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posted by - Tuesday, 06 October 2009

Clinometer App

A few months back I compiled the first set of iPhone Apps for the Modern Cinematographer. We got a lot of feedback asking for more, along with plenty of suggestions for favorite apps from our readers. Every week or two I get another request wondering when we’ll have another list of apps. iTunes has over 75,000 apps now, so there were plenty to find. For many of these apps there are other similar ones that you may find more to your liking. I’ve tried to dig through to find what is interesting and unique about these little gems; your mileage may vary.

Movie*Slate (PureBlend Software, $9.99)

There are a bunch of slate marker apps available now for the iPhone. This one has a clapper that delivers a satisfying audible “snap” when shaken. It also allows for “jamming” timecode between it and other iPhones and iPod Touches, not that this really gets you anywhere because it is still a closed loop. But niftiest of all is a shot logging feature that allows one to insert vocal or typed notes for a given take. For doc work, one can even speak into the iPhone during a take (hey, quiet back there!) and the notes will log the timecode. The material can even be exported in a Final Cut XML file so that it can be laid down along your timeline for editing reference.

Storyboard Composer (Cinemek, $14.99)

An amazingly versatile storyboard app (excuse me, “pre-visualization composer”) that allows one to snap a picture using the built-in camera and then add markups such as pans and dollies. Shots will last for durations the user sets to help determine pacing, and audio notations can be laid over for notes or a more full-bodied experience. It’s easy to use and quite powerful, like making an animatic (for any oldtimers like me) or creating one’s own version of Japanese anime (for the younger, more painfully hip set). The storyboards can be exported as .pdf files for distribution.

DSLR Camera Remote Professional Edition (onOne Software, $19.99)

HDSLR cameras such as the Canon 5DM2 are fast becoming “B” cameras on set, sometimes “A” cameras as well, and here’s something you can’t do on your average video camera…. Connect the camera to WIFI-enabled computer, and you can control all of it’s functions remotely using this app. Even get the live video feed on the iPhone screen! How insanely cool is that? Great for car rigs and remote head shots. The day that this works over Bluetooth or the cameras come with built-in WiFi is the day that I’ll AC the camera from home in my pajamas.

Film Calculator (2.1 Films, $0.99)

I used to have a cheat sheet and a calculator in my kit to do this, and it was always a pain. This app has three main functions. The first is a basic film stock length to run time converter. The second is a hard drive storage converter (two hours of DVCPRO HD will take up how much space?). The third is knowingly called the Script Supervisor’s Assistant. It is a stopwatch that counts in footage of stock used. No more having to convert the numbers. As simple as this little program seems is the corollary to the time wasted on set figuring these little numbers so we can all get on with the work at hand. The App should be renamed the Annoying Pain in the Rear Eliminator, but then someone might think it would be used for very different purposes.

Edit: Film Calculator has been discontinued. Try Kodak Cinema Tools (Eastman Kodak Company, free) as an alternative. 

Sunrise (Adair Systems, $0.99)

Simple utility to calculate time for sunrise, sunset, solar noon (highest point), plus phase of the moon. Uses the iPhone’s current location and current date by default, but either can be changed. Great for location scouting.

Mill Colour (The Mill, free)

The Mill is a major post production / visual effect facility. They also have some of the best color correction suites in the business. This app recreates the essentials of a color corrector right on your iPhone with a rather astounding level of manipulability and horsepower. Snap a photo or import an image, alter it to your like and then email it away. Great way to converse with a director, colorist, or client – or just play around to see how far an image can be bent.

PocketLD (Michael Zinman, $19.99)

A photometric database and calculator with a vast array of the most popular lighting instruments for film and stage lighting. Need to know what an ARRI 10K fresnel lamp at 25’ will deliver in beam spread and footcandles? The Gaffer’s best reference tool.

Gel Swatch Library (Wybron, $9.99)

Exactly what you think – all the gels offered by Rosco, Lee, GAM and Apollo. I question the precise color accuracy of the iPhone screen for judging gel, but that’s why there are spectral charts, transmission data CMY/RGB percentage tables, etc. Great for comparing the manufacturers offerings.

Clinometer (Peter Brietling, $0.99)

There are a lot of leveling apps available for the iPhone, but only a few actually measure inclines. A clinometer is an indispensable tool for anyone shooting plate photography for effect compositing. It is important to maintain proper perspective, which translates at least partially to the relationship of the image plane to that of the horizon. This is also important for miniature work. This particular app offers precise, easy to read and use incline information.

Camera Angles (Geometry, free)

I guess for when someone forgot to use the Clinometer! This app uses the built in camera to work out the angle of rotation plus the pitch angle in relation to real world objects. For scouting it also has another clever function that uses the iPhones built in GPS. Want to know how tall that building is so you can block it with a silk frame? Point the iPhone camera at it, move a little closer and take another photo. The app compares the distance moved to the change in angle and computes the height. Neat – and it’s free.

GrayCard (Pixelexip, $0.99)

Yup, it’s a gray card. Of course it is backlit so you get to choose daylight or tungsten balance. Then you get to choose warm or cool bias in ¼ gel strength increments, or minus green for shooting under fluorescents. But be warned – this is not a REAL gray card. The point of a real gray card is to reflect to the camera a neutral rendering of what the ACTUAL color of light in a given environment is. That and the fact that the backlight of the iPhone is in no way tonally accurate – it’s a fluorescent panel itself after all – makes this an interesting curiosity widget but not a technically accurate tool.

Edit: GrayCard has been discontinued. Try Grey Card (Glenn Simmons, $.99) as an alternative. 

iMotion (Febo Studio, free)

Create a stop motion movie using the camera in your iPhone! So much fun and it’s free so who cares if you actually have a use for it or not? Up to 500 frames, and it can capture each frame manually or automatically, effectively making this a time-lapse app as well. Sweet.

Timecode Slate (Matthias Uhlig, $3.99)

Okay, just one more slate app. For this one I really don’t care about the traditional slate functions, although they work just fine. More important is that this functions as a music player for any audio file on your iPhone, with repeatable timecode stamp on the track. It’s great for playback on music video shoots. I never particularly trust the timecode refresh on these little iPhone apps, but this is locked to the track in memory, so I figure it has to be accurate enough for most use. Should get you within a frame or two most of the time.

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