March 24, 2013

3 Useful On-Location Apps for Filmmakers: Sun Seeker, Dark Sky, FiRe 2 Field Recorder

The iPhone and app store is constantly evolving into an important tool for independent filmmakers. From camera manuals, to slates, to light meters, the versatility and ease of the device has impacted just about every filmmaker I know -- and it's here to stay. There are countless iPhone apps out there that can make life on location easier, all without breaking the bank. Click through to check out three that I use regularly.

Sun Seeker

Ever been location scouting, short on time, and wondered if the sun is going to go down over a ridge before your company move? Ever needed to know how your shadows will look in an hour? Sun Seeker is an awesome app with some really useful features for filmmakers. Yes, it's true: not everything about a cinematographer's job is glamorous, and maintaining continuity in the lighting is a technical challenge that is important to add to your skill set. When shooting a long scene on location over several hours, your lighting will probably change completely. Part of your job as a cinematographer is to know where the sun will be at all times so you can anticipate what tools to compensate for shifting lighting conditions.

Sunseeker has a free 'Lite' version and a full version for $9 (it's also available for $6 for Android). I use it enough that I got the full version, which grants access to the ' 3D augmented reality' portion of the app. Eventually you'll learn to know the sun's path by heart, but I find this app very useful starting out, especially during the location scouting phase. For example, I can show up to a location where I need to shoot an INT. Morning scene and approximate when the sun will give me the right light. This can help influence your scheduling and make you more efficient on set. I think the app is pretty accurate and hasn't given me any major troubles yet, though if you're looking for something more robust & precise (and expensive), you might want to check out Helios.

Dark Sky

You should always be aware of the forecast when you're going to be shooting on location, as weather can quickly become your biggest enemy when shooting with limited time and money. For just $4, Dark Sky self-proclaims: "An accurate short-term weather predictor."

Created by Adam Grossman & Jack Turner, this crowdfunded app is one I thought I'd give a try after I saw it featured on Kickstarter's Best of 2012. It takes in weather radar information and notifies you based on your GPS location when drizzle or rain is expected to hit. When shooting an exterior, it's nice to have a little heads up, a simple vibration telling me: "Rain in 20 minutes," allowing time to cover the gear or to pack up and be out before it hits.

It's not for long forecasts -- it only gives you updates up to about an hour in advance, so it's really only useful in immediate applications like location shooting. There's a 'radar' feature which allows you to see storms in real-time with cool animations, or check out the past or projected future of the direction of a storm. I'm not sure what the coverage is like in other areas, but it's well designed and worked for me very accurately in Southern California. From their Kickstarter page:

Dark Sky isn't a general-purpose weather app. It doesn't give you the temperature, humidity, dew point, or windspeed.

If you're looking for an extremely accurate forecast, you should head over to the NOAA & check out their pinpointed weather map, where you can enter in your latitude & longitude for the weather report.

FiRe 2 -- Field Recorder

This app turns your phone into a 48Khz capable field recorder with a boatload of options. I'm constantly using the Voice Memos function on the iPhone to record conversations for notes later, or just as a redundant scratch track when shooting a scene (it's easy to hide and picks up decent sound, believe it or not). However I was looking for something a little more powerful for this application on set, and I found FiRe.

Coming in at just $6, I'm pretty satisfied with the performance of the app. I had a silly idea to have a 'director's boom,' a Sennheiser MKE400 running into my iPhone's FiRe app via this 1/8 inch microphone adapter cable. This would act as a microphone I could hide anywhere separately from the sound department in case I specifically wanted a certain sound to use later. It has the ability to record directly to AIFF, WAVE, AAC, and has built-in integration with Soundcloud and Dropbox. You'll probably want to clear out some space on your phone though, as these files are much larger than the traditional voice memo.

Have you had any experience with these or similar apps? Share in the comments.

Links:

Your Comment

15 Comments

And for those of us on Android: http://cineblur.com/filmmaking-apps-for-android/

March 24, 2013

1
Reply
Ro

Thanks!

March 25, 2013

0
Reply
Casey

Excellent, we need more Android love here on NoFilmSchool!

March 30, 2013

0
Reply

April 1, 2013

0
Reply
Heiko

...sorry, that was the german link, here's the English one:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andymstone.sunposition...

April 1, 2013

0
Reply
Heiko

All awesome apps, except I would recommend Skymotion for the weather. Does same thing as darksky but it's free....

March 24, 2013

0
Reply
Lorrie D

Sun Surveyor has more features and is easier to read. The developer is very responsive.

March 24, 2013

0
Reply
dav

I like the Depth of field calculators, there are some pretty good ones for android.

March 24, 2013

1
Reply
maghoxfr

Always wished I could afford Artemis...

March 25, 2013

-1
Reply
Kenneth Merrill

Artemis is frankly quite useless in my opinion, and very expensive indeed. I had a coupon from Apple and I bought it. I was very disappointed. I know DP's who use it extensively, but I'd rather pick a good compact camera instead --or a real director's viewfinder.
The main limitation is that it has too many options that, in my opinion, distract you from the shot composition, and the second thing is the preview of wide angle lenses is limited by the iPhone's lens itself.

As a sun calculator I strongly recommend SunScout, it is an augmented reality app that is accurate enough (only limited by the precision of the phone's internal compass). When it works it's wonderful as you can predict precisely at what time the sun will be hidden by trees or a building, etc...

March 25, 2013

-1
Reply

These are great, I just came off a feature and committed to going 'paperless', script, notes, staging diagrams etc. everything. Managed to make it all work beautifully just directing with an iPad and probably saved at least one tree in the process. If you're interested, I knocked it all up into a blog you can find here: http://wearesupermassive.com/paperless-directing-the-ipad-is-the-best-to...

March 25, 2013

2
Reply

I used Cinema Forms Pro to do all the talent and location releases totally on the iPad and totally paperless.

I hate printers too...there is this doc out there...I think it's the Lightbulb Conspiracy, but maybe it's Planned Obselecence that basically proves by mapping out the circuit board that a particular Epson printer would essentially self-destruct and make you buy a new one. I can't find the link now, but now I know my printer hatred and theory has been proven to be an actually scam that's been pulled on us. F-ck paper now anyway.

April 2, 2013

-1
Reply
Daniel Mimura

Fire 2 and twisted wave field recording apps for the iPhone.

Does anybody have any experience of these two apps and any opinion on which is the better one of the two. Particularly with regard to reliability and not crashing.

March 27, 2013

-2
Reply
MountainHutFilms

I've made this app for Android called Wrangler: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appinventor.ai_anders.Wran...

It helps you figure out how much storage space is needed when shooting. Various popular camera formats are already there, but I'm planning to add heaps more in the coming weeks/months. Hope you don't see this as spam as I just want to help out fellow filmmakers...

April 20, 2013

0
Reply

Check out DuoVid, its an app that plays two videos at once.
Comparison is a powerful tool, use the app to compare videos from your phone or youtube.

Site: PitchanApp.com/DuoVid

September 18, 2013

2
Reply
PitchanApp