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Filmmaking Apps for Your Smart Phone

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Traveling around the US on the Illumination Experience cinematography tour was so inspiring. Meeting all of the filmmakers from novice to advanced was such a joy. As I walked around and talked about the cinematography arsenal that the attendees had to play with, many terms were discussed that may not always be understood. To help with this process, here are some apps that I wish I had when I was a budding young filmmaker to help navigate the waters.

You need a good film dictionary!!!!!

First we have to look to a good dictionary of all film terms, not just technical, but words and phrases that are used on set by all the departments working to bring the creation to life. My go to source for this is the GOBO film APP.

Gobo Film
Price: Free
(Note: this app has since been discontinued. Sorry folks! Feel free to suggest your favorite similar app in the comments below. Here are some contenders I have yet to use: Film DictionaryClose-Up Film Language Glossary, and Filmmaker’s Glossary)


This baby is jammed packed with all the terms needed to function in this very competitive field. You need to set yourself apart especially when you are working your way up the production, creative or tech side of the ladder.

I need that wall sled over here and grab that 4” Charlie Bar.

This app would have made my life so much easier as a cinematographer starting out especially on tech scouts. The GRIP APP has every name, along with a description of all the gear and how it is used. The app’s most useful information is all the dolly, crane and jib specs that help you plan during prep or tech scouts. I am always asked how much does that 50’ Technocrane weigh? Or how high is that? Will it fit through that doorway? It is all right at your fingertips.

Price: $7.99

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How do you know what light will give you the right output to light the scene?

I get asked this question on a daily basis. For me, it is experience. While working my way up the ladder, I quickly understood what lights are used for specific applications and their output and at what distances. Now all this mystery, experience and information is available in a very intelligent app that gives you the play book. The LIGHT SOURCE App gives you the information, specs on output, full spot, full flood, distances, factoring in your ISO and the foot candles or f stop that the light will give you. Are you kidding me? No, I am not. his APP in impressive to say the least. I use it on all my scouts as well to keep up to speed with the new light technologies. Constantly updated and current, this baby is your recipe for accurate light placement and successful calculations.

Light Source Pro
Price: $29.99



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Can I hang that light on that set wall? What does that Kino Flo Celeb 400 weigh?

Another app that helps with all the specs on the lights you use is the Set Lighting App. This beautiful app gives you all the lights. It is like a catalog to inspiration. It gives you full res pics along from all the different manufacturers. The app even shows you how to properly distribute power, which is a huge deal, especially when you are just starting out and you want to work with more experienced crews to up your level of expertise. Having this resource can you set you apart from the pack.

Set Lighting
Price: $7.99



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I have my 1st ACs carry this app wherever we go. On Fathers and Daughters, I was able to make some pick up shots go seamless with having the information from when we shot on set months prior available to me from when my 1st AC took notes of my meter readings, f-stop and lens. I could match the look of the scene by understanding where my values were previously set. Handbase, this baby rocks. It’s designed for managing files and just data. It wasn’t intended for the film world, but it does exactly what I need, and for only $9.99!

Click here to download the HandBase file my team used.

HandBase Database Manager
Price: $9.99
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There are many apps that you can find, some that do the same as others, but they may have different techniques to them that may apply better for you. Here is a short list of more apps that I think you should look into as well.

Gel Swatch Library
Price: $9.99


KeeMe App
Price: Free


Lighting Handbook
Price: $4.99


Price: Free


Price: $1.99

Lighting Calculator
Price: $2.99



Lighting Designer
Price: $24.99


Price: Free

Many of these apps can be your guide to explore avenues of success in the movie industry. I chose the path of starting at the bottom and learning all of this. Now you have a jump on us. Take it, seize it and own it.

Here is an update that we just learned about, this was just released a month ago, “Formats,” it has a much larger database for cameras and data conversion for only $1.99

Camera + Formats
Price: $4.99

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Zak Ray November 5, 2014 at 8:05 AM

KataData is good but outdated (2 years since it’s last update). Check out Formats, it’s new and more comprehensive:

Alan Jackman November 6, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Fantastic I am bookmarking this article for later. I am getting ready to shoot a short film in a few months and these apps are going to be lifesavers. Thank you so much for this!

Adam PW Smith November 7, 2014 at 5:07 PM

Hey Shane,

Caught the Illumination tour in Vancouver – very interesting and helpful. Thank you.

I remember you mentioning HanDBase in Vancouver and I meant to draw your attention to an alternative to that app. It’s called TapForms and it has a number of advantages over HanDBase (I’ve bought and used both). TapForms looks nice, but the really big advantage is that TapForms has a Mac app as well. HanDBase has a crude app that will read the files, but TapForms Mac app is full, proper app and it’s well supported by the developer.


Carlos Quintero November 8, 2014 at 8:41 AM

Thank you Shane for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Thanks to you and the info that you post on your blog, I’ve found myself fast tracked on several projects. There is an app that I’ve found useful it is called LightTrac – it will track the light angle and elevation based on your current location or a location you are going to visit. When I have to travel, it helps me plan my scouting. It also tracks moonlight which can come in handy from time to time. Thanks again.

Gomtesh U November 8, 2014 at 9:15 PM

I cant find this app for android 🙁 Is there anything close available for the android platform ?!

Rob Weidner November 8, 2014 at 10:35 PM

Shane, I have found that the directors and DPs I’ve worked with enjoy using Artemis to get an idea of focal lengths and composition similar to a directors viewfinder.

Carlos Q November 13, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Hello Rob, I use this app mostly when scouting locations or visiting a shoot site. You are right, it is very convenient as it allows you to add metadata to the pictures you take with it and the focal distance can be adjusted based on the size sensor that you are going to use. You can select from Full Frame to Super 35 or whatever your camera system is. The app even allows you to select commonly used lenses or types of lenses so that you can get an idea or in our case formulate a plan from the pictures we took wile on the site visit.

Shane November 13, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Another great app. We wrote about that app in a previous post about apps a few years ago. Check it out here: http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2012/01/14-power-iphone-apps-for-filmmakers/

Elisha November 13, 2014 at 12:55 AM

Thanx Shane for sharing this valuable info.

Shane November 13, 2014 at 6:04 PM

You’re welcome! Thanks for reading the blog!

Will V November 14, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Good stuff Shane!

Have you used Hollywood Camera Work’s ‘Shot Designer’ ? It’s a little fiddly and cumbersome at times, but it’s usefulness outweighs it’s issues. In my opinion, it’s a really solid tool for diagramming actor/camera blocking and lighting.


bradley w November 15, 2014 at 7:43 AM

Great list!

Has anyone had any experience with the ACS app from Chemical Wedding? I am referring to the one that does several kinds of calculations including depth of field?


Lensroam Team December 22, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Awesome! Thanks!

andres polimar December 31, 2014 at 7:05 PM

is some way possible some similar apps for android Phones, some don’t used iphone like me thanks an advanced and good selection app.

Shane January 4, 2015 at 6:29 PM

Good question Andres. I will have my team look into that, as we have mostly looked into only iPhone apps at the moment, but I am sure that there are. I will get back to you and the rest of our readers on this. Thanks for asking!

Andrew May 5, 2015 at 12:09 PM

Thanks for the round up! just downloaded shot lister and its good so far. I’ve been using celtx with shot designer and action pro ( http://www.action-pro.tv ) Those apps together have helped me create and finish my projects much faster. I’m still learning about movie making and i hope to one day make a feature film

Scott Squires July 9, 2015 at 12:49 PM

You seemed to have missed a few.

pCam https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pcam-film-+-digital-pro/id295456485?mt=8
Full camera and light calculator and reference tool.

Helios https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/helios-sun-position-calculator/id311648870?mt=8
Sun tracking app for calculating angle of light at any date and time

Artemis https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/artemis-directors-viewfinder/id324917457?mt=8
Directors finder

Shane July 12, 2015 at 9:20 PM

Thanks Scott, we had done a previous post where we talked about PCam, Helios and Artemis. I will have our team update this post to include a link to the other Filmmaking Apps post we did awhile back.

Catherine November 21, 2015 at 2:27 AM

Jack Ray mentioned kataData is good but outdated. I completely agree him. However i still like kataData as kataData and Gobo Film are absolutely free.

Angus November 4, 2016 at 3:09 AM

Any apps for free for android, these are for apples IOS


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