filled out timecard gets you paid! If you work a lot of long and weird hours that differ from day to day, it can be a headache trying to remember your in and out times, especially if you’ve been too busy to jot it down. Speaking from personal experience, my memory isn’t the sharpest after working a 70+ hour week. And you deserve every penny of overtime!
The Crew Time Card app keeps track those hours and overtime pennies easily. Just plug it in at the end of each day, and you’ll have a perfectly composed timecard to either submit or copy at the end of the week.
Production Management Apps
Pocket Call Sheet
This is another good-looking app that will allow you to arrange the call sheet details for your upcoming shoot without needing your laptop. (Also, if you hate fighting with Excel, this may be a great solution.)
For low-budget, independent, or student films, this app is a GODSEND. It’s compatible with an iPhone, it would be easier in practice on an iPad.
I love that there’s the option to attach a photo with a release, as release photos are the biggest headache when trying to acquire signatures from mass quantities of people.
Network shows tend to require hard copy signatures, so while this app has the ability to import your lawyer’s official jargon, “digital signatures” are not widely accepted on a broad scale yet. However, if you just need a way to cover yourself as a backup for small or personal projects, this app is perfect.
A FANTASTIC app for freelancers! I’ll even make a bold claim: these invoices look sleeker that any pre-made invoice you’re currently using.
I was recently working in the field and I needed to cobble together an invoice on my iPhone. To make invoicing even more complicated, there were several variables to the project: full-rate days, half-rate travel days, reimbursement for mileage, reimbursement for props, meal receipts, office supplies, etc. etc. With only my phone, I downloaded Invoice Manager and TinyScan (for the receipts)– much to my surprise, I was completely caught up in 15 minutes, with a very sleek and professional invoice.
I LOVE THIS APP. The main offices for several production companies is in another city, and when you need to scan dozens of releases or receipts, TinyScan saves the day. It allows you to “batch capture”, meaning you can take photos of everything you need to scan and then process them all, and export them into a single PDF. You can also delete individual files or alter the order after the photo has been taken.
General Apps That You Need On Set
You’re shooting outside; there’s an ominous amount of gray clouds in the distance. Everyone begins pulling out their phones and fussing over different weather apps, trying to determine which app is most reliable in predicting the weather for the next five hours as you complete the day.
I’d never heard of MyRadar before asking my peers, but several people highly recommended it as their on-set weather predictor. And it’s free!
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Fortunately for us all, Adobe and Apple can peacefully co-exist within the confines of an iPhone now, and Adobe Acrobat Reader is perfect for creating, exporting, reading, and editing PDFs.
For organizing large quantities of paperwork such as call sheets, release photos, field notes, and schedules amongst a whole team of people, my go-to is Google Drive. It’s intuitive, and running out of storage space isn’t an issue. (Dropbox is a favorite for sharing and sending large files, usually as direct links.)
Have you used any of these apps? What other apps do you use on set?