A couple weeks ago, we began a journey to talk about iPad apps that professionals can use. We promised to take a look at lots of different job markets and maybe strike upon some apps you might have overlooked in your own field.
Today, we’re taking a look at the iPad and professional filmmakers — everybody from directors to actors — to see how they could benefit from carrying an iPad around. Read on to find out what made the industry jump at the tablet when it was released and what makes the iPad important for them years later.
When the iPad came out, I can recall how all the Hollywood types I followed were talking about what a difference it would make for reading screenplays. Screenplays are traditionally these bulky printed documents with lots of white space, and if you’re a producer or a script reader, carrying around a bunch of them is taxing and annoying.
Reading screenplay PDFs feels pretty natural in PDF Expert.
Naturally, there are a ton of apps that have risen up to make reading on the iPad easier than ever. Most of the time, scripts are read in PDF format, so there’s any number of apps that might help. GoodReader gets tossed around a lot, but personally, I like PDF Expert. Even actors could benefit from this kind of setup. It’s still easy to highlight lines and make notes on the script with these apps, so memorizing lines and figuring out how to play a role is still at least somewhat natural.
I adore FDX Reader.
In Hollywood, there’s one incredibly popular file format called .fdx, which is the file format that screenwriting program Final Draft uses. It’s the industry standard, and you might encounter screenplays in that format as well. Final Draft Reader and — my favourite — FDX Reader, developed in part by pro screenwriter John August, are both good options.
FDX Reader is a little more limited in function, but it’s a far better reading experience — and it’s got a great intro video that explains why it’s so useful.
Of course, there wouldn’t be any screenplays to read if there weren’t anybody writing them. Screenwriting software is largely dominated by this Final Draft behemoth. Thankfully, there’s a Final Draft Writer app for iPad. Yes, there’s a separate reader and a writer app. It’s kind of silly, and a lot of people dislike it (to put it politely). There’s a lot of other options if the “too-little-too-late” official software, as it’s often described, doesn’t float your boat.
Final Draft Writer might be the industry standard, but most people I know aren’t terribly impressed with it.
You’re going to run into a lot of options, but instead of running through all of them for you, I’m going to simply tell you the truth: If you want a Final Draft Writer alternative, don’t bother looking any further than Scripts Pro. I’ve tried everything else out there, and it’s the only one that comes close.
Thankfully, there is some competition for the Final Draft format now.
Scripts Pro isn’t bad either, but it’s not great.
Most of this is, again, thanks to John August (clearly an amazing and generous guy. John, if you’re by chance reading this, thanks for contributing so much back to the Hollywood and tech communities). He’s developed Fountain, a markup syntax for screenwriting that has a lot in common with Markdown. It uses plain text formatting. What does this mean for you? Simply put, you can use any text editor you want on iPad to edit screenplays — including Byword, iA Writer and Editorial. Writing Kit even comes with a built-in Fountain preview. Although I’m unfamiliar with it, another recommended option is Storyist.
Apart from the aforementioned apps, many of which allow the ability to take notes on a screenplay or handle outlines, there are some fantastic apps to help you plan out your actual shooting. Index Card is one of my favourite iOS apps because it integrates so well with Scrivener, a multi-talented word processing app for desktops.
I love Index Card. This is the tutorial project.
Scrivener is Fountain-compatible and supports Index Card, so you could outline a script scene-by-scene or attach notes to scenes before writing it up on your computer. My favourite side of effect of Index Card? It eliminated the need to slap hundreds of sticky notes on my bedroom walls.
Evernote’s a great way to keep ideas organized.
Of course, Evernote’s also an indispensable tool for a lot of filmmakers. Although it doesn’t integrate with any screenwriting apps, it’s easy to take it anywhere and get work done when you need to. I use it for story ideas almost exclusively, simply because its organization is second-to-none.
Contour is a personal favourite of mine, and offers very in-depth resources.
This is one part of filming that’s flooded with options. Comb through the App Store and pick your favourite outlining app, or note-taking app. The options are endless. I like Contour, which also has a Mac counterpart that allows you to plan out your movie without any struggle at all — and even includes popular templates to help keep your perspective going.
Shooting a Movie
Let’s be honest, there’s no way you want to shoot a movie with your iPad unless you’re a struggling future auteur shooting shorts for YouTube and finding your voice. (In that case, keep making shorts. I want to see you succeed.)
But most professionals won’t use their iPad for film shooting or editing. True, there’s iMovie, but it’s a consumer app. You could use the iPad to reduce some paper, though. Try 3D Slate or DSLR Slate (or other similar apps) for “slating” shots. You can digitally keep track of everything on your production and reduce paper management quite easily that way.
ShotList can help you manage shots, and 3cP/Image Control Pro can help with calibrating colour if you’re a cinematographer. Cinemek Storyboard Composer HD is great for storyboarding, but some would argue it’s overly textured and not really an improvement in efficiency (and it hasn’t exactly earned stellar reviews on the App Store).
In short, there’s a myriad of professional apps available for everything except shooting and editing video. Why’s that? Well, the iPad’s current 5 megapixel camera isn’t exactly a 4K beast. You wouldn’t want to shoot with it. And the iPad doesn’t have the power to make a great video editor yet. Theoretically speaking, it could — after all, the iPhones and iPads we carry around now as powerful as the computers Peter Jackson and his team edited The Lord of the Rings on a bit over a decade ago. But the software isn’t there yet, and Apple hasn’t started supporting the necessary file formats yet.
That being said, the ice is starting to crack in this area. I’ve heard a couple whispers about Apple testing larger “professional” iPads internally. Who knows if that means anything, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t make headway in this area as tablets mature.
Are you a professional filmmaker? We’d love to hear what sort of apps you’re using in your workflow in the comments. If I missed anything new, I’d love to hear about it.
As far as my own use case is concerned, screenwriting is something of a hobby of mine. My iPad has been a constant ally of mine since I got my third-generation iPad with Retina display in spring 2012. For me, it helps me read over my drafts and get away from my workspace. In fact, one of the reasons I got a position writing here at AppStorm was because I wrote about my dependency on the iPad for screenwriting on my personal blog. I honestly don’t know how I functioned without it.