Essential Filmmaking Tool: Apps for Pre-production and Production | Sean Tracy | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Essential Filmmaking Tool: Apps for Pre-production and Production

teacher avatar Sean Tracy, Filmmaker

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Lesson One - Google Earth


    • 3.

      Lesson Two - Sun Surveyor (Exteriors)


    • 4.

      Lesson Three - Sun Surveyor (Interiors)


    • 5.

      Lesson Four - Cadrage


    • 6.

      Lesson Five - Shot Lister


    • 7.

      Lesson Six - Shot Designer


    • 8.

      Lesson Seven - AJA Data Calculator


    • 9.

      Lesson Eight - Cinema Forms


    • 10.

      Lesson Nine - Clapperboard


    • 11.

      Lesson Ten - Script Rehearser


    • 12.



  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Pre-production is often overlooked by beginners yet it's really the most vital stage of film production.

In this class, Sean Tracy will walk you through a handful of essential tools that can aid both your pre-production and production process on your next narrative, documentary, music video, or corporate shoot.

Whether you are a one man band, part of a team, or a freelance director or cinematographer, you'll find an essential tool for you in this class.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Sean Tracy



Hi, I'm, Sean - I'm a commercial Director, DP, and editor from Poughkeepsie, NY. In 2013, I started MONSTERINTHEDARK, a small production company in upstate NY that specializes in creating videos for businesses. 

My filmmaking journey began in high school but took a detour for several years when I took a job as an elementary school teacher. I miss the classroom so it's great to be able to share what I know about the business of filmmaking and lighting for film with others.

I'm currently teaching five classes on Skillshare so check them out and let me know if what I'm teaching is helping you accomplish your goals:

Essential Filmmaking Tool: Apps for Pre-production and Production

Cinematography Techniques for One-Man Band Filmmakers

Freelance Vi... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Overview: Hey, I'm Shawn from monsters in the dark. I work mostly as a one-man band filmmaker shooting incorporate videos, brand videos, commercials, documentaries as well as music videos. I have a bunch of clients who rely on me to provide quality video content for them, both in story, look, and sound. Now you may be a one-man band filmmaker like myself, you might be part of a larger group or you may be a freelance director cinematographer. No matter which role you fit into, these essential tools for filmmaking will help your pre-production and production process which will lead to a better product for your client. Some of these essential tools are free, some of them cost money but none of them will break the bank. Throughout this course, I'll be using these tools to work on a film that had been hired on as a cinematographer. It's a zombie comedy and it's being shot in upstate New York. I'll show you how I'm using these essential filmmaking tools to get this short film made both on time, on budget, and with great-looking visuals. Join the course and let's get started. 2. Lesson One - Google Earth: The film that I'm working on is called Bug Out Bag, and it's a short zombie comedy that's being filmed in upstate New York at this little log cabin. It's got some comedy, it's got some action, it's got some zombies. I've been hired to work on this film as a director of photography. So I'll be working on the lighting and the camera movement, and I'll be doing that closely with the film's director. Now throughout this course, I encourage you to share your pre-production or your production work with everyone else, whether you're working on a narrative like this or a corporate video shoot. Whatever it is that you've got cooking up, share part of your process so that you can get some feedback from others and you can get some exposure for your project. So the first tool I'm typically going to use on any shoot I have, especially if I don't have a day to do a location scout, is Google Earth. It's available for iOS and Android. It's also available on your desktop and it's free. There's a bunch of things that I'm looking for when I type in the address of where I'm headed. One of the first things I'll do is check if it's in an urban area and then I'll get an idea about sound. Is there going to be traffic? Is there going to be construction or maybe people who are making noise? That could affect the sound of my film? Tall buildings could affect the lighting of the film. I'm also going to check and see if there's access to parking. I might be working with a larger crew where there's a bunch of cars that we need to park, I may be loading in a bunch of equipment, and I don't want to have to park a few blocks away and then log all that equipment with me. I might want to pull up and unload or there might be access to parking right there in the building where I'm going. For Bug Out Bag, I know that the opening shot of the film follows this car down this long driveway as it heads towards a lone cabin. I know that the script calls for an overhead drone shot to follow this car partway down the driveway, and as you can see here, the driveway seems to be quite long from the street all the way to the cabin. We've got tree cover on one side and maybe some partial tree cover here on the other side, but it's still quite open there. I can see the cabinet itself and how much parking is available for the cars and the crew. If we're in a more populated area, we can drop this little figure here and get to Street View, and Street View is what makes Google Earth a really valuable tool. Being able to get a ground view looking at my location before I get there, really is critical. Right now, I'm looking at the main village in the town where we're shooting and I can see what it looks like. I can also see that there's a Metro-North Station here, and if we have actors who are coming from elsewhere, and most likely they're coming from New York City, then I know they can arrive by train. Google Earth can be a really good tool for location scouting, especially when you can't get to the location before you shoot. I've used Google Earth to scout very interesting locations to do music video shoots, narratives, and documentaries. Obviously, Street View can only get you so far. You are looking at an image that was taken at a point in time that was in the past. When you do arrive at that location, there is always a chance that things may have changed. But it's still a good starting point. Now here's a quick assignment for you. I'd like you to download Google Earth. Remember, it's free. Scout an interesting location that's in your neighborhood or near your house, somewhere that you might be able to shoot a project that you're working on and share those screen grabs in the student gallery. 3. Lesson Two - Sun Surveyor (Exteriors): For this next lesson, I am at the actual log cabin in upstate New York where we're going to be filming bug out bag. Now, as a one man band filmmaker, whether I'm shooting a business profile, or a wedding, or an event video, chances are that I'm not going to get the opportunity to do a physical location scout, which is why using Google Earth and this next App in tandem is so important. I know that for bug out bag, we're going to be shooting both exteriors and interiors. I really want to be able to keep track of the position of the sun throughout the day but more importantly I want to know where the sun is rising and where the sun is setting. That will help us determine some of the decisions we're going to make of when and where we'll be shooting our exteriors. The App that I'm going to recommend is called Sun Surveyor. Now, there are other Apps, another popular one is called Sun Seeker, and a lot of these Apps do very similar things. I have the Sun Surveyor App open here, and as I'm standing in one position I can immediately see a graphical layout of where the sun is going to rise in the morning, and where the sun is going to set. So in the East the sun will rise, and that's the front of the cabin, and then in the West it will set, that's the rear of the cabin. I can go into a different view of Sun Surveyor, so here is a map view provided by Google. Very similar to what we saw when we were using Google Earth and we can see the representation of the sun here as well. Now, we've also got a live view, so this is a live view from my phone as I'm standing with the cabin to my back. I'm on the side of the cabin and I could see here, that's the front of the cabin, that's the view from the front, that's where the sun will be rising, that's the path that the sun will be taking. There is the sun there, and there towards the rear of the cabin is where the sun will be setting. In addition to that information, we've got our other information such as the time of sunrise which you see is going to be at 07:27 AM. The time of golden hour which is a great time for photographers and videographers to be shooting, between 7:27 and 8:30. Then we've got the golden hour in the evening and the sunset. This App also has in beta a Street View version, which also uses information from Google but the cabin that I'm shooting at does not have a Street View. Here's a quick homework assignment for you, download Sun Surveyor, or Sun Seeker, or one of the other free Apps that keeps track of where the sun is and go outside your house, or your apartment, or location you might be shooting in and check out where the sun is going to be. Find out the point where the sun will rise, the sun will set, and if you feel like it grab a screen capture and share it with the students in this class. 4. Lesson Three - Sun Surveyor (Interiors): All right, so I've made my way into the cabinet to checkout the interiors I'm going to need to light. As I said in the last lesson, the position of the sun outside is really going to affect my light inside. So I'm going to set the scene up for you. We've got our actor here, he's the lead actor in the film Stewart. We're lucky that on our location scout, we've got an actor with us. Now, the wall directly behind Stewart is the side of the cabin. Directly in front of Stewart, on the left side of the frame, is the front of the cabin. So now that I've used sun survey, I know that in the morning, as the sun is rising, I'm going to get a lot of light blasting through the windows that are directly in front of Stewart and I'm also going to get some light coming from the windows on the side of the cabin. Right now, I've got the blinds shut to cut out some of that light. During midday, which is when we'll be shooting most of our interiors, we should have a fairly even amount of light coming through all of our windows, both in the front and the back of the house as the sun reaches its apex. I'll have to decide how much control I want over my lighting in this room. I'm going to have to decide whether I want to use some of the natural light coming through the windows, if I want to use an HMI through these windows so that I can have better control over the light, or if I want to try to control some of that light coming through the windows with diffusion or ND. Lastly, I know towards the end of the day when the sun is setting, I'll have more light coming in through the windows towards the cabins rear. So sun survey are really came in handy. What's great about this app is that I can still get all of this information, even if I can't get to the location that I'm shooting for a scab. I can still punch in the address I'm heading to and find out where the sun is rising and setting, as well as the times associated with those events. It is a paid app, but for less than $10. It's a must have for your film-making toolkit. 5. Lesson Four - Cadrage: On my corporate shoots, I usually like to use my Canon zoom lenses and I use them on other things as well but for bug out bag, my plan is to use my raw Canon on prime lenses. Now if I'm setting up a shot and I'm unsure what focal length I'd like to use, maybe I can't decide between a 24 or 35 or 50 millimeter, it would take me too long to swap out all these lenses onto my camera and test them. Instead, I use an app called Cadrage, which functions as a director's viewfinder. Now Cadrage is a French word for framing, so you might hear some people call this app Cadrage but it's made in Europe so I'm 99 percent sure you say cadrage. Cadrage allows me to enter in the information specific to the camera I'm using. This is important because different cameras have different sensors, so you want to dial in the sensor specific to your camera. In this case, I'm going to be shooting bug out bag on a Canon C100 mark II. Now with this information loaded into the app, I can choose from different lenses and focal lengths and I can make some decisions about how to shoot this scene. Right now I'm using the Cadrage app and I'm going to use it to take some different shots and test some different focal lengths for some shots for bug out bag. The first thing I'm going to do here is click on camera setup and now we can scroll through this very lengthy list. We can try to find the camera that we're using. There's ARRI Alexa and Amira cameras, Canon cameras, Blackmagic. I'll keep scrolling through so that you can see. Pretty much any modern camera you can buy. There's also film formats in here too. You're going to be able to find them here. We've got Nikons. Next, we should be coming up on some Panasonics and then maybe the very popular RED's followed by, this is a really long list and then possibly onto the Sony camera. You can see if you use a camera, it's probably in there. I'm using the C100. Now they don't have the C100 Mark II listed in here but I could be wrong. Maybe it's the same sensor but I'm going to click on the C100 sensor. Then as you could see here, we're looking at a live view from the app at Stuart. This is automatically telling me right here what different focal lengths would look like. The very widest outside box is if I had a 24 millimeter lens on the camera. Then we've got the closer one here, the 35. We've got, I clicked on the 35 so we can see here's the view from 35. I could click this arrow. Here's the view, if we had a 50 on. I have an 85 millimeter, here's what the 85 would look like. You're not just limited to these focal lengths, you actually can choose whether using a prime lens or a zoom lens. Then you can go in and if the focal, let's see. I also have a 14 millimeter in my kit. I don't have a 25 so I'm going to turn that off. I do have a 35, a 50, I have an 85 and I have a 200, which isn't listed there. I'll click new and I'll type in 200 but I could enter in any focal length that I want here in the app. Now I can see from this position, this camera position, here's what my 35 would look like. You see Stuart's petting the dog here in this shot. There's the C100 in the shot as well. Here's what the 50 would look like. Maybe I like this framing better. We can punch into the 85, we can punch into the 200. Now, this app's not going to simulate the kind of depth of field that you'd get from using a different type of camera, whether it's the actual camera that you're going to be using onset or whether you bring a stills camera with you. But this will give you a good approximation of focal lengths and you can use this app to take photos. I can call that one my 50 millimeter and I'll save that. Then I could widen out to a 35. Maybe this is where I want my camera for the 35 and Stuart lookup and look to the C100. I'll rename this the 35. Maybe I really want to get in there for a nice close up for some dramatic effect so I'll see what my 85 looks like here. I'll snap one more photo off. I'll rename that 85 millimeter. When I'm done, I can see all the different pictures that I took. I have export options. I could export these pictures and what most likely I would do is I would make a PDF. I could send that PDF to my director or to other people in the camera department by email or straight to Dropbox. 6. Lesson Five - Shot Lister: I've had a very successful location scout. Going to location and actually being there and being able to see everything for yourself is really the best practice but, of course, that's not always possible as we discussed in our Google Earth chapter. But now I've got detailed information about the position of the sun throughout the day, which is going to help me light both my exteriors as well as my interiors. I got a great look at the inside of the cabin. I know the position of all the walls. I know the position of the windows and how many there are. I know the height of the ceiling and I've got a general idea about the layout as far as the furniture goes and what we can move and what we can't move. All of that is going to help me plan the lighting for this film. The next app that we're going to take a look at in our pre-production process is called Shot Lister. Depending upon whether you're the director or the cinematographer or what your job is, you may or may not be the one creating the shot list. As a cinematographer, I typically I'm not creating the shot list. Most of the directors that I work with like to do that themselves and this is the app that I find a lot of them use. It's available for iOS and for Android and it is a paid app. I believe at some point in the near future, depending upon when you're watching this course, it may also be available on your desktop. What Shot Lister allows you to do is to create a master shot list for your film. You can choose a shoot day, you can create a scene that you're shooting on that day and then you can start adding shots to that day. You can give a nickname to the shot then you could specify the location of that shot, whether it's an interior or an exterior or both. You can give a description of what's happening in that shot and then you can begin to populate the other categories here. You'll assign that shot a letter,scene 1A, scene 1B, etc. Sometimes a director might ask for my input on the shot list and they might say, "What lens or what focal length were you thinking of shooting this on?" Or there are some directors who have a good understanding of focal lengths and lenses and they might say, "Hey, I want to shoot this scene on a 35 millimeter lens or the 50 millimeter lens." Director often will also say, "We are going to be doing the shot hand-held or we're going to be on sticks.'' A lot of time, that's what the dialogue with a director and a cinematographer is about, making these decisions of how the films going to look, is it going to be shot mostly handheld or on a dolly, on a gimbal? Then you can continue to populate your scene in Shot Lister until you're done. In addition to creating your shot list, you can create your schedule for the day, including the times that you'll be shooting so that you can try to stay on schedule and on budget. We can use some of the information that we got earlier when we were using Sun Surveyor because we know what time the sun is going to be rising, what time the sun is going to be setting. We have a rough idea of when our golden hour and our magic hour is going to be throughout the day and then we can use that information to start creating our schedule here. 7. Lesson Six - Shot Designer: Okay, so this last pre-production app that I'm going to take a look at is called Shot Designer. It's also available for both iOS and Android. I believe initially it's free, but they have in-app purchases that will cost you about $20. So for Shot Designer, it's a great tool, I think specifically for cinematographers to create lighting diagrams. That's the way that I use it. I can add in characters which are very simply represented as, I don't know what you'd call it, like a little circle with a line so that you could tell which way this character is facing. You could add in your cameras. You could add in different props and build the set. This is all from a top-down perspective. You can also add different lighting and that kind of information is handy to share with your camera team onset, with your gaffer or your grips to communicate where you want things set up. Then you can go on and you can plan out camera moves and you could also import photos and things. I can import photos that I've taken with [inaudible] when I was onset or I can use the camera on my phone or on my iPad or whatever device that I'm using Shot Designer on. I can take some photos and import them directly into this project. So Shot Designer is another great tool whether you are a cinematographer or you're a director to get your pre-production done, get your lighting set-ups planned, and your camera movements and things like that planned so that when you head to set there's not a lot of time wasted. You can get right into the action, get things set up, get things moving, so that you can keep your film on time. If can you keep your film on time, then you can normally keep your film on budget as well. 8. Lesson Seven - AJA Data Calculator: Today almost everyone is shooting digital. We're all using cameras made by manufacturers like Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Blackmagic. Some of us are shooting with RED or ALEXAs. These cameras all record to different types of media. We've got SD cards, CFast cards. Some of us are recording to external hard drives, maybe recording to a solid state drive. We've got different file sizes to deal with and we've got different codecs. It's important that when we head out on our shoot, we know that we're going to have enough media to support our shooting needs. You can have the best laid plans, the best crew, the best cast, a great story, a great camera, but if you run out of space on your SD card and you don't have a backup or if you're not backing up on your SD card or your hard drive fail, you could be in trouble. AJA makes an app called the AJA data calculator. It's a useful tool that can help you figure out how much media or hard drive space you're going to need. I'm launching the app here on my iPad. I'm going to skip this top section with the time and I'm going to start by entering information for the camera that I'm using. I know that I'm shooting with the Canon C100 Mark II and the maximum resolution that I can shoot with that camera is HD 1080p. I know that for the most part we're going to be shooting at 24 frames per second. We may have some slow motion, but for now we're going to stay here. This is going to be our base setting for video. So HD 1080p, 24 frames per second. Then I'm going to go down to the codec section. Now I don't think this app has every possible codec you could shoot to, but it does have most of the major ones. I know that with my camera I can either record in AVCHD or MP4. Most of the time I use AVCHD so I'm going to select that and choose "Done". Then lastly, I'll go down to the audio section and I know I'll be recording two channel audio at 48 kilohertz, 16 bit. Now I can go back up to the top here and I can say, all right, let me just find out if I'm shooting for five minutes, how much hard drive space will I need? Well, if I use everything here that I specified, HD, 24 frames per second, recording in the AVCHD codec, two channel audio 16 bit, for five minutes of recorded time, I'll be using one gigabyte of space. It's one gigabyte on my SD card and then when I import this footage to a computer for editing or the editor does, it'll be one gigabyte of space on the hard drive. Now I also know that at the same time we're recording internally in my camera, I also have an Atomos Ninja Blade which I'm recording to externally. I have a couple of different ProRes choices on the ninja blade. I'm going to go back to this codec section and I'm going to look for the Apple ProRes. We've got a couple of different flavors of ProRes here. We've got the LT, we've got ProRes (HQ), Apple ProRes 4444. Well, I know that my ninja blade can't do that. Most likely I want to save a little bit of file size so I'm going to be recording at either Apple ProRes (LT) or at the normal Apple ProRes. Let's just select LT. Click "Done". Now I can see with only changing the codec, five minutes of time, which recorded internally to my camera, was going to take up one gigabyte of space. Recorded to the Apple ProRes (LT) codec is going to take up 3.5 gigabytes of space. Having this app and using it to figure out how much data you're going to need can help save any concerns about, will you have enough media onset? Will your editor be handling files that are too large? And that'll help you make better decisions when deciding what codec, what format, and possibly what camera to choose from. 9. Lesson Eight - Cinema Forms: So this next tool we're going to look at is both a tool for pre-production as well as production. It's called Cinema Forms, and it's made by Ikan. Now, when you're working on a film, it's typically the job of the first assistant director to create a call sheet for the shooting day. But if you work on any film sets, you know that the call sheet and other contact sheets may be made by any number of people working on the project. Now, as a DP, it's not my job to make the call sheet, but that doesn't mean that this next app isn't an essential tool. So made by Ikan, Cinema Forms allows you to create call sheets, breakdown sheets, contact sheets, location and talent releases, checklists, and the all important shot log, which makes this both an essential pre-production and production tool. If you have the Pro version of Cinema Forms, you can export your files directly to Dropbox or to your e-mail. So obviously things like the pre-production checklist, the contact sheets with information of how to reach your crew members and your cast members and then of course, your call sheet, those are all pre-production tools. Releases are something that should also be signed before you start rolling the camera. But that could be considered a production tool and it's great to have an app where you can draft a release for your actor and have them sign it using their finger right on your phone or your iPad. That's really handy. Then the shot log is another very handy tool to have your camera assistant logging the shots as you're shooting throughout the day. 10. Lesson Nine - Clapperboard: This next tool I'm going to show you, takes place with the traditional clapper board and slate. If you're a one man band production, then you're probably capturing your audio in camera, you might also be the project editor. In that case, the clapper board and slate is probably not a necessity for you. But if you're working in any type of production where you're recording dual system sound, meaning you have a camera that's recording visuals and reference audio and then you have a device dedicated to recording your clean audio, you're going to need to use a clapper board or slate. The editor is going to need to see that slate so that he can identify what scene and what's shot he's looking at, and he's also going to use that to sync the sound together. You might be asking, "Why would I need to use a digital slate or clapper board on my phone or on my tablet?" Well, as you can see here, Stuart is holding up our old clapper board that we usually use, but that broke on our last production. Now, technically it still works, so we can still get a clap sound. But it doesn't look professional to have a broken piece of gear on set, and we're also missing some of our important input fields. We are going to strike that clapper board and never use it again. We've got the clapper board app here. It's free, it's available on the Google Play Store, but you don't necessarily need to use this one. There are literally dozens of different slate and clapper board apps, both for iOS and for Android. Some of them are free, some of them are paid and they all have different features. This one is missing a couple of fields that we'd like to have the name of the producer or the director or the DoP, but we still have our project title. We have our frames per second, which we can put in the lower left-hand corner, we've got our focal length in the middle, and then if we were using a lot, we can load that information in there. Then we've got our scene number, our shot letter, and our take number. Then we can also specify whether we are recording sounding camera or sync-sound, if we're recording during the day or the night, and whether we're recording an interior or an exterior. Then after the AC says the scene and shot and take, they can click on the top of the clapper board, we'll get a quick timer countdown, and then we'll get both an audio and the video reference for editor to use to sync and post. 11. Lesson Ten - Script Rehearser: Our last tool is one for all the actors out there and it's called Script Rehearser. In BugOutBag, our lead actor, Stewart, plays a character named Randy, who's at home in the cabin when his roommate bursts in and gives him some bad news. To practice for his role, Stewart has been using Script Rehearser to get the timing and delivery of his lines right. He started by importing the BugOutBag script into the app. You can do that by using a PDF of your script or a text file. Then he set the app up so that he could rehearse his lines as Randy while the app reads the other lines. I called you 20 minutes ago and told you IT happened, just like I said it would. Now we need to go. Is your BugOutBag ready? Yup, I took all the best stuff. Good. Let's go. This whole area is going to be crawling with those things. Angela heads back for the door, but stops abruptly when she sees Randy picking up the small black bag on the kitchen table. What is that? That's your BugOutBag? Yeah, I call it Midnight because it's black, like me. What? I have persons bigger than that. Randy, this is real. This is happening. We are not coming back. You need a real bag. Hey, Midnight is a real big. I've had this since high school. What do you have in there? Water? Randy sets the bag back down on the table and pulls out one bottle of water. Check. So as you can see here by this demonstration by Stewart, Script Rehearser can be a really handy app for actors to use. Not only can you rehearse your lines, but you can also record your lines within the app and play them back. The best part of Script Rehearser is that the cost is $0. It's absolutely free. Here's a homework assignment. If you're an actor, go out, get yourself Script Rehearser and practice. 12. Conclusion: I want to thank you for watching this class, whether you watched every video or not or you just skipped around. Hopefully some of the tools that I went over will be helpful for what you do as a filmmaker. Now, they might not all be the right tool for you, you might only find one or two useful and that's fine, in fact, if you went out and paid for all these apps today, it might cost you a little more than you want to spend, but do remember that there are lite versions for most of these apps and some of them are completely free. So for your next step, go out, get one or two of these apps and find out how you can apply it to the pre-production for your film, and if you've made a film using some of these tools in your pre-production or production process, then please share that film with the students in the student gallery and me as well or make a pre-production film; a film where you break down the pre-production of your films so that we can see what your process was. We all have something to teach and we can all learn from each other. So please share. Thanks again for watching.