There is no doubt that the new iPad, with its high resolution "retina" display, is a wonderful media consumption device. Although it isn’t capable of shooting or editing any professional video footage quite yet, it can still be an invaluable tool for any filmmaker’s tool kit. Here are ten ways the new iPad can be used from the beginning to the end of the production cycle.
The first step of any production is writing the script, and the new iPad can help you do it. With a battery that lasts much longer than any laptop on the market you can write with it almost anywhere, and with the addition of a Bluetooth Keyboard or a keyboard case the new iPad can be made just as efficient for typing as a laptop. As far as software goes, there are a number of apps that cater to screenwriting. Final Draft, which is a popular screenwriting application for Mac or PC, has an iPad app available through the app store, though it is admittedly a bit scaled back from the full version. Writing Kit, by Quang Anh Do, is a more robust writing app that supports the popular fountain file format for screenwriting. It also features a built in Web browser so you don’t even have to leave your app to do some quick research. There are, of course, a host of other writing applications for the iPad, including Apple’s iWork, which make good screenwriting companions.
Once you have finished your screenplay, it’s time to start planning your shots, and the new iPad can help you create great-looking storyboards. There are a number of established storyboarding applications, such as Storyboard Composer HD by Cinemek Inc., or Storyboards by Tamajii Inc. These apps let you take the pictures you may have taken while location scouting and add clip art, camera movements and more to generate detailed storyboards. If you want draw the storyboards by hand, the new iPad can also make a great paper replacement. The app Paper by FiftyThree Inc. is great for sketching out storyboards, which can then be saved as PDF files or emailed to other crew members. If you’d prefer to sketch with a pen, you might want to invest in a capacitive stylus.
Film Slates are an old but essential accessory on any shoot; just ask any editor who has tried to edit a large project without using one. They display valuable information about the scene and make syncing external sound a breeze. They usually involve chalk or a dry erase marker, but with the new iPad you digitize the slate process. There are several useful slating applications for the iPad that have the ability to display much more useful information than can fit on a typical slate. The app Movie Slate, by PureBlend Software, is able to display the usual scene and take numbers, as well as displaying the time of day, or even syncing with timecode from an external device such as an audio recorder. Once the shot is over you can go back and add notes to a scene from the app, so you don’t have to write the same things down twice.
The large bright screen and long battery life of the new iPad also makes it ideal to use as a portable teleprompter. B&H offers a number of on-camera iPad teleprompters (iPad not included) which are significantly cheaper than buying a complete teleprompting system separately. You could also opt to use the iPad as an off-camera prompter by mounting it to a tripod with an iPad tripod mounting bracket. Then you download whatever teleprompting app you like best from the app store and you have a professional teleprompter for a fraction of the price. Two great teleprompting apps are Teleprompt+, by Bombing Brain Interactive, and ProPrompter by Bodelin. Both apps support external remote control from another iOS device, such as an iPhone. Teleprompt+ also features retina graphics support, wired remote control, and the ability to sync multiple iPad Teleprompters together.
The new iPad can also make an excellent field monitor with the help of a Teradek Cube encoder. The Teradek encodes a camera’s video output and then streams it via Wi-Fi to numerous iOS devices and/or computers. For iOS devices you must download the TeraCentral app. There is a slight delay (less than a second) that is long enough to make it hard to use on-camera. It makes a great addition to a set that would otherwise have a number of people hovering around the camera operator trying to get a look. It can also be an invaluable tool for sharing content with a producer or director if you are using a camera in a situation where you cannot run wires from the camera, such as on a Steadicam. The Teradek can stream to one or two devices without a router, but if you plan on streaming video to a large number of devices you have to set up a Wi-Fi network with a router, so some networking knowledge is recommended.
The new iPad’s exceptionally bright display can work surprisingly well as a light source. The relatively large surface area casts a diffused light that can work well as a key or fill light in tight shots. The display’s large color gamut also means you have the option of selecting almost any color or quality of light you want, with the help of the right applications. SoftBox Pro, by EggErr Studio, and Photo Soft Box Pro HD, by Light Paint Pro, are two apps that can help you use your new iPad as a light-shaping tool. Both offer various color choices, brightness controls, and even have options to help you emulate the effect of different types of lights. Photo Soft Box Pro HD also lets you control the new iPad remotely with another iOS device. Remember it might be a good idea to mount your new iPad to a light stand or tripod with a bracket if you don’t have an assistant to help you hold it in place.
Several types of cameras have the ability to be controlled remotely via the new iPad. If you are shooting with a Canon HDSLR or the C300, you can use the app Camera Remote HD, by onOne Software, to both see a video preview (at a much reduced frame rate) and control settings such as iris, frame rate, focus, ISO, aperture, white balance and of course, to start and stop recording. You can connect the new iPad to the camera via the camera’s USB cable and the USB port on the iPad Camera connection kit. Or, if your Canon HDSLR supports Wi-Fi you can do it wirelessly; the C300 can be controlled this way with the WFT-E6A Wireless Transmitter.
If you don’t find yourself needing a custom timecode often enough to justify an investment in a dedicated timecode generator, but think one could come in handy then the new iPad is just what you need. With the right cable and the right app, the new iPad can act as a timecode generator. A recommended timecode app is JumpStart LTC, by Edward Richardson. It allows you to set the frame rate easily and start timecode for a clip, even if the device has been switched off in-between takes. It is important to note that the device to which you are feeding timecode must have its own master clock, as the iPad cannot reliably act as one.
The new iPad has a higher-resolution display than most computer monitors, and you may find yourself wishing it had a video input of some sort, so you could use it as an external monitor. But with the Air Display app by Avatron Software, you don't need a video input to use the new iPad as an external monitor. Air Display is an app that you install on both your computer (Windows or Mac) and on your new iPad. The computer application acts as a second monitor and streams the video straight to the new iPad via Wi-Fi. You can even enable HiDPI mode on the Mac, which will make text much smoother. Since the app is streaming over Wi-Fi, it is not as high quality as a dedicated video input, and sometimes the frame rate will drop some. While it may be tempting to use the new iPad for video monitoring it is better suited for placing things that aren’t affected by frame rate, such as project bins or an editing timeline. This will free up more of your laptop or desktop display for video playback.
The new iPad’s 9.7-inch multi-touch display makes a great replacement for a physical control surface. The button layouts can be changed depending on what program you are working on, so you can quickly switch control surfaces as fast as you switch between editing programs. If your editing platform of choice accepts MIDI controls, then you can choose from a large number of applications. Some popular MIDI control based programs that work with the new iPad are AC-7 Core by Saitara Software, V-Control Pro by Neyrinck, and Touch OSC by hexler. The app vWave-Lite, by Tangent Wave Ltd, emulates the Tangent Wave's three color wheels for real time color correction on the new iPad. It is compatible with Apple’s Color software.
As you can see, there are many ways you can use the new iPad to help with film production. But don’t forget, there’s nothing quite like watching a film on the little tablet that saw it through from start to finish.