Here’s hoping for some great filmmaking iPhone apps

By S Simmons. Filed in Editing, filmmaking, Mac software, Useful tools for editors  |  
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Yesterday my first generation iPhone was hit with the same problem that happened to many, after updating to the 2.0 software iTunes couldn’t connect to re-authenticate the phone … so it wouldn’t work (except to make an emergency call!) As pissed as I was that I had no cell phone / Internet communication device from about 9:00 am until 2:30 pm, at the end of the day it was quite refreshing as I was able to get a lot of stuff done with minimal distractions. I see no real need for a 3G iPhone since I have a good rate plan that AT&T no longer offers and have gotten along fine this far without GPS or 3G. That might change as the iTunes app store gets more and better applications available for download and more of those apps connect to the Internet for their functionality. I downloaded, installed, deleted and installed a lot of them throughout yesterday and today and while there are a lot of crappy iPhone applications available there are a lot of good ones as well. Between the games, productivity apps and Twitter clients there is amazing potential for iPhone applications.

What I didn’t find (thus far) are any applications geared toward the filmmaker. There are a lot of apps that check movie times and theater locations and things of that nature but I found none geared toward production and/or post. If you’re a developer looking for a filmmaking related application to create for the iPhone here are a few ideas:

A useful Timecode calculator. I’m sure this will be one of the first that become available. There are some timecode calculators available as stand-alone applications or a dashboard widget but to have a good one on the iPhone would be my first purchase. Hopefully the developer will look at the timecode calculator built in to Avid Media Composer. It does all of the adding, subtracting and dividing of multiple frame rates that all timecode calculators have to do to be useful but it also shows a scrolling window that holds all the previously entered values:

And if you want to make it really useful add a single preset button (the double 0 entry when pushing the . key on the keypad is a given) for 01:00:00:00 and/or the ability to assign a single timecode value to one keystroke!

A Final Cut Pro remote control. Apple has released a little iPhone app called Remote that give the iPhone remote control of iTunes or an Apple TV. I saw a real benefit of this with my Apple TV as it can be used to call up songs and movies but also as a keyboard to avoid using the terrible on-screen keyboard that things like that require. It works through wifi so I wonder if it would be possible to allow a Remote like app to control Final Cut Pro? I don’t necessarily mean doing any actual editing but if you had the ability to call up a timeline and at least play and navigate that timeline then that would be great for sitting away from the keyboard for viewing cuts or client screenings. A bonus if you could do something like adding markers.

A footage logger and batch list generator. In its most simple form an app like this could give the logger a way to enter a tape/reel number, a starting and an ending timecode and a clip name and description and then be able to save (perhaps email right from the app?) that file in a properly tab-delimited format for importing as a Avid ALE file or FCP batch list. Avoiding a spreadsheet application would be the main goal of something like this.

A hardware assisted logging tool. Taking the above idea one step further, if there existed some type of device that could wifi (or bluetooth ?) the timecode out signal from a camera or video deck and send that to its companion iPhone application where the user could just tap a button for IN points and OUT points then that would be fantastic. How easy and convenient it would be to just tap a couple of buttons to make a batch list or just get good timecode notes. Now if that piece of hardware could also send a video signal along with the timecode where you could record a still frame to go along with those timecode notes then that might be a post-production killer app. Package that with an iPod Touch and you have a great one box solution.

A footage / storage calculator. There are tons of these things out there in the world so the iPhone app is inevitable so I’ll just offer a few suggestions as to have to make it most useful. We live in a world of many, many, many, many codecs so if those codecs were broken down into categories instead of one huge list then that would go a long was toward making the tool quick and easy to use. SD, Avid DNxHD, ProRes, DVCPRO HD, RED’s R3D format are just a few that come to mind that I would like to access in their own list. If it worked via a hierarchical system where you choose the codec first, frame rate second, frame size third then that seems most efficient.

Now I’m not a software programmer so I have no idea if it is even possible to do some task in an iPhone app and then email the results in a file but it would be nice. Digital Rebellion has a number of great web apps that they say will be developed into iPhone applications. And I’m sure that the folks Digital Heaven have their eyes on the iPhone as well … at least I hope they do as they make some of the best desktop apps out there. If you’re developing anything like this for filmmaking and/or post-production and want a beta tester then let me know.  If you use any of my ideas above then I’ll be waiting on my consulting fee! Or at least a credit …

21 comments to “Here’s hoping for some great filmmaking iPhone apps”

  1. Comment by Philip Hodgetts:

    I doubt we’ll see the FCP remote control. That would require some external ability to trigger FCP. Currently the only Apple Event support (hard to use, must come from a program on the same computer) are for run, quit (the standard suite) and “get XML” and “push XML”. No ability to control FCP externally, which will make the ability to control it with an iPhone pretty tricky ;)

    As for the hardware assisted logging tool: either generation of iPhone/iTouch and a FireStore FS 5 and you’re there – have been since shortly after NAB.



  2. Comment by James Weber:

    @Philip- FCP remote is actually not that difficult. You’ll just need to set up a VNC program, and set up Screen Sharing on your computer. Only problem- there is no VNC software in the App Store yet. I haven’t updated yet, and have a jailbroken iPod Touch that works really nicely for controlling playback. (Thanks for the idea, Scott)

    You’ll just need to use the keyboard shortcuts, so yes, it is possible to set markers. You can even Play to out, jump to in or out point, and a bunch of other simpler operations. Quite handy. A dedicated remote program would be nice though, as a lot is still not possible.

    Here’s my blog post in response to this- Thanks for the idea, but I don’t think I’ll be making any money off of this to pay you consulting fees, Scott. :-)

  3. Comment by Mike:

  4. Comment by editblog-admin:

    James, great idea in that post .. from what Philip says I guess it has to be a kind of workaround as opposed to be directly integrated with FCP. Since FCP doesn’t really have this Apple Event capability I guess that’s another example of it being an “older” application.

    Mike, thanks for all those links but they are web apps so I sure hope they get rewritten to be stand alone apps. I’ve never really enjoyed the web apps for iPhone very much as they always feel a bit disconnected for the user experience you get with a true application.

  5. Comment by rich:

    Scott Squires has a new app for paint and notes, and he’s open to suggestions:

    Roto on iPhone

  6. Comment by markb:

    I found one app called LlamaSlate which is a virtual slate board.

  7. Comment by Jason:

    About a year ago I made a web-based tape logger that was designed to work over EDGE on the iPhone. I would love to make a native tape/footage logging application for the iPhone/iPod touch, but I’m not really a programmer. Not professional, not even really a hobbyist. I learned enough to launch Tapes, and now I’m trying to go through the long (long, long, long) process of building an iPhone application with almost no programming experience.

    Do you think there are any Cocoa-touch programmers out there willing to take a young filmmaker/budding programmer under their wing for some guidance? I recently wrote about this, but haven’t really gotten very far with it. Maybe it’s time to start soliciting help from some of the people already in the App Store.

    I’m sure that won’t be annoying.

    Any thoughts or advice? I kind of feel lost in a forest of Structs, Global Variables, Memory allocation, and Pointers. And I really use a map.

    Really, really.

  8. Comment by Jason:

    *could really.

    I could also learn to type.

  9. Comment by Benjamin Reece:

    Hey! I just put together a list of iPhone 2.0 apps on my blog- I think you will be very excited, as I was when I found these :) :

  10. Comment by Grat Crabtree:

    Grat’s Film Slate/Clapboard

    This film slate/clapboard has two modes, classic black and modern white.

    Edit the fields by tapping them. Supports “999Z” for Scene, Take, No, and Roll.
    Date and time updated by the second.

    Unlock the clapboard then tilt counter-clockwise and the clapboard animates open. Tilt back and it closes with a clack.


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