Apps and Software
For anybody running Mac OS X, Perian is a must-have. It provides QuickTime support for a number of essential video codecs that don’t come standard such as Flash and WMV. And it’s free.
As a Windows alternative to Perian, there is the Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP) which also provides supports for a bunch of non-native video codecs for Windows users. CCCP is also free.
45. VideoLAN (VLC)
VLC is the most versatile media player I know of. With Perian installed, Quicktime can handle most video formats/codecs, but you’ll occasionally encounter some weird file type and be thankful you have VLC to play it.
The AJA DataRate Calculator is exactly what its name suggests — a program that helps you figure out data rates, consumption, and storage needs for your digital cinema workflow. The desktop version works the same as the iOS counterpart, but is good to have anyway just in case.
RED software has always been a necessary evil for me, but if you plan on working with RED footage at all — even as a camera assistant — REDCINE-X is required to properly check the integrity of your R3D files. The program does more, of course, and I suggest you read Ryan Koo’s tutorial on color grading with REDCINE-X as a start.
For a more robust color grading, there is DaVinci Resolve. Or if you’re not privy to a $995 price-tag, there’s DaVinci Resolve Lite — a similarly powerful free version of Black Magic Design’s software. Just recently they’ve lifted a lot of restrictions on what the Lite version is capable of which makes it an even more wonderful program for extremely cheap.
49. Automatic Duck
Transporting cuts, meta-data, and other editing info across programs has always been fickle. Even XML import/export can be tricky depending on the program. Automatic Duck has long provided solutions for editors looking to transfer between Final Cut Pro 7 and various other programs — now they’re giving the plug-ins away for free. For how long is uncertain, so grab them now while you still can!
50. FCS Remover
Completely clean removal of Mac OS X programs has always required a third-party solution. But even those can be unreliable when it comes to first-party software. FCS Remover is the best tool for uninstalling or repairing Final Cut system files. I even used it to remove only the serial number so I could input a different one instead.
51. ShotPut Pro
I’ve worked with and heard from tons of people who swear by ShotPut Pro, a program that transfers your footage to hard drives and performs checksums on it. At $99 it’s no impulse buy, but the price tag might be minimal compared to the excruciating pain of losing an entire day’s worth of footage.
52. R3D Data Manager
R3D Data Manager works much in the same way as ShotPut Pro, but specializes in RED camera footage. From my review on it: “For the DIT and data loaders out there, the program is good to have in your arsenal, especially if you can justify the cost against your earnings. But if you’re tight on a budget and could use the money elsewhere in your production, put it there.”
Having never personally used Al3xa Data Manager, I can’t be certain, but I’m going to assume it operates very similarly to R3D Data Manager. In that case, my opinion remains the same: if you can afford it and are willing to pay for the peace of mind it provides, then get it.
The ARRI Alexa Camera Simulator might be the coolest thing on this list. It allows you to mess with the menus, buttons, and settings of the Alexa as if you had one in front of you. It looks beautiful on a computer, but is best used on an iPad and is perfect to practice with when you’re about to embark on a film shooting Alexa.
Knowing the basics of cinematography and the mechanics of a camera is crucial if you crew near the lens. The DSLR Camera Simulator gives you an environment to test out shutter speeds, f-stops, ISO, and other settings to see how the image changes without having to pony up the money to buy a camera yourself. It’s also just fun to play with when you’re bored!
56. Kodak Interactive Lighting Demonstrations
Some of the most useful knowledge I’ve gleaned on set has come from watching others light. With 360-degree images, Kodak gives us a glimpse of how professional cinematographers are lighting actual scenes. The images are even labeled with the type of lights used and the footcandles the subjects read at.
Nothing fancy here, just another data/storage calculator for digital systems. Except that this particular calculator is a web-app so it can be accessed from any device connected to the web without having to download anything.
Another web-app, Power Load Calculator is geared towards juicers and best-boys who need help crunching the numbers on how many amps, watts, and lights they can run on a circuit.
We’ve all had those shoot days where the call-time said one thing, but you knew the real shooting time was as long as the sun stayed in the sky. Sunrise/Sunset is a nifty web-app that tells you exactly when you can expect the first AD to start getting on your ass to roll camera (and when they’ll call wrap, too).
Celluloid is still running through the cameras of many sets leaving 2nd AC’s to figure out how many feet have run through the gate. As a web-app, the Film Rate Calculator is convenient and simple. No frills and no hassle.
Over 500,000 different apps have been downloaded more than 18 billion times in Apple’s iPhone/iPad App Store. Here is a series of posts I wrote with the best and most useful cinematography apps. Even if you think you have all the apps you could need on your iPhone, you may find one or two here that makes life on set easier, so check them out.