12 must have apps for filmmakers

From storyboarding to location scouting, casting to collaboration, there are now an array of exciting applications available for the busy filmmaker. As we reflect on our own app aspirations (stay tuned) we take a look at the current landscape of apps for desktop and mobile devices. These are some of our favorites, and hopefully they’ll help freelancers and studio pros alike streamline their production workflow.

#1 Screenwriting

Our fave: Slugline
Platform: Mac
Price: $39.99 (14-day free trial)

Long before production undertakings such as scheduling, casting, or shotlisting comes one mammoth task: sitting down to write.
Fortunately, there’s a tool that allows screenwriters to script out their masterpieces without distraction.

Slugline is a beautifully clean and simple screenwriting application designed for pure writing. Created by industry pros Stu Maschwitz and Clinton Torres, it allows you to create documents from scratch or a template and includes features to help writers format scripts properly. Built on the text-based Fountain screenplay format, Slugline documents can be opened and edited in any word processing application. While working in the Slugline app, choosing options is all done via text input to save having to hunt for and click on icons, and the documents are formatted in an industry accepted format.

#2 Storyboarding

Our fave: Storyboard Composer by Cinemek
Platform: iOS
Price: $14.99

Storyboarding app Storyboard composer

Not all of us are great at drawing, and even those of us who are probably can’t put together a coherent and consistent storyboard in only a few minutes. Enter the world’s first mobile storyboarding application, Storyboard Composer. With no drawing experience necessary, users of Storyboard Composer can choose from characters, objects and environments – or sub in images shot with the phone or tablet camera – and compose their own storyboard frames in no time.

#3 Location Scouting

Our fave: Map-A-Pic
Platform: iOS, Android
Price: $4.99

Location scouting app Map A Pic

Location, location, location! This isn’t only true in real estate; it’s essential for a successful film production. Finding cool locations is one thing, but keeping track of the myriad of variables involved can make the job of choosing a shoot location when you’re back in the office a disaster.

Fortunately, there’s Map-A-Pic, a tool designed to simplify the decision-making process. Instantly save a location, including directions to get there; add photos, notes and names, and share the information with teammates. Never rely on a camera and notebook again!

Honorable mention: Set Scouter (beta)
Platform: browser
Price: Free to sign up, search, list and connect. Fee for location rental determines cost.

Location scouting app Set Scouter

Entering the fray for location searching is the ambitious startup, Set Scouter, which emulates the airbnb model. Sign up setscouter.com to list or seek out a location for shooting – if an agreement can be reached to use the facility, Set Scouter will broker the rental, taking their fee from the rental cost.

Still in the early phases of getting up and running, it’ll be interesting to watch the progress of this Toronto-based firm. Adding a mobile app would help adoption.

#4 Set design/layout

Our fave: MagicPlan by Sensopia
Platform: iOS
Price: Free

Set design app Magic Plan

Choosing a location is only half the battle – being able to visualize objects within the space is crucial for planning your shoot. With MagicPlan, you simply capture an image of the room to be used, choose objects, add annotations and attributes, and a fleshed out floorplan can be put together in a matter of a few minutes. That’s right; MagicPlan measures your rooms and draws your floor plan just by taking pictures.

#5 Scheduler

Our fave: Shot Lister by Reel Apps
Platform: iOS
Price: $13.99

Scheduling app Shot Lister

Shot lists and shooting schedules might not be sexy, but they’re essential in complex productions. Beyond the ability to create, organize and share shot lists and schedules, Shot Lister has a cool multiple user feature, which allows all personnel on a project to view, update, revise, and sign off on shot and equipment lists in real time. You can also import storyboards, circle best shots, and share PDF versions of shot lists and shooting schedules with those who do not have the app.

#6 Audio Capture

Our fave: RØDE smartLav+ & RØDE Rec
Platform: iOS
Price: smartLav+ = $80, RODE Rec = $5.99

Audio app RODE smartlav

Ok, so this one might be a bit of a cheat. There’s an app here, but what’s the deal with the hardware component?

Well, the app is a beast in itself. Full recording and non-linear editing capabilities, live recording monitoring, real-time waveform, looping and volume normalizing features make this a great audio choice on its own. Tack on the ability to output audio files as WAV, MP3, AIFF, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC or others, and the ability to post finished files to iTunes or publish to Soundcloud or Dropbox, and this becomes a bargain at six bucks. Oh, it’s capable of FTP uploads as well.

Next comes the hardware. Imagine this: capturing broadcast-grade audio direct to a smartphone or tablet. The smartLav+ is a broadcast-grade lavalier (lapel) microphone designed for use in a wide range of applications, from the boardroom to the pulpit, the car to the classroom. Combine this hardware with a device such as the iOgrapher or an iPad or iPhone, and you have a fully stabilized (or tripod-mounted) pro recording device.

#7 Weather

Our fave: Sun Seeker by Ozpda
Platform: iOS, Android
Price: $8.99 (iOS), $6.99 (Android)

Sun seeker app

Audio, location, script and storyboards don’t mean much if the weather decides it isn’t going to cooperate with a project. Consider a shot planned for 2pm that requires the sun over the right shoulder of a subject facing a certain direction. How the heck does the director calculate the location of the sun? With Sun Seeker for iOS or Android, it’s possible to plan exactly where the sun is going to be throughout the day, which is invaluable when planning your shooting schedule. Pair it with first-rate weather-forecasting app Dark Sky, and the crew will be fully prepared.

#8 Lighting

Our fave: Lighting Designer
Platform: iOS
Price: $24.99

Lighting app lighting designer

Everybody plans their lighting months before a project gets underway, right? No?

It’s ok. Lighting Designer to the rescue.

Not only is it possible to create lighting plans and diagrams from over 700 possible lights and lighting accessories, but there are templates to get users started. Once the plan looks good – or if a second opinion is required – share the plan with other stakeholders right from the app.

Once the design is approved, plan a truckload of gear, manage multiple sets/shoots, and assign resources to projects, all within the app.

#9 Storage Management

Our fave: AJA DataCalc
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Storage management app AJA Datacalc

Video files are getting pretty big these days, and the storage and data rate requirements to deal with these files are getting larger as well.

Created for the toolbelt of audio and video professionals, AJA DataCalc is an iPhone app that can calculate storage consumption and data capture requirements. It can be used in the field during acquisition, or in the edit bay during post-production.

AJA DataCalc supports a vast array of video compression formats such as Apple ProRes, DVCProHD, HDV, XDCAM, DV, RGB and YUV Uncompressed and more. Video standards supported include NTSC, PAL, 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 2K and 4K.

# 10. Clapperboard & Shot Log

Our fave: MovieSlate
Platform: iOS
Cost: $29.99

Clapperboard app MovieSlate

What fun is a shoot without a clapperboard? Well, it might still be fun, but pros know that a slate and clapper can greatly ease the logistics of any shoot.

MovieSlate takes the roles of an all-in-one digital slate, a clapperboard, a shot log tool, and a notepad and brings them to iOS. With each closing of the clapper, MovieSlate automatically creates a shot log with your production, timecode, notes, and even the GPS location of your shots – all easily searchable at a later time. Additional plug-ins allow MovieSlate to sync timecode with cameras, create audio info logs, and much more.

# 11 Viewfinder

Our fave: Artemis Director’s Viewfinder
Platform: iOS, Android
Cost: $29.99

Viewfinder app Artemis Directors Viewfinder

While the fame and fortune that comes with being a high-end director is cool and all, it’s the tools of their trade that truly cement their authority on the set. Megaphones, chairs on cranes, screaming fits, and, of course, the optical viewfinder.

Usually found hanging around the neck of Coppola and Spielberg, a viewfinder is essentially a tool to simulate how a shot will look through a variety of lenses.

Well these optical viewfinders can cost a fortune and still can’t match the capabilities of Artemis Director’s Viewfinder. The app can simulate a nearly limitless array of cameras (including specific ones, such as RED EPIC or Canon 5D Mark III) and various lenses. The app can show how those lenses and cameras look at different focal lengths and are easily swapped out for other options, making camera and lens choices far more efficient.

# 12 Callsheet Management

Our fave: FilmTouch
Platform: iOS
Cost: $9.99

Callsheet app filmtouch

FilmTouch is an app designed to improve the management of standard PDF callsheets for production pros by adding all your PDF callsheets to a searchable list of crew members, jobs and companies that only you can see.

Here’s how it works:

  • Production sends you a callsheet.
  • You open the e-mail on your iPhone and tap a button to send it to the FilmTouch app.
  • FilmTouch adds your callsheet to the app within 60 seconds.

Sort names (and pertinent contact details) by job or company. Bye bye printer.

Beyond this list there are probably dozens more that help your company run smoothly. Why not let us know which ones you’re using?