Filmmakers: Take the iPad Pro from Pre-Production to Post

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Lights! Camera! iPad? Believe it or not, the Apple iPad Pro (Late 2018) has gotten good enough to be an outstanding tool for filmmakers. Its versatility makes it useful, regardless of what part of the production you are working on. Standard productivity concerns are easily handled; apps for teleprompters, clapboards, and scripts are common; and if you want, the rear camera is capable enough to record high-resolution UHD 4K with surprising detail—not that I’m recommending the iPad Pro to replace your camera. Basically, the latest iteration of Apple’s flagship tablet should be considered the next time you want to make a movie, since it can throw up an assist from pre-production to post.

Apple 11" iPad Pro

Pre-Production

Everyone starts somewhere. Scripts and storyboards are probably the best place to start and can be created pretty much anywhere. What you don’t want is to lug around a giant laptop or drawing pad when all you need is a little word processing and a blank screen. You may want the Smart Keyboard Folio to speed up your typing and comfort, and the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) for drawing your storyboards. They attach and sync easily to the iPad Pro via magnetic points and feel great in use. This shouldn’t come as much surprise, since productivity has always been a strong point.

Apple and Pencil Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Pro

Now for the stuff you may not have considered yet, such as location scouting. The fact that the iPad Pro is smaller than a laptop should make it quite appealing for getting on the road or wandering around a city. This is among the most impressive changes with the Late 2018 release, because the 12.9" model manages to chop off the top and bottom for a dramatically reduced size, and the 11" version has a larger screen than its predecessor while maintaining the same form factor. It is also the thinnest iPad yet. This is made possible by the removal of the home button and the addition of Face ID—which may be a concern for some. After getting used to it, though, I would bet the all-screen design will win you over.

Another benefit for scouts? The camera system. Similar to the cameras found in the much-loved iPhone, the iPad Pro has a brilliant 12MP rear camera with f/1.8 lens and a Quad-LED True Tone flash that make it a viable choice for snapping some quick shots as you roam around. UHD 4K video recording is another viable tool if you want to see how things might look when you come back out for the shoot, or for sample footage to show your DP.

After all that, you can do all your essential work putting together call sheets, scheduling things, and then syncing it all to iCloud or another online service so you can aggregate the crew on the same page. Battery life is rated for 10 hours of surfing the Web on Wi-Fi, or watching videos, so you should have no problem with power as you whip it out throughout your day—and the 18W charger will help get you charged up fast.

The Main Event

Dedicated filmmakers will, no doubt, get their scripts into the production stage, and you shouldn’t forget the iPad Pro when you do. An easy sell is that your scripts and storyboards are already there for reference. Flipping through your docs to make sure everyone is on time, putting together lists of equipment on set, and just refreshing yourself on ideas and checking for last-minute emails are all things the iPad Pro can do with ease. Get the 4G LTE model for a constant connection no matter where you end up.

Beyond these essential options, mostly held over from the pre-production stages, you can find other uses for an iPad Pro on set. One way is to use it as a teleprompter or slate. I’ve used it for both these purposes and was quite successful. The other thing to consider is that you don’t have to drag those extra accessories with you as you go. Anyone who has been on a film set knows there is always too much stuff lying around. If you can eliminate any of that equipment, I would say that is a win. Some cameras and accessories will provide DPs and directors with monitoring capabilities where the iPad Pro’s large screen can be appreciated.

ikan Elite Pro Universal Large Tablet Teleprompter with Remote

Another huge change that can’t be overstated is a move to USB Type-C. On set, this means that the iPad Pro can be used for multiple purposes. With mirrorless cameras and smaller crews, the iPad Pro and a standard USB Type-C cable can connect directly to a camera or card reader after a scene is completed, for footage to be transferred immediately. Directors and DPs can then review the footage, and those with DITs can even have them start ingesting footage into a project or uploading to a cloud service for editors to get their hands on right away.

Before I forget, I may as well mention that it is entirely possible to shoot an entire film on an iPad Pro if you feel so inclined. A few mobile lenses, a tripod mount, and perhaps an app such as FiLMiC Pro can go a long way in making the experience even better. From the start, you do have UHD 4K at 60 fps, Full HD at up to 120 fps for slow motion, time-lapse video with stabilization, continuous autofocus, noise reduction, HEVC and H.264 codecs, and I could keep going. what you can do these days is impressive and, if you are just starting out, there is no reason you shouldn’t begin your filmmaking journey with a tool you may already have. Or if, for some reason, the iPad Pro is the perfect tool for a unique shot you want.

On to Editing

Believe it or not, the iPad Pro is capable of video editing. At its core is the A12X Bionic processor with a Neural Engine and machine learning—it’s Apple’s most powerful mobile processor yet and rivals or beats that of many laptops. Is it going to handle your next feature? Maybe not, but a vlog or short video should be absolutely no problem—even in 4K! Apple has done a great job of marrying its hardware with its software and it shows here, with practically no lag or slowdown when editing. Optimization is the key to the iPad Pro’s speed and makes apps such as iMovie, Adobe Premiere Rush, and LumaFusion run wonderfully.

With the footage loaded up and your favorite editing app ready to go, you can jump right into editing. When you do, you’ll be looking at the iPad Pro’s screen for a long time. Luckily, it is very good. The 11" and 12.9” models feature Liquid Retina displays with great resolution and 264 ppi—meaning you’ll be hard-pressed to make out individual pixels. It’s also bright, at 600 nits, and has a reflectivity of just 1.8% for use in nearly any environment, be it a coffee shop or a park bench. My favorite spec is P3 color-space support. You can’t edit what you can’t see, and having wide-gamut viewing just makes everything look nicer and more accurate for video publishing. If you want a second, larger screen, you can always hook up a USB Type-C to HDMI adapter and go straight to your favorite monitor or TV in up to 4K.

Editing is a surprising breeze. The iPad Pro doesn’t falter with most projects and works with many common footage types. ProMotion tech means that footage plays back smoothly and the movement is smooth as you drag and drop footage and audio on various tracks in your portable NLE. The Apple Pencil will come in handy yet again, bringing added precision that you may not get with just a finger. I would argue it is ideal for journalists and vloggers who have quick turnarounds and find themselves away from an edit bay for longer stretches of time.

If there were a single complaint when it comes to editing, it is that iOS still lacks a great file-management system. iCloud Drive and the Files app are helping, but you still can’t connect an external hard drive or easily organize your files. Trusting apps and the built-in file management is one option, though many editors I know prefer extra control. It also means you may load up your iPad quickly—unless you opt for a massive 1TB model. Our best recommendation is to consider wireless hard drives to supplement your mobile workstation.

One thing to note is that beginners will benefit from the iPad’s editing prowess. iMovie is a great starting point, with a simplified, yet capable experience for producing video content. Everyone is getting into the video game these days and the iPad Pro is great, especially if you can’t quite justify a dedicated video-editing machine. The other benefit is that when you are finished you can quickly and easily open the YouTube or Vimeo app to publish your video. There you go! Start to finish with the iPad Pro.

Finally, now that your 12-hour edit sessions are complete, all the overnight shoots are dealt with, and reshoots are in the can, you should sit back and relax. Might want to bring your new friend the iPad Pro over to your couch or bed to stream your favorite film. See? The iPad Pro can help no matter where you are in your production.

Do you think the iPad Pro could help you with your next film project? What features do you find most appealing with the latest release? Make sure to leave a comment down below!

4 Comments

Do you think it's just a matter of time before Apple releases a FCP for iPad? It seems to me like the magnetic timeline was built for touch. I think Luma Fusion has proven it's possible to use the new iPad as a legit editing device.

I hope so. Especially if you could start a project on iPad and finish on desktop. Or, Adobe could get to it following the launch of full Photoshop on iPad. It seems like it'll be a while still even if it does come.

Hmmm, didn't quite understand this: "This is among the most impressive changes with the Late 2018 release, because the 12.9" model manages to chop off the top and bottom for a dramatically reduced size, and the 11" version has a larger screen than its predecessor while maintaining the same form factor." So, I shouldn't buy the 12.9" model because I lose some of the image?

Hi Mike,

So if you were to look at the earlier 12.9" versions you would see huge black bezels at the top and bottom. The new version manages to maintain the same screen size as before but eliminates these bezels. So it is physically smaller while the screen remains the same. The 11" model took a different approach, instead of getting rid of the bezels on the top and bottom, they used a larger screen than the previous 10.5" model but kept the same basic form factor. You aren't losing any image with the 12.9" and you are gaining some screen with the 11".

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