iPhone Apps for Hands-On Filmmakers

Put the games away, and try these tools for cinematographers, directors, editors

Last Updated: February 16, 2010 @ 3:13 PM

Cinematographers are, at heart, geeks, so no surprise that there are now a handful of iPhone apps popping up aimed at hands-on filmmakers.

There are two such apps from Chemical Wedding.

Helios graphically predicts the path of the sun from dusk to dawn, on any given day, in any given place. That’s not only useful to cinematographers and still photographers but also to grips, gaffers, production designers, 1st assistant directors — as well as architects, artists, landscape designers, surveyors and anyone else who needs to know exactly where the sun will be at specific times.

Since the app is based on algorithms created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Geophysical Data Center to predict the sun’s movement, it’s accurate “to a tiny fraction of a degree.”

Also from Chemical Wedding is Artemis, a digital director’s viewfinder.

Tired of carrying that clunky thing around your neck? Go digital — iPhone-app style — with Artemis, which, says Chemical Wedding’s Toby Evetts, “works in much the same way as a traditional directors viewfinder, although it’s much more accurate and much more convenient.”

How does it work? The user selects a camera format, aspect ratio and lens type, and then Artemis uses the camera in the iPhone to simulate the lens view that you can expect with the configuration you’ve selected. There is one caveat. Field coverage is limited to the field of view of the iPhone camera which, says Evetts, is “more or less the equivalent of 27mm in Super 35mm.”

He says they are exploring the use of a supplementary wide-angle lens to extend the coverage to include at least 18mm and perhaps as much as the 14mm. The price for each app is $29.95.

If you’ve bought Final Cut Pro — because, hey, how difficult could a program that runs on Apple be — stop tearing your hair out. Weynand Training, a Gold Level Apple Authorized Training Center based in Los Angeles, launched iKeysToGo, a new series of applications for the iPhone and iPodTouch, for learning and using Final Cut Pro 7. The company is promoting iKeysToGo as “a personal shortcut assistant in the palm of your hand.”
That boils down to five ways to learn Final Cut Pro 7 and over 840 FCP shortcuts. The app is $2.99
For those ambitious types who want to figure out how much storage they need at the editorial facility to hold their footage, Technicolor and AJA both have apps for that: Technicolor’s data rate calculator is free.  
“On the data rate side, people always want dailies or want to digitize to a certain file type or codec,” says Technicolor Creative Services Robert C. Rodriguez. “They want a Quicktime file, but that’s a generic term because there are so many different kinds of Quicktime files. And they don’t know the different storage requirements for each kind of file. We can get those questions from a DP wanting to cut a reel of his work, an offline editor and even internally from our own project managers.”
This iPhone app can be helpful whether the project is shooting film or digital acquisition cameras like the RED.
“You take shoot days times the number of hours you’re shooting,” says Rodriguez, who notes that you can input the information in drop-down menus. “The way we have it broken down, you start with either an uncompressed codec, 8 bit or 10 bit, or any of the major compression formats. We handle DV, DCPRO, HDV, Avid DNX HD as well as all the Apple ProRes formats.
After you select your compression type, you select your frame size (for editing in HD, there’s a drop-down menu for all flavors of HD), select your frame rate,and select your audio (there are different sample rates and channel configurations) and the duration. Once you’ve popped all the information in, it’ll give you your storage requirements.
The second part of the iPhone application is a film calculator. “You select your film format (8mm to 35mm), input the length of the film in feet or meters, select frame rate, and it’ll give you the running time all the way down to in frame counts,” says Rodriguez.

Debra Kaufman is the editor and founder of MobilizedTV , an online newsletter that covers content on mobile devices. She has covered the entertainment industry for over 20 years, writing about new media, entertainment technology and other topics for the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Film & Video and many others. Her work has also been published in Wired, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and American Cinematographer.