EDIT: The maker of this app, Zach Lipovsky, emailed me to let me know they’ve temporarily dropped the price for their “Going back to Film School” sale. It’s $13.99 for a limited time.
Welcome to another installment of my “App of the Week” column! I was going to go with a different column name but this one surveyed better than “Things On Your iPad That Will Give You A Boner”.
This week’s app is one of my faves. If you’re a Director, Producer, 1st AD, a DP or anyone else who thinks their job description just HAS to be capitalized and/or acronym’ed, you’re going to love the flaming shit out of Shot Lister.
There’s really not enough ways to say how much I like this app. It might be the only app I use on every shoot. If used properly, it takes over the “nudging the Director” part of the 1st AD’s job (although I clearly haven’t mastered the technique of using it to do that). True to its title, it handles your shot list, but it can also take care of your schedule, your setup planning and it even fucking tells you how far ahead of (ha!) or behind schedule you are.
It’s got a hefty price tag of $19.99 – very expensive for a mobile app – but in my opinion the usefulness far outweighs the cost.
Let’s start with the home screen:
You can create shot lists for each of your different projects and store them all individually. I’ve got a few shown. (Indiana Jones is a demo shot list that comes with the program). Tap on one of the projects to open it and it gives you:
There’s a text box to the left where you can name the project. To the right you can enter all of the different scenes for the project. By going through the project sequentially, scene by scene, you can give yourself a good breakdown for an entire film, be it a short film, feature length or what have you. Once you’ve created a scene, tap on it to reveal:
This is the bread and butter of the app. Here you can enter scene numers, setup numbers (only really useful if you’re running multiple cameras) shot size, shot nicknames, a description of the action, what gear the shot needs (sticks, dolly, handheld, etc. – they offer a wide variety and you can add your own) and what size cart you will need to hold your gigantic efficiency boner. On the left side of the screen are all of the basic scene descriptors you’re already familiar with: EXT./INT., DAY/NIGHT, scene name, a description of the entire action in the scene, page count, etc.
The shot list for a scene is, of course, best worked out in conjunction with storyboarding (done in either Celtx Shots as discussed in last week’s column, or in another storyboarding program – such as the one I’m planning to do next week). However, if you’re pressed for time, don’t have access to a good storyboard artist or app, or don’t bother with storyboards at all, feel free to create your shot list independent of a storyboard.
The versatility of the shot lists is incredible. There’s all kinds of metadata columns you can include, labeling each shot with Camera, SFX/VFX, and so on. Half the fun is playing around with this portion of the app.
Once you’ve broken down your entire script, the true usefulness of this app comes into play. By tapping that little “Shoot Day” icon at the bottom of the screen, you go to a calendar view, where you can select a shoot day to create a schedule for it.
Once your day (or days) are created, you assign scenes to it/them by checking them off on a list. Turn your iPad to landscape mode, and Shot Lister automatically creates your shot list for the day, and each shoot day screen has additional data to the side for you to fill in – sunrise, sunset, call time, wrap time, etc.
Shot Lister also automatically calculates the amount of script pages you’re shooting, the amount of shots and the amount of setups – incredibly useful for evaluating whether or not you’ve bitten off more than you can chew on a particular day.
Turn the iPad back to portrait orientation, and the additional “day” data disappears, leaving you with only your shot list. This is one of my favorite features of Shot Lister, and a lot of my favorite film apps – using the rotatability of the iPad to allow you to better control what you’re doing and make for easier data entry. (FYI: spell checker is telling me “rotatability” is not a word. Fuck you spell checker. I just coined that shit).
It goes without saying, but you can rearrange your shots on your shot list in any order you want, and even change them on the fly when you’re shooting, if circumstances change and you want to reorganize your shoot day – for instance, if talent was late and you had to push their shot to the end of the day.
Once your shot list is assembled in the order you want, you can assign times to each of your shots – i.e. how long you think each shot will take to complete (including setup time). Just tap the pen icon to the right of the shot, and adjust the shot time with the slider that appears beneath it.
You probably already realize the implications of this, but if not I’ll spell it out. By assigning guesstimated shot times to each shot, you can predict whether you’ll be able to realistically finish a day on schedule or not. If not, you can take actions well in advance: procure another camera to reduce the number of setups; combine shots, or eliminate ones that aren’t absolutely necessary; schedule additional shoot days to give yourself the time you need. And the app takes care of it automatically, and incredibly easily.
When shooting on the day, you can put Shot Lister in what’s called “Live Mode.”
Once Shot Lister is in Live Mode, you can check off different shots as you complete them. Shot Lister then keeps track of where you are at on your list, where you are supposedto be at based on the schedule you created for yourself earlier, and tells you (at the top) exactly how far behind or ahead of schedule you are. In the photo above you can see I’m four minutes behind. Complete a few more shots, check them off and:
Bam, now I’m twenty-six minutes ahead.
Again, if you don’t already realize how awesome this is, there is probably no way to explain it until you’ve experienced it for yourself. If you’re thirty minutes behind schedule, you look down your shot list for a thirty-minute shot you feel you can live without, and either cross it off or move it to the bottom of the list. If you catch up your time later, you can do the shot – otherwise, it falls off the end of the schedule and you live without it. If I didn’t have the capability to do this on set, I’d go absolutely bonkers.
Finally, when collaborating with your DP, 1st AD, Producer, etc., Shot Lister can export and email your shot list from within the app. Just tap the arrow button on the top right:
Select your recipients, and each of them gets a beautifully streamlined, easy-to-read shot list in PDF form. Which of course, they will print out and check off with a pen because they’re not as cool as you and don’t have this app.
The highest praise I can give this app is this: I always insist that someone is using it on set. If I have a 1st AD it’s her. If I’m running a smaller, lower-budget project, it’s me. But I insist that someone is using it.
As the icing on the cake, the program synchs between your Apple Devices, so I can give my iPad to my 1st AD, but still keep track of the schedule independently on my iPhone.
TOTAL COST: $19.99
USEFULNESS: 5 OUT OF 5
That’s it for this “App of the Week” column. As always, if you have a filmmaking mobile app that you think I need to check out, mention it in the comments below and I’ll give it a look-see, and possibly cover it in a future post.
Bye for now.