Using Your iPhone as a Tool in Filmmaking

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Being a filmmaker in this day and age is a dream. With new technology at amazingly low prices and the ability to immediately upload work for all the world to see, it’s no surprise that smartphones have become a tool to add to the filmmaking toolbox. Recently I’ve kept coming across articles highlighting different phone apps and new inventions that filmmakers can use for a wide variety of tasks, from scoping out the suns path to using it as a microphone. It’s stuff like this that is really making the filmmaking game exciting.

1. Apps

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A) There’s an app for everything these days. With downloadable tools right at your fingertips, it’s hard not to dream of the possibilities! I came across an article that discusses a new app by Satechi that enables you to use your iPhone as a camera remote. This is super convenient with the wireless aspect, but also means that’s one less piece of gear that you need to lug around! You can simply enact the shutter with the “regular shot”, use the “manual shot” for long exposure, or use it as an intervalometer which (I think) is extra cool because then you can then control timelapse shooting right from your iPhone!

This app is neat because it taps into the new market of recent HDSLR cameras having a wifi option, but allows you to use it with older models. Not bad, for only $44.99.

B) There are tons of apps out there that filmmakers can utilize, and you can pick and choose what you like depending on the type of filming you do. For example, I love the apps that show you where the sun will be and at what time because that really helps me visualize the image I’m trying to capture when shooting timelapses. There’s other apps that assist in storyboarding and lens options. I won’t bother to list them all, because Shane Hurlbut already wrote a great post (although 1 year ago) that includes some of the best ones.

C) One app I highly recommend however is SMAPP. It was made by the amazing production team Stillmotion, and covers lens selection depending upon content and mood, and also gives the user new and refreshing ideas to try in their “Get Creative” section. It has tutorials for your viewing pleasure and also has other useful tools, like the Shot List Tool. Pretty cool stuff, and a great way to stay organized.

2. New Toys Tools

Some companies/individuals are going beyond the software of the iPhone itself and building amazing products to use as phone accessories. I’ve seen a bunch on the market (most are kind of silly and for a niché variety) but there are two that stand out to me as incredibly innovative:


A. If you haven’t heard of RODE Mics, come on out from under that rock. They are one of the leaders when it comes to microphones and are pretty* affordable. Their reputation reflects their amazing quality, so it’s no surprise they were the ones to come up with this brilliant tool. They built  an on-board stereo microphone that you can plug right into your iPad or iPhone. I haven’t worked with it personally, but have read great reviews. Once again, another invention that would lighten your kit!

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B. Turning your camera into a light meter. Yes, to some it may sound silly in this digital age since we can see what our shot looks like immediately in the camera, but believe it or not some people still shoot film (gasp!). Lots of big productions still shoot film, and loads of photographers only use film. But that doesn’t mean this tool could only be used for those people; some teams use a light meter for balancing out light and mathematically measuring the proper light for an interview, for example. (Stillmotion did a nice write up on why light meters aren’t dead). The cool thing is that this is still in it’s preproduction stages – the campaign to build this tool is still on kickstarter! And if the fact that it has raised $80,000 over it’s original goal doesn’t convince you, well then shame on you.

All in all, the filmmaking community is thriving and really embracing this technological revolution. It’s really fun to see new ideas transform into a reality, and the amazing way that all of these tools are becoming increasingly more accessible to filmmakers of all levels.

Would you use any of these apps or tools? Have you heard of any others that struck you as really innovative? Leave a note in the comment section!


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