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.
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.
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.