Using the iPad on set

Yesterday I  posted a trailer for the new Twisted Metal Playstation game that we shot in downtown Los Angeles.    That shoot also happened to be the first time that I was able to put my iPad 3G to use on set.  I have always found iPads to be a helpful tool for creative professionals –  especially in film and photography – for sharing images, videos, and other multimedia material with potential clients and collaborators.  This shoot marked the first time that I found it served an important role on set for me (albeit a high tech one.)

As is often the case with commercial shoots – storyboards, shot lists, and schedules are constantly changing until the last minute (if not during the shoot itself ;)   In this case critical information changed and was e-mailed to everyone just ten minutes before I arrived on set – the clients and creatives made some important changes to the storyboard.

Here’s where that can get tricky:  I always like to arrive early to any job – at least 1-2 hours before my “call time.”    Doing so helps me to relax and to feel ahead of the curve, it also allows me to chat with people and also to avoid any potential traffic nightmares in LA.    The problem with doing this is that I am often out of touch during that time – i.e. away from my computer and printer for a few hours.

If schedules change, I can always deal with that on my iPhone, and the same goes for shot lists.   But when storyboards change – that’s another issue entirely.   Downloading storyboards in a trailer and printing them can take 10-15 minutes – way too long on set.   And that’s where the iPad 3G comes in – I can download the files and view them on screen immediately – plus they are ALWAYS on hand from that point on (no more rolling them up and putting them in my back pants pocket…)

Obviously, as either a Director and/or DP,  having access to the latest information is incredibly important – if I don’t have access to the latest, I could potentially make incorrect decision that could waste very valuable time – not to mention thousands of dollars…  

I also found it very helpful  to then turn around and share these storyboards and other images with the key members of my crew: the storyboards conveyed framing and camera moves to my A.C.’s, operators, and grips ;  I also had reference photos that illustrated lighting references for my gaffer (it’s one thing to tell him :   “I would like a blue/aqua light – one that’s more green then cobalt blue”   – but when you can point to an actual color – let’s just say it’s quite a bit more efficient!)

Also, as many of you know – it’s not uncommon to have people show up to a set without ever having seen a storyboard – especially when working on a project under NDA (such as the aforementioned Sony trailer – meant to be kept a secret until this week’s announcement).   So having that storyboard handy was helpful in getting everybody up to speed.   It’s one thing to describe a camera move and it’s another to show a quicktime movie “previz” (a rendered 3D movie that is a pre-visualisation of how the camera moves in an environment, shows the angle and speed of the move, etc – all accurately measured during the tech scout – so that we know in advance what lens we’re likely to chose and from what distance we’re likely to shoot – all huge time savers on the shoot.)

Since then, I have begun to further explore the apps currently available for both the iPad and my iPhone that really fulfill their potential as film tools (you may have seen me review a few of these cool apps on the blog, check them out by clicking HERE, and check back in the future for more).  While many of them are tailored for use by the camera department, there are tons more that are of great use to other members of the production team.  I’d love to get on a set in the near future where different crew members have these devices so that information can be visually shared between departments from across the set.  This would save time and increase efficiency because all crew members would have the same information – key on any shoot.

I should also mention that the video above is a very tight/short cut.   I tried to release it a month ago without any reference whatsoever to the Playstation gig – and removed any shot that would reference the main character “Sweet Tooth” (you’ll notice some blurred parts if you look carefully.)    It turns out that the client and production company preferred to wait until the game was announced before I could release it.   Since this cut is so “tight” or short – it may appear to be a little too much like an iPad ad -  I wanted to acknowledge that and mention that no… it’s not at all meant to be an ad.

In fact – I’d like to challenge Apple and other software/hardware companies to FULLY take advantage of the iPad.   I’d love to be able to use it as a reference monitor for any of the cameras that I’m shooting with.   I’d also like to see and grade the footage that I am shooting – LIVE.   As a director – I’d like to be able to use it as a portable VTR device – so I am able to recall any shot, scene, or take using either the material that’s been shot so far – or previz / storyboard material. If I could see how things were coming together LIVE – I could tell how things were or weren’t cutting/flowing together – BEFORE ever reaching the edit bay… wouldn’t that be nice?

Those days are coming – I’m sure.  I can’t wait!  For now at least – my iPad 3G is no longer an expensive toy – but something that I can come to rely on as a tool to better do my job as a filmmaker.

 

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