T.Stops Blog

The best tool for a DP during Pre/post Production – The iPAD 3

In this installment of Tstops, I want to talk about productivity and efficiency leading up to your shoot.

We can all go on and on about cameras, lenses, grading software and sliders till the end of time it seems…   That said, one of the many jobs of being a Cinematographer often involves a heavy and lengthy pre production process.  This can become troublesome if you have several projects lined within a short amount of time, and each one is demanding quite a bit of your resources leading up to the shoot date.  I am in the middle of such a situation and I want to discuss something I discovered that has helped me save hours, and get more done while I was working.  The iPad 3.

I have an iPad 1, and quite frankly other than a neat way to watch Netflix I never really thought of it as a serious tool. It just seemed to be a less than functional laptop.  One week ago, I bought an Ipad 3 and started researching the best apps to help me more quickly accomplish the tasks I needed to do going into this week and a half from hell. September 27th-october 8th.  Two massive projects, four days each, with only 2 days break in between.  A pre production meat grinder.

Lets delve into what makes the new iPad useful to a DP, in a situation like this.

1: A decent camera.  It has for the first time a useable camera.  I used to drag my 5D out on scouts, which while making for beautiful location stills, means wasting time loading the stills and organizing them.  Also, the iPad 3 takes good quality 1080p video.  While scouting the deep DOF means the people watching see every thing in HD.  Details are not obscured but anything being out of focus.  So in addition to 5MP stills to show off the details, i can do a walk though in video to help people get a sense of the space.

2: Powerful Apps
Now that some time has passed since the iPads launch, there are some very wonderful apps available for it that make productivity a snap.  For example:
-The $4.99 iMovie App, lets me edit my location videos, record a narration track and do it as soon as I’m done shooting, while all the information is still fresh in my head.  Then, you can post it to Youtube in app, and share your valuable information immediately.
Paper by 53, FREE ( but buy the upgraded tool kit $6.99) this is the most amazing app I’ve seen in a while, it is essentially a drawing application, but its design is so efficient that I have been using it to sketch story boards, Lighting diagrams, and to take production notes, quickly.  You can import the finished pages directly in to the camera roll, and then take them into the next app on my list….
WritePDF $9.99 – The best app i’ve ever used.  Its a PDF markup app, but so much more. Essentially, you can create a PDF with photos, sketches from Paper, text, hyperlinks(youtube videos you just made) and notes within minutes, and email them directly to everyone who needs them right from the app.  Also, you can open PDF documents, add your own information to contracts, Tax forms, and scripts.  ie I can sign a contract and date it, punch in text on tax forms, and write script notes all without ever touching a pen, or paper.  This one app has eliminates the need for a printer, scanner, pens and paper for my work. Simply amazing.
Docs Unlimited – OpenOffice – Free – Open Office is what I use on my desktop for invoices and now its available on Ipad. I can send billing information and update orders and quotes on set or on the go!
Google Drive Free- If you have a Gmail account you can use your available Gmail space, usually about 7 gigs as a cloud drive.  I store all my business information here, so I can access my accounting files anywhere I go.  Simply awesome.

3: Mobile internet capability
I use my Android 4G phone as a hot spot.  This means i get great performance, and reliable service anywhere i go.  This saves me money on the Ipad as i dont need the 3G or 4G plan, and the iPad 3 unit itself is cheaper.

Essentially, what would have taken hours,
1: drawing story boards, scanning them, assembling, then outputting…
2: Shooting location photos , going home to my desktop, Importing, editing, assembling then uploading photos to a Picasa folder.
3: shooting location video, going home, editing, exporting then uploading and sharing
4: finally compiling all the information into an email and sending to the relevant parties.

All this would take practically an entire day of a scout day.  Now, with the aforementioned apps, its takes about 2 hours start to finish, in 1 neat PDF file.  This last scout, I finished all my work in the van ride back to the office.  Leaving me several more hours to settle crew, lighting gear and face to face time with the director.  When you get busy, minutes count, and this new way of working is giving me hours.  I dont know how I worked without it.

I hope you find this combination of tools useful to your business!  I certainly have!

Until next time!

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