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10 Ways the new iPad Can Help Professional Filmmakers

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10 Ways the iPad Can Help Video Professionals

There is no doubt that the iPad is a wonderful media-consumption device. Although it might not be capable of shooting or editing professional video footage just yet, it can still be an invaluable tool for any filmmaker’s or videographer’s tool kit. Here are ten ways the iPad can be used, from the beginning to the end of the production cycle.

1. Screenwriting

The first step of any production is writing the script, and the iPad can help you do it. With a battery that lasts longer than many laptops on the market, you can write with it almost anywhere, and with the addition of a Bluetooth Keyboard or a keyboard case, the 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.

2. Storyboarding

Once you have finished your screenplay, it’s time to start planning your shots, and the 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 iPad also makes a great paper substitute. 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. For an all-in-one pre-production tool, the Shot Designer (Pro) app, from Hollywood Camera Work LLC, combines camera diagrams, shots, and storyboards into one intuitive interface.

3. As a Film Slate

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 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.

4. As a Teleprompter

The large, bright screen and long battery life of the 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 can be significantly less costly than buying a complete teleprompting system separately. You could also opt to use the iPad as an off-camera prompter by mounting it on 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.

5. As a Field Monitor

The iPad can also make an excellent field monitor with the help of a Teradek Cube encoder. The Cube 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 might make it hard to use on-camera. But it makes a great addition to a set that would otherwise have to endure 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 Cube 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.

6. As a Light

The iPad’s 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 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 iPad remotely with another iOS device. Remember, it might be a good idea to mount your iPad on a light stand or tripod, with a bracket, if you don’t have an assistant to help you hold it in place.

7. As a Camera Remote Control

Many types of cameras have the ability to be controlled remotely via the iPad. Depending on the camera and the app, this gives you the ability to monitor and playback footage remotely, as well as control settings such as iris, focus, zoom, ISO, white balance and, of course, to start and stop recording. Some cameras may require optional Wi-Fi dongles/adapters to enable wireless control on your iPad, such as the WFT-E6A Wireless Transmitter for the Canon EOS 1D X, 1D C, and C300/500, while others may allow you to connect to it via an optional USB adapter.

8. As a Timecode Generator

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 iPad is just what you need. With the right cable and the right app, the 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.

9. As a Second Computer Monitor

The iPad has a higher-resolution display than many 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 iPad as an external monitor. Air Display is an app that you install on both your computer (Windows or Mac) and on your iPad. The computer application acts as a second monitor and streams the video straight to the iPad via Wi-Fi. You can even enable HiDPI mode on the Mac, which will make text much smoother. Air Display can operate tethered over USB or wirelessly over Wi-Fi. While the app is streaming over Wi-Fi, the output will not be as high quality as when connected via USB, and sometimes the frame rate will drop some, but it affords the flexibility of movement when untethered. While it may be tempting to use the iPad for video monitoring, it is better suited for viewing things that aren’t sensitive to frame rate changes, such as project bins or an editing timeline. This will free up more of your laptop or desktop display for high-quality video playback.

10. As a Control Surface

The iPad’s multi-touch display makes a great alternative to 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 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 iPad. It is compatible with Apple’s Color software.

As you can see, there are many ways you can use the iPad to help with video production. But don’t forget, there’s nothing quite like watching a film on the same tablet that saw it through from start to finish.

19 Comments

Can I use an iPad as a tethered field monitor for my Nikon D750 while shooting videos? And if so is equipment available to mount the iPad on or near the camera? Thanks

The iPad could not be used as video field monitor. There would not be a connection available that would support a live wireless video stream or a wired solution. While this could be used a live monitor for shooting stills with remotes like the CamRanger, for video a monitor/recorder the Atomos Ninja Blade 5" HDMI On-Camera Monitor & Recorder would be recommended instead.

Excellent post. Thank you. I was looking to set up my ipad mini 2 as a field monitor for my slr as well as use it for a second screen.

One of the great ones I just found is Strata, extraordinary remote control for the ATEM switcher. Witohout a desktop connected the ipad can switch cameras in conjuntion fo the ATEM. Pretty slick!

Hi, great article, i tried to buy Storyboards by Tamajii Inc from both the Canadian and US app store and is not available. can you tell me what country is available in? or how to buy it? Thanks in advance.

Hi Juan -

Please contact CInemek directly for purchase availability

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Great overview! just downloaded film slate app and its great so far. I've been using celtx with shot designer and action pro ( www.action-pro.tv ) Those apps have helped me create and finish my projects much faster. I'm still learning about movie making and i hope to one day make a feature film. Any advice for a newbie like me?

Hi -

A great hands-on experience would be to work on an indie film as an intern in almost any capacity.  Consider taking a film-making course at a local university as well.  We also offer a variety of books and videos on this topic:  http://bhpho.to/1bvYVJT

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

For a long time I've been looking for any solution that could turn my Ipad 4 into a video monitor for my Nikon D3200. Teradek Cube is too much expensive than I can pay, it's a impracticable solution for small productions like youtube videos and seems to be more than I need for now.

Could anyone help me to find the solution I need? A wired solution would not be a problem for me.

Thanks!

The only other solution I can think of would be the Teradek VidiU On-Camera Wireless Streaming Video Encoder, which would be less expensive than the cube.  There wouldn’t be a solution where you could simply plug your camera into the iPad.    If you are on a budget, I would suggest looking at an actual monitor for the D3200.  You can find decent ones for much less than what you would need to pay for a streaming device to be able to use the iPad.  You might look at the Elvid FieldVision 7" On Camera Monitor.  It would be an excellent option for the D3200, and would have features you wouldn’t get from an iPad, such Peaking for obtaining accurate focus.  It also wouldn’t have the issues you would likely run into with the iPad, such as lag and scaling.

A Teradek encoder costs more than a dedicated field monitor! So why on earth would you use that instead? Beats me.

A couple reasons. A lot of people already have an Ipad, the Ipad is portable with a built in battery and you can log in to view on more than one Ipad at a time. To each their own though.

I am making a full length documentary. I would like to use only an IPad Air and my Pro Tools sound recording program to create a final product. My Pro Tools is very powerful. But I have heard that the quality of am IPad Air is not very good. Is that true? And if it is true, does anyone know anyone who works at Apple that might want to make their IPad Air a high quality device for documentaries? I'd like to use the IPad Air and pro Tools as a kind of technical boundary to determine whether a quality product can be created using just those two devices and the right accessories.  

Hi Carter -

The Fast Track Solo from Avid is a two-input, two-output USB 2.0 digital audio interface that ships with a "lite" version of the industry standard DAW software, Pro Tools Express. The interface has a single microphone preamp with switchable phantom power, and a second instrument input for plugging in an electric guitar or other electronic instrument.

The included software delivers many of the recording, MIDI, and notation tools found in the full version of Pro Tools. It includes three virtual instruments and a comprehensive array of plug-ins, suitable for any digital audio process. The interface will however function with any Core Audio or ASIO compatible software, or with iOS-compatible audio recording apps on the Apple iPad.  

Avid Pro Tools

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

ipad air vs ipad mini w/retina display, which one is best for filmmaking?

Hi
The article published above was so helpful. I am a shortfilm maker, i own a sony nex 5 and an ipad too. As i dont have wifi for the camera, is there any other option to connect my ipad to my sony nex 5, this makes my work very easy to monitor the shots. Appreciate your help.

Thanks

Can't the other ipad models (without Retina display) also be used for all these purposes?

Thanks for a great post!

I cant speak to 9/10 of these functionalities, but I am running AirDisplay 3 on a Gen 3 iPad 16gb WiFi only right now. Works well enough. The mouse rendering on the iPad is unnacceptably slow for my use, but the touch interface works great, which was my reason for purchase. I also have a 24 inch Acer hooked up, so it's a pretty great environment for me in terms of real estate.

You mention in #7 that Camera Remote HD can connect via camera connection kit to the iPad.
The only mention of how this app works on thd companies website is to connect the camera via USB to a computer. The computer connects to the iPad wirelessly.
This is a GREAT post by the way. Very helpful!

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