Top 5 Apps Every Documentary Filmmaker Needs

Still wishing you could shun technology and go back to the good old days where we were shooting in 35mm film? I’m going to have to disagree, my Luddite friend. With the rise of apps, there are so many awesome new tools for filmmakers to add to their digital toolbox to help in every aspect of the production process. Here’s a list of filmmaking apps that I’ve found useful as an independent documentary filmmaker. Let me know if there are any others that you use as well in the comments below!

1) Pocket Call Sheet- $6.99Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 7.51.40 PM

I’m not sure how many doc filmmakers create call sheets- it’s definitely used in narrative filmmaking. I’ve always used it to plan out production days- and it’s definitely helped keep me organized- regardless if it’s a 2-person shoot or more. Pocket Call Sheet saves your from the countless hours spent on an excel spreadsheet, and organizes all of your projects and shoots so that there is no missing information.

2) Shake- Free

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If you haven’t used this app before, download it right now! Shake is an app that helps you create contracts, legal documents, NDA’s and much, much more. Not just for filmmakers, but for any freelancer and small business. It’s ridiculously easy to whip up a contract agreement with your graphic designer/editor/any person that you’re hiring. And, you can sign with your finger right on your phone. How amazing is that?

3) RØDE smartLav+-$80 & RØDE Rec– $5.99

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So this an app plus a hardware component. Let’s start with the app. RODE Rec allows live recording monitoring, non-linear editing capabilities, and real-time waveform, looping and volume normalizing. It also allows you to output audio files as WAV, MP3, AIFF, AAC, among many others as well as the ability to post finished files to iTunes, Soundcloud or Dropbox.

The smartLav+ is a broadcast-grade lavalier (lapel) microphone designed for use in a wide range of applications, from the boardroom to the pulpit, the car to the classroom. Combine this hardware with a device such as the iOgrapher or an iPad or iPhone, and you have a fully stabilized (or tripod-mounted) pro recording device.

4) Storyist- $14.99

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If it wasn’t for Scrivener, I would have dozens of Word documents with half written notes and ideas all over my desktop. The caveat: Scrivener doesn’t have an iphone/ipad app coming out until later this year. Till then, I recommend checking out Storyist.

Much like Scrivener, Storyist is an intuitive writing program that allows you to outline, create notecards, and organize your story. Definitely look into this program if you’re in the editing room and scripting out your documentary storyline.

5) Shotlister (for iPhone, iPad – $13.99) 


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As documentary filmmakers, we don’t have (or need!) assistant directors on set. But, it’s definitely helpful to have some place to store your shot list of all the b-roll that you need to get. Shotlister also allows you to change shots in real time and share with everyone immediately, storyboards images corresponding with each shot, tells you if you’re ahead, behind or on schedule, exports the project and much more. While it’s definitely geared towards narrative films, Shotlister is definitely a useful app to have.