Smartphones offer inspiration, opportunity for amateurs, pros

Websites help budget helmers cash in

Since smartphones and tablets took the consumer electronics world by storm just a few years ago, the devices have revolutionized the way entertainment is consumed.

Now these same hand-held devices may do the same thing for the way entertainment is made, thanks to apps aimed at biz professionals — and at tyro filmmakers looking for a way to show off their talents.

The MovieSlate app makes it possible to use an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch as a digital slate, clapperboard and shot log, all for $24.99.

Another program, Image Control, from Gamma & Density, allows on-set color correction via communication of images between the set and post-production. Designed purely for pro environments, Image Control costs $399. A lower-cost version is in development.

At the other end of the cost spectrum, Red Giant’s Movie Looks HD, an app that generates 40 different cinematic effects that can be applied to iPhone videos, sells on iTunes for $1.99. The developer says the program lets consumers create movies with the same tools used by professionals.

There are also iPhone and iPad apps that simulate production mounts and rigs, making it possible to do nearly professional-quality camera passes.

Other apps have been developed for location managers and scouts, including one released by the Location Managers Guild of America. That app, Filmmakers Guide to Location Filming, includes a directory of vendors who supply production tools and services, as well as links to sites that provide information such as sunrise and sunset times, tidal movements and a QR barcode scanner. It’s available only for iPhone, but iPad and Android versions are in the works.

Location scouts can also use apps like Map-a-Pic Location Scout for the iPhone and iPad. Map-a-Pic allows users to snap pictures of locations and save them along with their GPS coordinates. It’s available on iTunes for $3.99.

Stu Maschwitz, a filmmaker and creative director at Red Giant, which specializes in selling effects tools that run on mobile devices, says that with new technology, moviemaking is becoming more and more affordable.

“That (began) 10 or more years ago when video cameras became so much less expensive,” he says. “Now apps are making it possible for indie and low-budget filmmakers to have an even more professional-looking result just for the few bucks it costs to buy an app from your phone.”

It’s hard to say how deeply apps will change the filmmaking process, though they’ve already jump-started at least one career. Seth Worley shot the short film “Plot Device” using Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Suite 11. As of this month, it’s had more than 800,000 plays on Vimeo. Worley has signed with ICM for representation.

Worley and Maschwitz believe the iPhone 4S’s 8-megapixel camera is what turned that device into a usable filmmaking tool. Once that level of resolution became a reality, apps followed and moviemakers came calling.

“These apps themselves aren’t going to make someone a great filmmaker,” Worley cautions. “But if you have a great idea and you’re talented, then the cost of entry has really been lowered, and it’s possible to put something together that looks great. (The apps) can help a professional do things faster, and cheaper also.”

Film festivals have sprung up catering to this new culture. The iPhone Film Festival and the Original iPhone Film Festival both showcase projects made on Apple’s mobile device. South Korean director Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” “Lady Vengeance”) shot 30-minute horror film “Paranmanjang” using 10 iPhone 4’s in 2011. The project won the Golden Bear for short film at the 61st Berlin Film Festival.

“I think we’re watching a change in how films get made,” says iPhone Film Festival founder Ruben Kazantsev. “Every time we get submissions for this contest, we’re amazed by what people can get out of their iPhones and these apps. That’s got to trickle up at some point.”

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