September 6, 2014 at 9:49PM


To iPad, or not to iPad?

I'm thinking about purchasing an iPad specifically for use as a filmmaking tool. I've seen the Paper app used pretty effectively as a storyboard tool. Then I look at my hand drawn crumpled up storyboards that barely make it through production in one piece and wonder, "what if I had one of those iPad things?"

Of course, I also see that they can be used as a slate and a teleprompter. Interesting, but I'm not sure I'd use it as either very often.

So, what's the consensus in the room? Is the iPad a valuable filmmaking tool, or just a cool thing I can use to make people assume I'm cool too?


I've tried it for storyboarding but didn't find that stuck.

However, what it's perfect for is reading scripts! It's the size of a piece of paper, you can annotate, and even do some light revision. For this alone it's worth it for a filmmaker in my opinion.

There are also a lot of apps that I haven't used that look interesting -- QRSlate, Shot Lister, Shot Designer...

September 6, 2014 at 10:37PM

Ryan Koo

Ryan, whats a good annotation app? Most of my scripts are sent to me as PDFs but I think I have an older version of reader that doesn't save the annotations so I just end up with writing on the screen...

Something that I've found my iPad great for is Shot Designer. Having the ability to sync things between your computer and iPad via Dropbox is amazing. I had a CG shoot on the Lexus Helix where the shot list was multiple pages of Excel spreadsheets. So instead of having to print this out for an AC to mark up, I transferred it all into Shot Designer when I did my plots and then it was on my iPad ready for notes and execution. This is the first time I've done that but it was nice to avoid a bunch of papers that can easily get lost/destroyed. Whenever we do multicam, we always slate with an iPad or iPhone even though I still personally prefer the real thing.

September 7, 2014 at 9:35AM

Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer

A great app to use for annotating on scripts is "Cabinet" its really handy and easy to use. And its free which is a big plus!

September 8, 2014 at 6:39PM

Josh Henry


I was on the same fence. I ended up borrowing an iPad for a shortfilm I shot to use an App called ShotLister. I think if you look up that app, it might push you over the edge. The app is incredibly useful for planning shots and storyboarding with others. I didn't use all of the features because I was in a time crunch, but just being able to plan each shot for each scene and have a description of the shot for others to look at was extremely helpful. Not only that but, you can also print out the shots in PDF format.

I would suggest waiting a couple weeks because I think they should be releasing the new line of iPads (Rumored 13inch) very soon :

September 7, 2014 at 12:55PM

Alex Smith

Shot Designer is an asset of an app. I'm largely an Android guy, but I can design a setup on desktop or on my phone, and have in on a tablet onset to go over things.

Other than that, I haven't found a lot of uses. I know several folks who use it as a slate, but I don't personally see how it trumps a dry-erase slate and a flashlight for when its dark. Plus, "analog" slates don't run on batteries ;)

September 8, 2014 at 10:16AM

David S.

I definitely agree on Shot Designer. It has completely changed the way I create overheads, and it makes it so easy to share them with all of people who need to see them. Hands down my favorite filmmaking app.

September 8, 2014 at 9:11PM, Edited September 8, 9:11PM

Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom

I got one a couple months ago for the same thing. My fear was whether it really was going to worth it but I also didn't want to be that "kid director" who needs his gadgets to get the job done.

Immediately I purchased ShotLister app. Just seemed like a no brainer. Constant updates, several detailed tutorials, etc. Just great stuff. Problem being though is that it is very intense and time consuming to input everything for multiple days of shooting. Which is great but I got my ipad months ago and didn't have an applicable shoot until last week. Everything before that was too small to really need something more than a checklist app.

I have yet to shoot something narrative and use the app though. The shoot I did last week was one where due to budget I had to operate. We were shooting one of those "intro to ____ company" videos and I had probably 100 shots I needed to get. So I scouted and planned everything before getting on set and shooting. Which was good because when the day came... I would've been flying blind without that app.

But back to ipad or no ipad. That specific case could've been fixed by just typing up a word doc and printing it. I didn't really need the scheduler live feature because things were changing all over the place.

I think that in the future I will use it more for having all my documents in one place. I can't wait to have my animatic on something better than my phone. That and shotlister would be pretty sweet.

But I haven't really gotten into any other apps for production. If you have a subscription to hollywood reporter all I can say is that the digital version is awesome. Very interactive and all in retina. I know this site is more about making DIY dolly's but the business news of filmmaking is very important to stay up to date on. And my ipad helps me do that when I don't want to be on my laptop scrolling through blogs.

Another point I'll make is that I have a macbook air that I use a lot and I used to bring to meetings. It's great. But after getting a case that makes my ipad look like a notebook I've started bring that instead because its smaller and half the time I don't even open it. It's great because I can view my calendar quickly and write emails quickly.

I apologize for this reply being fragmented... I had to step away and write emails multiple times. But to sum it up... I would recommend it IF you have the money. Mine was given to me as graduation gift. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have it. I see it as something that if you haven't used one you will be fine and you will easily work without it. But if you try it, you will find uses no matter how you work. A

September 8, 2014 at 1:05PM

Scott Talbot

September 8, 2014 at 7:35PM, Edited September 8, 7:35PM

Scott Talbot

Something that's always stopped me from being too desperate to get an iPad for documents is that when working on anything with an intense enough planning process, it usually means the crew will require copies of their own so no matter what we'll be doing a lot of printing. So then I figure, why not just print one more copy for myself? Do everything on paper i.e. a great way of reading a script and annotating to print it and use a pen. Granted, for revision you then need to be on a computer, but personally I don't enjoy typing on a touchscreen if it's anything of length. I can see how it would be useful for remote working, but then again so is a laptop.
One thing that always entices me when putting my directing hat on though is having an iPad as a remote monitor as well as some of the fantastic apps a lot of folks mentioned above that utilise the in-built camera. I think that potential alone is enough to justify owning one, besides everything else an iPad can do, filming or non-filming related. If I had some spare change that wasn't going into some production or another it would be high up on my purchase list!

September 9, 2014 at 7:18AM

Alex J. Withers
Writer / Director

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