iPhone Apps For Filmmakers

September 8, 2009 by Derrick Faw · 124 Comments
Filed under: Computing, Equipment, Filming, Internet 

One of the hottest commodities on the market today is the iPhone and iPod Touch. It is expected that Apple will have sold 80 million iPhones by 2012. The uses for this mini computer are growing everyday. Currently there is over 65,000 official applications available at iTunes for the iPhone. At the current growth rate this number could top 100,000 by the end of the year. This is not counting a vast amount of web based applications, over 1700 alone registered with Apple.

iPhone apps exist in many flavors, everything from simple games to complex software for professional task. Most apps are very affordable, if not dirt cheap or free. Filmmakers have not been left behind in the app frenzy. While searching the web for some tools to help us, I was astonished by the amount of software available. Here is a list of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch apps I was able to dig up.

**Opera web browser users: If you have difficulty with the “get app” function working properly with iTunes, see this fix

Native Apps

A native app is a software that is installed directly to the iPhone. The iTunes store host all the apps approved by Apple.

Hitchcock by Cinemek inc (Cost: $19.99)

(iPhone, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

Cinemek® Hitchcock for iPhone and iPod Touch is a mobile storyboard and pre-visualization composer designed for Directors, Directors of Photography, Producers, Writers, Animators, Art Directors, film students and anyone who wants to be able to visualize their story. More Info

pCAM Film+Digital Calculator by David Eubank (Cost: $39.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1or later) Screenshots    

A Motion Picture and Still Photography calculator for Directors of Photography, Photographers, Camera Operators, Camera Assistants, VFX Supervisors, Script Supervisors, Gaffers, Grips, Editors, Production Designers, Art Directors, Film and Photography Students. Created by the same Hollywood Camera Assistant who created the widely used Palm version. More Info

iTC Calc by KPL Production Services, Ltd. (Cost: $9.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

iTC Calc is the perfect companion for any producer, post-production producer, editor, Flame or After Effect artists and everyone who need to deal with timecode and frames. More Info

iTC Calc Light by KPL Production Services, Ltd. (Cost: $2.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2 or later) Screenshot    

iTC Calc Light is the perfect calculator for any producer, post-production producer, editor, flame or After Effect artists and everyone who need to make quick timecode calculations. More Info

TCCalc – Timecode calculator by Jean-Luc Pedroni (Cost: $4.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

TCCalc is a powerful time code calculator. With its two views, horizontal and vertical springboard, you can choose between basic timecode operations, or more sofisticated operations and features. More Info

TimeCodeCal by Daniel Maskell (Cost: $2.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2 or later) Screenshots    

TimeCodeCal is the most flexible time / timecode calculator available. With it’s user configurable frame rate from 1 to 100 frames per second, plus hexadecimal mode it is aimed at anyone performing time based calculations, from the casual user to professionals in the broadcast industry. The hex mode was included with developers in mind looking at memory dumps of data. More Info

FreeTime Pro by Javier Hernanz Zajara (Cost: Free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshots    

A powerful timecode calculator. Conversion and editing modes. Formats include NTSC, Drop Frame, PAL, Film edgecode (3:2 pulldown), and real-time. User preferences control behavior with field overflows, illegal (dropped) frames values, and key click sound.

TC Calculator by Javier Hernanz Zajara (Cost: Free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshot    

TC Calculator is a simple calculator for operating with TC’s (Time Codes) and frames. It can add, substract and convert TC’s between different speeds. It may be very useful for people working on video or film. Currently not available in iTunes US Store.

EditCalc by Brad Brooks (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

EditCalc is a frames, footage and timecode calculator app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. More Info

time:calc by WattenEarth (Cost: $1.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshot    

time:calc is a time calculator that does conversions and calculations of time. It also works with timecode enabling calculations of frame rates for TV and film. More Info

timecoder app by zinc Roe Inc. (Cost: Free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshots    

Timecoder converts video timecode between two different frame rates, from timecode to frame number and from frame number back to timecode. You can leave out the hours, minutes or seconds when they’re not necessary. You can also use large values that will “roll over”. For example, you can enter 90;00 (90 seconds) and Timecoder will automatically convert it to 00:01:30;00 (1 minute and 30 seconds). You can choose from a list of common framerates (frames, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30), or enter any framerate you like. Timecodes and framerates are rounded for display, but the conversions are accurate to more than three decimal places.

Film Editor’s Calculator by Michael Koperwas (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2 or later) Screenshots    

The Film Editor’s Calculator is a valuable tool for any film editor which allows you to calculate feet and frames for 35mm motion picture film. The calculator’s database also gives you information such as manufacturer and film stock based on the keycode’s prefix. The keycode calculator interface is very simple to use and is helpful when working with film at the bench or working with telecines on an editing system.

Film Calculator by Noah Harlan (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

The 2.1 Film Calculator is a multi-purpose tool for filmmakers to aid in common tasks of film conversion and counting in pre-production, production and post-production.** On Sale! Now only $.99 until we release the new version in a couple weeks. Enjoy! ** More Info

Action Log Pro by Andris Ltd (Cost: $29.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

Action Log is a film and television logging tool, designed for use on location or in a studio with up to 25 recording devices. At the touch of a button the logging system keeps track of all reel names and timecodes for each recorded piece of action. More Info

Action Log by Andris Ltd (Cost: $5.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

Action Log is a film and television logging tool, designed for use on location or in a studio with 1 recording device. At the touch of a button the logging system keeps track of all reel names and timecodes for each recorded piece of action. More Info

Movie★Slate by PureBlend Software. (Cost: $4.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshots    

Movie★Slate is a digital slate, clapper board, shot log, and shot notepad— designed for use with film, television, documentaries, interviews, and home movies. Movie★Slate provides an easy way to log footage and take notes as you shoot— saving you time later when you capture and edit the footage on your computer. More Info

FilmSlate by Idea Engine, Inc. (Cost: $4.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

FilmSlate puts a portable “Smart Slate” in your hand. FilmSlate was developed by professionals, for professionals, and is designed to be used on set as an insert slate, a run-and-gun slate, or a portable backlit slate in your pocket. More Info

iSlate by ibuiltthis (Cost: $2.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshots    

iSlate is an easy to use portable digital clapper board that can help video enthusiasts add a touch of hollywood magic to their videos. Possible uses include video blogs, online video postings, and various video projects. More Info

iSlate Lite by ibuiltthis (Cost: Free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshot    

Free Lite version of iSlate the portable digital clapper board.

AClapBoard by Rolf-dieter Klein (Cost: $4.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

A digital clapboard/Slate and client time measurement system. New features: timecode calculator and color charts, 2-pop sync. The application combines many functions useful for film makers but also in general for free lancer. More Info

ClapBoardLT by Rolf-dieter Klein (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

A digital clapboard and client time measurement system. ClapBoardLT is the smaller version of AClapBoard which has more features like color chart and timecode calculator.
More Info

LlamaSlate by Scott Lawrence (Cost: $1.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

LlamaSlate is a filmmaker’s tool to help with the editorial process. LlamaSlate is a simplified digital version of a traditional “clapper board” or “slate”, which is used to mark the beginning and end of every shot filmed. LlamaSlate can also help you to sync multiple cameras easily. More Info

Pocket DIT by Clifton Production Services LLC (Cost: Free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

RED Camera users, this is your cinematography “cheat sheet”. More Info

iSee4K by Edward Watkins (Cost: Free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

With this nifty little app spend your time ‘getting the shot’, rather than pouring over manuals and reference tables. Although primarily developed to aid users of the RED® Digital Cinema Camera, iSee4K is highly configurable and allows users to calculate DoF, FoV and Lens equivalence for virtually any camera and lens. More Info

DoF by Michael Neuwert (Cost: $1.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

DoF is a small utility for Photographer or Videographer allowing to calculate the depth of field. More Info

DOFMaster by Donald Fleming (Cost: $1.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshot    

Use DOFMaster to calculate the depth of field in your photographs. You’ll be able to select the lens and f/stop combination that provides the zone of sharpness you need. Use it to calculate the hyperfocal distance for landscape photography. More Info

DOF Ruler by Devin Hartman (Cost: $1.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

DOF Ruler is a Depth of Field calculator with a unique sliding ruler interface. It is a quick and easy way for Photographers to calculate Depth of Field. More Info

f/8 DoF Calculator by Thorsten Kramp (Cost: $3.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

Photojournalists have a saying, “f/8 and be there,” meaning that being on the scene is more important than worrying about technical details. Yet with f/8, the depth-of-field and hyperfocal distance calculator for the iPhone and iPod touch, you’ll be there with the depth of field spot-on, too! Anywhere, anytime! More Info

MatchLens by D Matthew Smith (Cost: $9.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2 or later) Screenshots    

This calculator computes the equivalent lens focal length to produce the same field of view between two cameras with different aperture/sensor sizes. It will do a “Match Lens” calculation, and produce the closest equivalent angle of view lens, in millimeters, for both vertical and horizontal frames, between the original camera’s focal length and the current camera’s focal length. More Info

ShootPad by David Brewster (Cost: $6.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

Made for the guy shooting home video or the videographer shooting with their own camera. As the professional video guy is pausing and starting his video camera, he’s supposed to make notes for the starting and ending of cuts for later editing. More Info

Animation Timer by Randy Cartwright (Cost: $4.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2 or later) Screenshots    

Animation Timer is a simple stopwatch designed for animators. More Info

FrameTime by Patrick Spizzo (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

FrameTime is a simple animation timer that lets you time events down to fractions of a second. Use the simple controls to start the timer, then add keyframes based on the action you are timing out. Once you are finished, the timer controls conveniently move out of the way so you can see as many of the keyframes as possible. More Info

FPS Calculate by Wes McDermott(Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

An animation timer is being added so that you can time movement and convert that into a given frame count! More Info

Screenplay by Black Mana Studios (Cost: $2.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

Black Mana Studios’ Screenplay is the world’s first fully-functional mobile screenwriting application. It allows professionals and hobbyists alike to write complete movie and television screenplays directly on the iPhone or iPod Touch. More Info

hollywoodhelperHollywoodHelper by differential enterprises (Cost: $2.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

For actors, Hollywood Helper / Broadway Buddy helps you learn the lines of your scripts without lugging around printed scripts, whether you aspire to screen or stage. More Info

Sync Points by Jon Lay (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshot    

Sync Points is a calculator for composers for film, video, or any medium where precise synchronization to picture or SMPTE timecode is needed. With this app, you can calculate hit points from tempo or beats, generate an exact tempo in BPM and FPB for a given number of beats or timing, and compute a number of beats given a tempo and timing. More Info

FiRe – Field Recorder by Audiofile Engineering, LLC (Cost: $5.99)

(iPhone, OS: 2.2.1 or later) Screenshots    

FiRe is the world’s first professional field recorder built exclusively for iPhone and iPod Touch.. Combining powerful, elegant and uncluttered audio utilities with unparalleled technical support. More Info

PowerCalc by West Side Systems, LLC (Cost: $0.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

PowerCalc performs basic electrical power calculations with watts, volts, amps, and motor power factor. More Info

LightMeter by Frank Bauer (Cost: $2.99)

(iPhone, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

Turn your iPhone 3G-S into a exposure meter.More Info

Helios Sun Position Calculator by Chemical Wedding (Cost: $29.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 3.0 or later) Screenshots    

Helios is a Sun Position Calculator that graphically represents the position of the sun from dusk to dawn, on any given day, in any given place. More Info

Focalware by Spiral Development Inc (Cost: $9.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshots    

Focalware calculates sun and moon position for a given location and date. Use the interactive compass to determine the path and height of the sun or moon. Photographers and filmmakers who are always asked by their clients for the sun, moon and stars, can now deliver. More Info (with Video Demonstration)

MagicHour by Vela Design Group (Cost: $3.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.1 or later) Screenshots    

MagicHour™ (formerly VelaClock) is a world clock that can quickly display the time of sunrise, sunset, three kinds of twilight (civil, nautical, astronomical) for dawn and dusk, moonrise, moonset, duration of daylight, current phase of moon, date and times for the next four moon phases, countdown to the next sunrise or sunset and next moonrise or moonset, and more. More Info

iFilmmaker Pro by Katha Films LLC (Cost: $4.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

For the movie making beginner, expert filmmaker or “been-there-done-that indie enthusiast”, iFilmMaker is loaded with 1500 questions, tips and tricks of the film making trade, presented in a very entertaining, and educational manner. With iFilmMaker application, you can learn about different aspects of filmmaking like editing, directing /producing, scriptwriting, acting, and cinematography with easy to answer questions, and click to live web links for detailed information about the particular subject. More Info

iFilmmaker Pro Lite by Katha Films LLC (Cost: $1.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

For the movie making beginner, expert or “been-there-done-that indie enthusiast”, iFilmMaker is loaded with hundreds questions, tips and tricks of the film making trade, presented in a very entertaining, and educational manner. With iFilmMaker application, you can learn about Editing, Directing/Producing, ScriptWriting, Acting, and Cinematography with easy to answer questions, and click to live web links for detailed information about the particular subject. More Info

Clz Movies by Bitz & Pixelz BV (Cost: $9.99)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: 2.0 or later) Screenshots    

This app is a supplement to Movie Collector software by Collectorz.com. Movie Collector is a must have for anyone with a large film collection. It is by far the most complete and versital database software available on the market. Clz Movies application for the iPhone allows your to take your movie collection with you on the go. More Info

Web Based Apps

Web applications (or web apps) combine the power of the Internet with the simplicity of Multi-Touch technology, all on a 3.5-inch screen. iPhone and iPod touch let you easily flick through news on Digg, play Sudoku or Bejeweled with a finger tap, and quickly check movie times, train schedules, and favorite blogs.

When you find a web app you like, you can put it front and center on your Home screen. Just open the web app on your iPhone or iPod touch, tap the plus sign, and then tap “Add to Home screen.” A Web Clip will be added to your Home screen automatically for easy, one-tap access. You have up to nine Home screen pages for all your Web Clips and you can organize them however you like.

Footage Calc by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

Enables you to calculate the amount of disk space required for various video codecs at varying frame rates. It offers an easy-to-use interface that allows you to quickly and easily view the required information whilst on the move – perfect for those awkward on-the-spot questions from clients. Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version. Also available as an offline application.

Film Rate Calc by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

Calculates the relationship between film reels and shooting time. Use this calculator to work out how many rolls of film are required for a certain shooting ratio, or alternatively calculate how many minutes have been shot for a certain number of rolls. This is a useful tool for any script supervisor or producer. Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version. Also available as an offline iPhone application.

Aspect Ratio Calculator by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

Allows you to calculate the aspect ratio, width or height of an image or video. Also displays extra information such as the film or video format that the aspect ratio is normally associated with. This enables you to work out the correct frame size to use when creating CG shots that will be broadcast or intercut with live action footage. Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version.

Depth of Field Calc by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

This tool will calculate the depth of field for a given sensor or film type, aperture, focal length, and subject distance (the distance from the camera to the person or object you are focusing on). A lower number means that a large proportion of the background will remain in sharp focus and a higher number means that a smaller proportion (if any) will be in focus. It also includes presets for popular video cameras. Selecting a preset will automatically change the sensor type to fit your camera. Please be aware that this tool is designed for cinematographers, not still photographers. Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version.

Pixel Aspect Ratio Calculator by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

This tool will help you calculate pixel aspect ratios (PAR) of video formats. It also enables you to work out the proper resolution for a still image placed into a non-square pixel timeline. The source resolution is the square pixel resolution (ie. the dimensions of the still image) and the target resolution is the non-square resolution (ie. the final resolution of the image upon adding it to the timeline).
Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version.

Lens Angle Calculator by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

Use this calculator to calculate the lens angle or focal length for a given sensor size. This is useful for planning out camera placements in advance, which is particularly invaluable for visual effects work. Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version.

Power Load Calculator by Digital Rebellion (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshot

Use this calculator to calculate the lens angle or focal length for a given sensor size. This is useful for planning out camera placements in advance, which is particularly invaluable for visual effects work. Along with the iPhone Version there is also a full browser version.

RED StrorageCalculator by Alex Boerger  (Cost: free)

(iPhone/iPod Touch, OS: All) Screenshots

This calculator is specifically for Red Camera users. With it you can determine how much storage (in gigabytes) based upon your desired Redcode, Resolution, Aspect, Framerate, and time. Goto the iPhone Version.

Protective Cases

Accessories & Combo Packs

Data & Connectivity

iPhone Books

Create your own apps or learn how to better use the iPhone.

iPod Touch

If iPhones are still not supported by your service provider or you are looking for an additional device, the iPod Touch might be for you. It works the same way as an iPhone, but lacks some of the features. Buy Now

Video Demo of the iPod Touch (Large  Small)--Requires Quicktime--

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DV Shoot Equipment Shopping List

September 5, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · 3 Comments
Filed under: Equipment, Filming, World Wide Angle 

As I read the Down and Dirty DV Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide which I reviewed last week, I took notes regarding the equipment we shall need for our projects. I came up with a list of things to have and a number of notes for each item such as “what features to look seek”, “what price range to expect”, etc. I also done my best to prioritize the items. For each item, I also listed the reference page in the book. I then added a small mark in front of each item we already have. Obviously, we don’t have it all covered yet but I’m happy to say that we are a lot closer to having our gear ready than 6 months ago and also, that what we bought so far, fits the bill pretty well. Anyway, here is the list.


Buy Now

The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide

August 31, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · 4 Comments
Filed under: Filming 


Desiring to move up from short videos to the documentary format we have been searching for a book that would layout the basics of documentary making. We found the Shut up and Shoot Documentary Guide on Amazon. It turned out to be the very book we were looking for. We both read it, from cover to cover and feel a lot more knowledgeable already. Our next steps will be to shop for a few more tools (basically we’re still out of a light kit) and practice setting up in the most usual situations (day light, interior light, low light, etc) while we work on getting one of our documentaries ideas going.

The author, Anthony Artis, has 15 years of experience in video making. He knows what he is talking about. But what makes the book stand out is his obvious love for teaching and passing on knowledge. He obviously enjoys sharing what he so hardly learnt himself, often by trial and error. By doing so, he spares the rest of us a lot of failures and wasted time. The book is also as exhaustive as can be covering all the steps from the pre production to the promotion and distrubition. If you feel these pages will not be of interest to you, we found out that there were as important and as rich in information as the ones about more technical phases of the project. The post-production is the only area the book doesn’t cover in such details. It is assumed that the documentary maker will either already be a competent editor himself or hire someoen to handle the technical aspect of it.

I must also add that the book is well presented and enjoyable to read. The illustrations are well picked and very explantaory. A lot of effort was also put into the preparation of sum up pages, almost cheat sheets, ready to turn into a quick reference book when in a tight spot. A double page for example details all the steps in getting your sound mixer up and running or the do’s and don’t's in low light situation. I’m currently working on an electronic document gathering some of these quick tips and cheat sheets for us to carry around at all times as well as a clear and explanatory shopping list since we try to pick up the geatest tools when the need arises. Our latest acquisition was a shotgun mic that I think we picked well. We will soon be looking for a light kit.

What you will find in the book:

  • how to research your documentary subject
  • how to apply for funds either from private people or from orgaisations
  • where to look for a crew and how to pick it
  • select locations (private or public)
  • select an equipment package and draw up a budget
  • image control and camera work
  • video lighting
  • sound recording and mixing
  • how to conduct a crew on set
  • conduct an interview
  • prepare a subject (wardrobe/makeup)
  • finding the right combination for your post production
  • promoting the movie (both online and through festivals)

and a lot more valuable knowledge and tips like how to deal with archive footage centers, interviewee walking out on you, insuring a location for shooting, and so much more. Actually, Anthony himself sum up his book and his intentions on his website, see for yourself what this is all about.

Down and Dirty DV

Anthony Artis, the author, is also the webmaster  of downanddirtydv.com, a website, blog and newsletter about guerilla filmmaking I recommend you to visit. The book comes with a DVD full of extra resources for the young filmmaker (release forms, budget templates, cheat sheets and other practical documents). The extra alone are invaluable to young filmmakers who have no idea where to start looking for information like “how to draw up a release form?”.

One last thing

The book is also very well written which makes the read even more enjoyable. The tone is straight forward, and makes you feel like Anthony is speaking directly to you, sharing his errors and the solutions he found to them. And to add even more fun to it, the man also has a good sense of humor. The way he explains not to use dryer sheets as diffusion, from obvious first hand experience, ensures none of his readers will reproduce that mistake. Though i guess that’s the basic of guerilla filmmaking, try to make do with what’s at hand.

If you have a documentary project in mind, you won’t regret reading that book. Good luck to you.

Buy Now

Lens Cleaning Tips

August 26, 2009 by Derrick Faw · 3 Comments
Filed under: Equipment, Filming, Photography 

When shooting video or taking photos a clean lenses and filters are a must. Rather you shoot digital or on film, or have consumer or pro camera, you are not immune to the dirty forces of nature. I can tell you, little is more disheartening than coming home from a shoot and finding your images are corrupted by a dirty lens. There is no remedy for this foolish, yet easily avoidable mistake. You can not rely on the view finder or LCD screen, the resolution is just not good enough to show most small smudges.

What is worse than a dirty lens you might ask? Well it is improper or obsessive over cleaning of the lens. Most of the lenses we deal with have a special coating on them which helps reduce flares, or light reflected by the surface of the lens. In addition the coating allows in more light than an uncoated lens. Typically on a glass to air surface 4% of light is naturally reflected away. A coating can bring this level down to about 1%. Lens coatings can usually be noticed by their red-purple or green appearance. Lens coatings can be rubbed away from over cleaning and applying too much pressure on the lens as you clean.


The number one way to have a clean lens is using  preventative measures.

  • Always use lens caps when not shooting.
  • Keep your fingers off the lens.
  • Use caution when changing lenses.

Use extra vigilance when shooting outdoors. Dust can come from a plethora of sources. Be especially aware around pollinating trees, salt water, and sandy areas with a lot of wind. For example during our recent vacation in Tunisia, we stopped to take photos at some sand dunes. I step out of the vehicle with my camera in hand ready to take a shot and was immediately blasted by a whirlwind of sand.

Removing Dust

Bulb Type Air BlowerSimple dust particles: A little dust on the lens doesn’t really hurt a lot, as the end of the lens will be out of the focal depth of field. Problems could arise though when shooting against a strong light source, where reflections off the dust can intrude. Dust particles can be easily removed with a light brush or air. Avoid using any kind of compressed air cleaners, which could leave a residue on the lens surface. The essential and primary tool for the job is a bulb type air blower. It is simple and easy to use, just avoid contact with the tip of the blower and the lens as to not scratch the lens surface.

For more aggravating dust use a fine brush to gently knock off particles. A great tool that should be in everyone’s equipment bag is a brush style lens pen. They offer a quick and easy method for dust removal as well as other deposits on the lens. One end of the pen will have a retractable brush, the other will have a non liquid based cleaning pad. These gizmos have become extremely popular and are in wide use around the world.

Lens Pens From B&H

First use the brush tool to remove all abrasive deposits then use the cleaning pad lightly in a circular motion. These pens are usually marketed to clean both lenses and LCDs. I recommend having a different pin for each use. Also these pens can not be cleaned and will have to be replaced from time to time, which is no problem considering how cheap they are. Similar type pens are also used for sensor cleaning, which I will cover in a future post.

Liquid Based Cleaning

Liquid based cleaning methods have long been the standard method and are necessary for stains like grease from your fingers. Apart from the liquid a cloth is also required. Avoid cheap dime store wipes that may be too abrasive. Use a good microfiber cloth specially made for lens cleaning. Before attempting to clean your lens with a liquid and cloth, use a brush to knock off any dust particles. One of the best liquids you can use is your own breath. It contains no chemicals that may eat away at the coating on the the lens. Breath hard on the lens surface leaving a fog of moisture on it. Then using a the microfiber cloth, gently wipe in a circular motion from the center of the lens to the outside(without rubbing). In other words, leave off the elbow grease. If a problem area still exist a stronger cleaning solution will be needed.

Many products exist for lens cleaning. It is important to chose one that will leave no residue on the lens surface, such as those commonly sold for eyeglasses cleaning. One possible solution is pre-moistened cleaning pads especially designed for camera lenses. Use these pads one time and dispose off, they should not be recycled. Your other option is to use a cleaning liquid in conjunction with a dry cloth. The procedure here is the same, just be aware that it only takes a little bit of liquid. A small amount will go a long way and decrease the possibility of leaving any kind of residue on the lens surface.

A full line of top quality cleaning products can be found at the B&H photo and video store. Keeping your lens clean and dust free is one of the most essential parts of coming home from a shoot with usable material. Make a habit of checking your lenses before shooting and periodically throughout. With a little care and proper handling, your lenses can give you years of beneficial service.

The Film That Could Have Been – Legal Matters In Production

August 12, 2009 by Derrick Faw · 2 Comments
Filed under: Filming, Legal, World Wide Angle 

nooscarAs many other inspiring filmmakers, we have several ideas for projects we want to work on. Recently an opportunity came up for us to work in conjunction with someone else to make a documentary. Early on it became evident that the film had great potential. The prospects of a lucrative film can definitely get one’s hopes up. Most importantly for us though, was the chance to get solid recognition for our work. After most of the pre-production was finished, we were forced to drop out of the project. There is nothing or no one to blame but our own mistakes. Unfortunately we went into the project excited and with blind trust to find out later that our partner was not on the same wavelength as us.

We decided that we needed assistance in a very important filmmaking skill, that of people skills. On this particular project, the other person proved to be a good talker, which had us feeling pretty confident that we were going in the right direction. Because of our partner’s personal connection with the subject of the film, we all thought it was only smart to use them as the front person for the project. Little did we realize at the time, this would undermine the partnership we had invisioned.

Gradually a feeling of tension began to rise about how the profit and credits should be distributed. There were also questions of differences in artistic opinion. Finally, the inevitable confrontation came to a head. Needless to say it did not go well. Our partner had decided that they should receive virtually all the profit and credit for the film.  We were merely employees working on wages of promises and a slight mention in the credits. This was a slap in the face when we had done most of the work up to this point. So with no way to even come to a compromise, we felt it was best for us to take the lesson as learned and move on to other projects. I am happy to say within two days, two more projects came to us that we are very excited about and look forward to start talking about on this blog.

With the creation of these new projects hopefully we have learned better to put our ducks in a row. Where did we make a mistake to begin with? I believe it was by not deciding how the partnership would work at the time of the project’s creation. We had actually discussed it briefly, just saying “lets not worry about this yet, lets see if we can do it first”. It was mentioned that we would not try to take advantage of the other and so on. Well as they say, talk is cheap.

It seems to be a common mistake of new filmmakers, to put the art in front of the legal aspects.  Unfortunately this is something we have to deal with. Legal matters have to be delt with precisely and comprehensively. The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers By Thomas A. Crowell is a good starters guide for diving into the legal issues surrounding the entertainment industry.

Consult entertainment attorney before taking any important steps, and you can try Phillips Law for a free consultation for this as well.

Some But Not All – Legal Issues to Consider:

  • Partnerships and collaborations. Have a proper contract from the very beginning so all parties involved know exactly what to expect and to avoid potential problems.
  • Creation. Protect your story or other creative ideas. Obtain proper rights from other’s creative work you incorperate. Such as books, songs, films, etc. If you plan to depict actual persons, be aware of defamation and their right of privacy. A lawyer should be consulted for your own protection.
  • Contracts for all cast and crew.
  • If you plan to use Union workers, you might have to deal with organizations like the Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, or the International Association of Theater and Stage Employees.
  • Releases. Personal Releases. Have a proper release form when you film or photograph anyone. Location releases. Some specific locations, such as businesses, buildings, and monuments may require a release. Products and personal property are also subject to needing a release.
  • Distribution. To be able to distribute the film, make sure you have all the proper rights to do so, and all releases are cleared. Know what rights you give up through any method of distribution.
  • Copyright might be important for the finished product and script.
  • Insurrance. Protect yourself. You don’t need it unless or until the enevitable happens. If it does you better have it.

Last Night Filming at chezGrace

December 19, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts, Filming 

We’ve filmed vernissages at chezGrace several times over the past three years and as time went by we learned a few business tricks.

At first, Grace’s attention was with the attendance. She loved videos showing that several various people came and enjoyed the show. As time went by, the main subject of these short videos became the artist and his works. Of course, we also film the visitors, especially visitors contemplating and commenting on the works. Eventually it evolved into a combination of the two.

Nassim Al Amin - chez Grace

Nassim Al Amin - Caméra Cachée

I really enjoy filming the artwork in motion, moving in and outside of the piece if it’s a canvas and around it if it’s a sculpture. When used with care during editing, it can produce a great effect in the final product. If we just want to use a frontal shot of the work, we usually rely on a photo shot instead of video. The photo shot is easier to reframe or color correct later. Also, for a frontal shot to work, the video camera needs to be perfectly still for four seconds. So, for four seconds, no one can enter your frame. This is easier said than done when filming a live event.

Filming the artworks can be teadious especially if they are framed in glass. A polarized filter on the photo camera has been our best solution so far.

The second difficulty is to interact with people. First, I usually try to let them know that they’re are in the frame. I make sure they are aware of my presence and that I’m filming. I pay attention to their reaction. At the least sign of embarassement, I’ll stop filming and go ask them if it is a problem. If someone says he or she doesn’t want to be filmed, I won’t point the camera their way again and if ever they are in the frame, I’ll cut out the shot. This is actually very rare. Most people agree to be filmed. I often reassure people and tell them we’ll edit the footage and take out everything inapropriate so they shoudln’t worry. Surprisingly, few ask what the video is for. I usually go ahead and tell them because they are even more cooperative when they realize the video is only to promote the artist and Grace.

We do not ask people to act. We try and capture the fun moments of the evening. One thing I have learned though, was to recognize the people that are really confortable around the camera. They will usually accept, if asked, to repeat something they just did that I might have missed. We also get a lot of cooperation from the artist (after all, he or she is the one who will benefit from the video). We’ll often ask the artist to be filmed in front of his works or around his friends and also, a necessary shot each time, with the host of the exhibition.


Nassim Al Amin

As I’ve said, we do not direct people, they are visitors and we are only covering the evnt. We have to capture moments and try not to get in people’s way. One thing we can do though, is give our input beforehand. For example, changes in the lighting or move some furniture around. An important thing we discvoered was that the cocktails should not be in the main exhibition room.This creates a huge gathering around it that makes it difficult to film. Shots of people eating or drinking are really not what you want in this type of video. If the cocktails are placed too close to the exhibition space, you will always have someone eating or drinking in your frame.

Filming a live event like this is an interesting exercice. On one hand, the creative part is limited: we don’t direct people or prepare shots. But, on the other hand, we learn to react quickly, to adjust and to observe. A lot of the work is done in the preparation. You have to always be ready to catch a good moment. You need the right equipment for the job. It should be light and efficient. Also, it’s a great occasion to practice and see what does and doesn’t work.

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