Top 5 iPhone Apps for Visual Effects

It seems in this town, once you become a VFX Supervisor someone issues you a MacBook Pro and an iPhone. The iPhone for me has been a great tool for presenting previz and work in progress to clients on set and has proven indispensable in settling bar bets with grips and gaffers. Of course one of the best things about this little marvel from Cupertino is the applications you can put on it. Here’s my top 5 for VFX production.



So of all the things I always manage to forget in VFX kit bag, my inclinometer always ends first on that list. But you know what I never forget? My iPhone! Enter Clinometer, turn it on it’s side and it becomes a pretty darn accurate slope finder. I compared it to an old school analog angle finder and came out with the same results. The coolest thing about this app though is if you lay it flat the whole interface turns into a bubble level. You can lock the angle for easy transcription later but it doesn’t have the ability to save, catalogue or email readings.



A common question I get as a Supe is “How many stops apart should the pics for my HDRs be?”. First of all, when gathering bracketed exposures for generating HDRs (I use Photomatix but CS4 makes ‘em too) you want to make sure you change the shutter speed not the aperture. That way the depth of field won’t vary between exposures. There is no magic number to how different each exposure should be as long as the difference is consistent and travels from almost completely blown out to nearly black. I used to take test exposures, find the high and low end and do the math on a notepad to figure out what my shutter speeds should be. In HdrHelper, enter the start and end exposures and how many pictures you want to take and presto! It figures out the rest for ya.



So if you are like me inspiration and/or panic can come at any time. You may be driving or away from our notepad and need to record a specific piece of info. What Jott does is turn your iPhone into a mini dictation machine. You just talk into it and after a few moments Jott transcribes what you said (watch out for super techy words) and lets you file the written tidbits away for later. To get started you have to sign up for there website from which you can send your notes as emails, SMS and the like. That’s the good news. The bad news is, what was previously free will now be a pay service as of February 2nd. Sign up for the free now and you still may be able to get the 10% coupon code when they start making us pay.

IMG_0014 copy.jpg


Dropbox is a web app kinda like iDisk with two large exceptions, you can use it on the iPhone and it works. Signup for an account online and you get 2GB of disk space free and little app for your desktop. The desktop app puts a folder on your system and every time you write to it Dropbox uploads the file to your site and assigns it a url where you can access it from any web browser including Safari on the iPhone. The great thing is if you put a text file, pdf, jpg or iPhone supported movie in the Dropbox folder your desktop, you can see it immediately on the iPhone side. I use a program called TaskPaper to make my todo lists. Taskpaper saves in plaintext so I just keep the file in my Dropbox folder and I always have it with me. Oh did I mention that you can share folders and files with your iPhone brethren?


Google Docs

Another web app but one that can really help you with gathering data on set. As you may know Google Docs allows you to create documents, presentations and spreadsheets via a web interface that you can then share with others. What you may not be familiar with is a document type called a form. With forms, you can set up a series of questions that you can post or email. After you fill out the form and submit it, Google posts the data from the form into a master spreadsheet. The forms show up great on the iPhone and when you come home at the end of a long day on set, all of your data is nicely timestamped and thrown into a spreadsheet for you. Here’s how it works..

  • Open up your browser and make a new form from the dropdown menu in Google docs.
  • Fill out the title and description of the form then add the questions you want to show up in the spreadsheet. When you are all done, click on the “Email this form” button. Open up the email on your iPhone and follow the link. Here is a screenshoot of a form I made for VFX on-set data.
  • Bookmark the link and bring it up on the go when you need to enter data. When you get back to the office, you will see that Google Docs has happily created a spreadsheet for you with the same title as the form. All the data you entered into the form is now placed in the spreadsheet through the magic of technology. Like this…
  • You can edit the form, email it, or embed it into a your own blog or web page from the Form menu when you are editing the spreadsheet.

This is great for gathering info anywhere and also for gathering from multiple sources at once. Anyone who has access to the form can enter data into the same spreadsheet. That way you can have multiple people entering data at the same time! Who says a VFX Supe can’t have there butt in two places at once?

LINK to the VFX Data spreadsheet used in this post (you need a Google account if you want to save yourself a copy)

Share and Enjoy:


No Responses to “Top 5 iPhone Apps for Visual Effects”

Post a Comment