Four Must-Have Apps for Cinematographers

There is a plethora of apps out there, geared toward cinematographers. While many are useful, I¡¯ve decided to share the four apps to which I find myself returning regularly. They have earned a place in my digital tool kit and, in my eyes, are must-haves for any DP or camera assistant.
Sun Seeker
Cinematographers always have an eye on the sun, and want to know where it will be at every hour during a shoot. When will the sunlight come through that window? How will I have to move the actor to keep a consistent backlight when shooting outdoors? What will my shadows look like two hours from now??Sun Seeker?gives you the answers to these questions, and more.

The app provides a flat map view for checking the solar position and path of the sun for each hour of daylight. You can select the current day or future dates, making it easy to plan a shoot, months in advance. One of the best features of the app is the 3D augmented-reality mode, which overlays the sun¡¯s position and path over the camera¡¯s live view. Simply move the camera around your location and see where the sun will be at all times. I find this app invaluable, especially during location scouting and planning a shooting schedule.
Shot Designer
This is a powerful app that combines camera diagrams, shots lists, and storyboards in one intuitive interface. What I really like about?Shot Designer?is how fast and streamlined it makes the entire planning process, even when creating complicated tracking shots with multiple marks. Everything in this app is connected, so any change you make to the camera diagram will update the shot list, and vice-versa. It will even animate actor and camera movements for you.

Another useful feature is the app¡¯s ability to upload storyboard frames directly to the diagram, so you can better visualize what camera angles look like. As an alternative, you can also use the built-in director¡¯s viewfinder to save images while location scouting or blocking out scenes beforehand. Like the storyboard frames, these images can also be uploaded to the diagram and provide useful information such as focal length, format, and aspect ratio.
I recommend paying for the Pro version of the app, as it allows you not to only work on multiple scenes, but also sync your diagrams across several devices, including the desktop version, which is included when you upgrade to Pro. The app will work for both the iPad and iPhone, but I recommend using an iPad, as the interface really benefits from a larger screen. Give the free version a test first and see if it¡¯s for you.
AJA DataCalc
Whether you¡¯re a DIT on a large scale production or the DP of a small screw, it¡¯s important to know what your storage requirements are, especially when working with high-resolution and high bit-rate formats. How many media cards will you need? How many minutes of video can you fit per card? These are the questions that AJA¡¯s DataCalc app helps you answer. And best of all, it¡¯s free!

The app is designed for video professionals and, as such, lets you select from industry-standard formats and compression methods when performing your calculations. Formats include Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD, DVCProHD, XDCAM, XAVC, CineForm, REDCODE, uncompressed, and more. In addition to the codec, you also choose the resolution and frame rate in which you¡¯ll be recording, as well as the audio format. Video resolutions available range from SD to 5K RED footage.
The app offers two calculation methods: DataCalc or TimeCalc. Using the DataCalc option lets you enter the duration you plan on recording, with the app calculating the amount of storage space you¡¯ll need to record it. Media durations can be entered in units of days, hours, seconds, or even as precisely as frames, using time code mode. Switching the TimeCalc lets you enter the size of your storage media (in MB, GB, or TB), with the app calculating the recording duration on a card that size. With this app, you should be able to plan and anticipate the media requirements for your next production effectively.
MovieSlate 7
There are a lot of slating apps out there, but MovieSlate has to be my favorite. The app makes it quick and easy to enter and display standard slate information like roll, scene, take, timecode, etc. The timecode display can be synced to the clock, between multiple iOS devices via Bluetooth, or even with a song from your iTunes music library when shooting music videos. When you¡¯re ready to slate the shot, virtual sticks open and clap closed, creating an audible and visual marker. The app is also designed to function with external clappers, such as the ikan Tablet Production Slate.

In addition to a slate and clapper board, the app also lets you log footage and take notes as you shoot, which saves valuable time during post production. Each shot and all production, GPS location, and timecode data is stored on a searchable Shot Log History that lets you view, edit, and rate your shots. The Log History and all notes can be exported or emailed in HTML, XML, Final Cut 7/X, Avid ALE, Adobe Prelude/Premiere, CSV, and TAB formats.
To further expand the app¡¯s capabilities, optional in-app plug-ins are available for syncing timecode with compatible cameras, sound recorders, and generators via the headphone jack; logging data and notes for multi-cam shoots with up to 26 cameras; and logging sound-department data and generating sound reports. There is also a monthly subscription service that lets members share projects and settings with colleagues and create unlimited backups in the MovieSlate Cloud.
So there you have it, my top four apps for cinematographers. Have a favorite app of your own that you think is a must-have? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.