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Software at the movies

Hack Reactor

Software at the movies: here's some of the amazing software that’s revolutionizing the film industry

By Wendy Gittleson for Hack Reactor

While the tech revolution has touched nearly every aspect of modern life, few industries have benefited more than the film industry. Modern technology has changed every aspect of filmmaking, from development to distribution. It’s not just Hollywood who reaps the rewards of innovation. 

With affordable apps and equipment as ubiquitous as cell phones, amateur and independent filmmakers can create true works of art while technology helps Hollywood film producers stay organized and on budget.

Today we’re taking a look at some of the amazing software that’s revolutionizing the film industry, whether from a sound stage or from a backyard.


Development

Think of the development stage as a film’s conception. It might start with a screenwriter’s unique idea or an adaptation of a book. Today it’s easier than ever for a writer, with little screenwriting experience, to create a professional screenplay and it’s easy for studios to go completely paperless.

Final Draft

Final Draft is considered the gold standard in screenwriting software. It’s used by a host of film studios, including Pixar, Netflix, NBCUniversal, Paramount, ABC, etc. At around $200, with optional affordable upgrades, Final Draft is accessible to screenwriters at all stages in their careers. In 2013, Final Draft won a Primetime Emmy Engineering Award.

Features:

  • Advanced collaboration tools

  • Automatically formats and paginates scripts to adhere to industry standards

  • Color-coded and customizable “Beats” allow writers to organize and edit plot points, character arcs, research, location ideas, etc.

  • Story maps turn ideas into scripts

  • Store alternate dialogue to experiment with alternative versions

  • Keyboard shortcuts to seamlessly switch between dialogue and action

  • Automatic backups

  • Store all revisions

  • Text to speech

  • Fonts support 97 languages

  • Over 100 different templates

  • Compatible and available on macOS, iOS, and Windows 10

StudioBinder

For as little as $29 a month, all filmmakers can maintain a shoot that’s as organized and professional as anything in Hollywood. In fact, StudioBinder has become a Hollywood staple for its ability to keep everyone on the same page, or at least in the right place. 

Features:

  • Customizable storyboard

  • Create and assign tasks

  • Simple collaboration

  • Scheduling

  • One-click GPS directions to set

  • Weather reports

  • Personalized call times and customizable instructions

  • Can attach files

  • Easily generates PDFs

  • Extras, atmosphere, and location prep

  • Track when cast and crew views their call sheets

  • Accessible online - no need to download an app


Pre-Production

The pre-production stage of filmmaking isn’t the most glamorous phase, but it’s when all the big decisions are made. That’s when actors are hired, locations found, schedules made and budgets set. It’s critical that everyone involved is on the same page, which is where tech comes in.

Scriptation

Once the script is written, it’s time to get it into the hands of the director, producers, cinematographers, and actors. Scriptation, which was created by television screenwriter Steve Vitolo of Blackish and Hot in Cleveland, saves hours and paper with a fully digitized script annotation app.

Features:

  • Use annotation tools to mark up scripts and other documents

  • Create folders for projects, episodes, and production documents

  • Easily transfer script revisions

  • Keep notes in separate layers

  • Highlight actor lines

  • Page Maker to insert plans, add facing pages and crate sides

  • Reader mode allows users to increase font size on iPhone or iPad without changing the format

  • Free iOS, MacOS, and Windows downloads. Pro update from $30

ShotDeck

ShotDeck is an archive of images covering the annals of video entertainment through time. ShotDeck holds tens of thousands of images from over 1,400 films spanning Hollywood’s history. ShotDeck is still in its beta phase, so signup is currently free. 

Features:

  • Each image tagged with over 50 keywords

  • Categorized based on genre, lighting, frame size, etc.

  • Web-based - no download required

ShareGrid

ShareGrid is one of many options that helps level the playing field for both independent and studio filmmakers. ShareGrid can be described as the Airbnb of camera equipment. Users can earn extra income by renting out their own equipment. Filmmakers can rent or buy used equipment. They can even scout locations and hire help.

Features:

  • Rental listings

  • Sales listings

  • Web-based

  • Serves seven markets: Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and San Diego

  • Available insurance


Production

By the time a film hits the production phase, the work is close to half-done. The script is ready, the locations are set, the cast is in place and they’re ready to film.

Artemis Pro

The stereotypical Hollywood film set seems incomplete without enormous cinematic cameras. With Artemis Pro, those cameras might be relics of the not too distant past. Over the last few years, several award-winning movies have been at least partially shot using iPhones. Artemis Pro helps make it possible. Artemis Pro is the first digital viewfinder for smartphones. It allows cinematographers to choose the proper lenses, see the true field of view on their phone screen. It even won an Emmy last year.

Features:

  • Records video

  • Trim ends

  • Custom title cards

  • Customize framelines

  • Customizable looks

  • Photoshop-compatible

  • iOS and Android apps from $30

FiLMiC Pro

While Artemis Pro helps smartphone users set up their shots, FiLMiC turns smartphones into professional cinematic cameras. It allows users to shoot and edit right from their phones.

Features:

  • Premium audio controls

  • Auto-mode for fast-moving shots

  • Tactical drag, drop focus, and exposure control

  • Up to 140 Mbps bitrate

  • Added aspect ratios

  • Supports most gimbals

  • Available as iOS or Android app for $15.00 


Post-Production


Adobe Premiere Pro

Filmmakers across genres and through various levels agree that Adobe Premiere Pro is the top video editing software.

Features:

  • Edits in any format

  • Works with all Adobe apps

  • $10.00 iOS and Android-based Mobile Rush App works on any smartphone or tablet

  • Color correction

  • Reformats videos

  • Curve adjustment tools

  • Automatically detects edits

  • Search, preview, and license music through Adobe Stock Audio

  • Works with Mac and Windows computers

  • Starts at $21.00

Greenscreener

Independent filmmakers can create big-budget backdrops with a simple green screen, but if the camera doesn’t know exactly where the green screen is, it can show even after editing. Greenscreener is a $10 Android and iPhone app that’s designed to hide the green screen and give even low-budget productions a professional feel. It used to be that people would have to use separate light meters to level the green screen, which can be difficult. Greenscreener shows users a picture of exactly where the green screen is, letting them even the screen.

Industrial Light and Magic

Green screen technology has become such a staple of filmmaking technology that it has made its way into the public lexicon. It leaves a lot of room for desire, though. Green screens leave a green reflection that can be difficult to remove. It can look artificial. Industrial Light and Magic, part of LucasFilm Productions, the home of Star Wars, uses their own proprietary software to seamlessly insert backgrounds into scenes. Industrial Light and Magic is not for low-budget filmmakers. Costs vary according to the project.