August 2012


Turn Your Mobile Devices into Movie Tools

Both my iPhone and iPad have a folder called “Movie Tools”; apps I turn to almost every time I’m on set.  For filmmakers, these things are wonderful.  An iPad and iPhone are the perfect accompaniment to a filmmaker’s camera bag.  Here are the apps that I own, and consider most valuable.

1. DSLR Slate – $9.99

DSLR Slate app

One of the most expensive apps on the list, but the most important.  If you’re shooting with a DSLR in a narrative setting, you’re probably recording audio separately.  This app functions like a professional slate, giving you sync points for your audio and video.  Even if you’re recording audio in camera, it’s a great way to log your camera settings.  We used it recently for a green screen shot, to allow us to exactly duplicate the camera settings  and placement.

2. DOF Calculator – Free

DOF Calc app

A basic, free app that allows you to set camera, lens, aperture and distance to subject and will give you your depth of field and near and far focusing distances.

3. Final Draft Reader – $9.99

Final Draft Reader app

The quickest and easiest way to read, reference and annotate Final Draft scripts on the go.  An invaluable tool for anyone who’s working on a scripted project.

4. Telepromt+ – $14.99

Teleprompt+ app

Pricy, but awesome.  A robust, full featured teleprompter app for your iPad.  Imports from Dropbox and Google Docs, allows for editing within the app and full customization of text speed and color.  Protip – keep it close to the camera lens so your subject doesn’t have to move their eyes away too much.

5. iHandy Level – Free

iHandy Level app

A traditional – looking bubble level.  Perfect for determining the angle of a camera when doing green screen and effects work.

6. Flashlight – Free

Flashlight app

This is more than just a way to find the batteries you dropped behind the couch – aim it at the lens to create off camera flares or throw a little additional fill light on a subject’s face in a dark room.

7. Timecard Pro – $.99

Timecard app

Without question, this is the app I use the most.  Assign different rates to different projects, monitor the money you’re earning and email out a spreadsheet when you’re ready to invoice.  An invaluable tool for anyone doing contract work.

What apps do you find useful during a shoot?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Rooftop Rig

Why I Don’t Hate DSLR’s

I was recently having a conversation with another shooter about the state of cameras. He shoots with a 5DMII and is pretty transparent in his dislike for it.  In fact, he’s waiting on his shipment confirmation for his brand new Black Magic Cinema camera, and is very excited to get the footage into DaVinci Resolve.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll definitely be out shooting with him as soon as it arrives.  But, I don’t share his hatred of DSLR’s.  In fact, they’ve kind of endeared themselves to me. Because, like a problem dog, they are a challenge.


I’m at my most creative when the odds are against me, and I think most filmmakers are the same way.  At it’s most basic core, filmmaking isn’t about cameras and lights and mics.  It’s about using the tools you have to translate a page of words or a theoretical idea into a moving picture.  Filmmaking, really good filmmaking, comes out of adversity.

In this world of affordable 2.5k, I still kind of enjoy my low bitrate, H.264 compressed, rolling shutter, crappy audio recording DSLR monstrosity.  The thing is, as a community, we’ve addressed all these issues and found ways to work around them.  They are not perfect cameras, not by a long shot.  But we’ve taken them and owned them.  We’ve made them work for us and do their jobs as storytelling machines.

What I love about my DSLR is that it makes me want to create.  I want to run up against it’s faults and overcome them to tell a story.  I’ve never owned a camera that forced me to be this creative before.

And some day, we’ll look back as filmmakers and say “I was part of the generation that changed the game.” How cool is that?

Guns for Justice 2: The Revenging was produced by Samuel Hall and me.  It was also shot on a 7D, cut on FCP7, graded in AE CS5 and scored in Garageband and produced in less than 24 hours.  Which is pretty good for a DSLR.


editing timelapse

A Little Editing

I really like GoPros.  I bought one a few months ago for an adventure trip to Belize (that video is in the works) and fell in love with it almost immediately.  It’s a tiny, tough little bugger who now has a permanent space in my camera bag.  There’s even rumblings of 24p and Technicolor’s Cinestyle preset coming as a firmware update, which would make the GoPro a viable B camera on any DSLR shoot.

For me however, the most useful feature of this camera is the ability to set up a quick, discreet timelapse.

gopro editing

So here is a brief “behind the scenes” look at the day of an editor.  Shot on a GoPro.

Music by Radient X.


Weathering the Storm

Or: The Importance of Personal Projects

stom pier

Elizabeth and I spent a week in Maine during Hurricane Irene last year.  As the storm assaulted the coast, we holed up in our beach front cabin, doing our best to stay warm and dry.  During a lulls in the rain, we would race outside to document the weather and the desolation, before being driven back to safety.

I’ve had this cut for a long time and haven’t done much with it.  I’ve been concerned that it’s non – narrative and nothing more than a collection of shots and songs that are boring to anyone but me.

But that’s not enough to stop me anymore.  Ever since I’ve started taking on more clients, I’ve actually become more invested in personal projects.  I find that I NEED to do things for myself, simply because I want to explore the medium for me.

So, here is Weathering the Storm, a piece of visual porn for my enjoyment

* As a side technical note: this is the last piece I shot predominantly in 60p.  Slow motion is awesome, but on a DSLR the morié gets so bad it’s almost inexcusable.