As an online video director, you are constantly observing. You’re looking for inspiration in daily details, whether it’s the lighting in a space, a scene, or an overheard conversation. These small moments lead to epiphanies in production, and you are probably already using that most portable of inspirational devices — your phone.
These handy devices can do more than simply update your Instagram. When creating a video designed for the online space, the convenience of filming with a phone can be unmatched. Here are a few of my favorite filmmakers’ apps to drain your battery while on set.
Artemis Director’s Viewfinder: Stanley Kubrick, the control freak director, was famously documented as a stickler for cinematography and can be seen in numerous photos with a viewfinder around his neck. In order to find the perfect shot, Kubrick would walk around the scene with the viewfinder pressed to his eye, looking for the premium angle, focal length, and depth of field. With Artemis’s viewfinder app, you can do the same. The Director’s Viewfinder allows your iPhone to mimic the camera you’re shooting on and the lens package you’re working with. Through some amazing programming, the guys at Chemical Wedding have found a way to imitate nearly any camera a video pro will be working with, including dozens of lens options. It also offers other great features, like sharing your screen live over Apple TV and adding a geographic stamp to any of your shots. It allows you to move around, free from a bulky camera setup. I can hop out from behind my monitor and roam the set for the best shots. It gives me every feature available in a stationary camera, but it sits in the palm of my hand.
Cinemek Storyboard Composer: Storyboards provide a visualization of your final online video. Unfortunately, these film roadmaps are tough to draw and expensive to hire out, but they are a must-have for filmmakers. Cinemek solves all this by providing uncompromising storyboard editing for the low cost of $30. Insert photos, lay people in the shots, scale them, rotate them, and add actual camera movement across the scenes with just a few taps. Let’s say you need a 20-second left-to-right tracking shot: Add the move, give it a set duration, and you’ll instantly see the shot come to life before your eyes. You can then see if your vision aligns with the client’s by emailing him or her a PDF or a QuickTime video of the storyboards in action. If you disagree, it’s a matter of starting over with minimal time wasted. When creating video for online, it’s all about efficiency.
Shot Lister: When you’re on a film set, time is money, and Dynamic Leap’s Shot Lister app is a life and budget saver. You can easily list your entire schedule, including setups, scenes, takes, lunches, and wrap times — and take notes as you’re filming so you can look back and see what went well and what needed to be reshot. You can also assign a schedule to each shot, and the app will automatically update your timing as you check off shots, letting you know if you’re ahead of or behind schedule.
Helios Sun Position Calculator: My upcoming short film, “John and Claudia,” is almost completely filmed in exteriors. Knowing where the sun is — including the angle, the height, and the time of sunrise or sunset — is way over my head, literally. But the best part is that the app offers augmented reality, which means you can use your phone’s camera to see the projected path of the sun, with a corresponding time of day. For my short film, there are four pages of script to shoot at dusk — and only two days to shoot, so time is of the utmost importance. Once the sun goes down, that’s it; there’s no way to re-create sun, no matter how big a light you have.
Prevent a Permanent Failure
The best art comes from improving upon an idea through trial and error, by finding out what does and doesn’t work. I love these apps because they illuminate a mistake before it ends up on video and becomes a black eye during edit. Pre-visualizing requires some guessing, but these tools take much of the unknown out of the equation.
Prep work gives you more time to set up a shot or a sequence. The more time you have, the more you can try new things and improve your final product. Remember, efficient production begins before your actors arrive.
Guest post by David Redish. David Redish is the co-founder of Slice Media, an award-winning creative studio in Dallas, Texas, that conceptualizes and produces content for TV, the web, and social media. Redish developed and produced “Chasing Daylight,” a docu-reality series centered around the lives of the world’s top DJs, with Cesar Jasso.