iPhone Apps for Designers/Post Production

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m slightly addicted to my iPhone. It’s a really useful piece of tech, not just for communication, but for my work as well. Here’s a list of apps I use almost daily for my motion design & post production work :

WhatTheFontWhat The Font (Free, iTunes Link)
Take a picture of a sign, layout, billboard, or pretty much anything and upload it to What The Font. It operates much like the website and can be a lifesaver. Though it can be tricky to get matches back unless you have a 3G S, as the fixed focus camera on the original and 3G iPhones makes it tricky to get a decent picture.

Colorscliqcliq Colors ($2.99, iTunes Link)
Choosing the right colors for a project is important and inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Chose your own colors (up to 16) or use a photo as the basis for the palette. You can work in RGB, HSB, Gray or CMYK (for you print designers). When you’re done you can name & rate your palette, or even send it in an email. The email is especially thorough, providing ACO, ASE, Office Open XML Color Theme, bitmap, plaintext, and CSV file formats, along with a preview.

ColorSlideColorSlide (Free, iTunes Link)
Speaking of color palettes, you’re probably familiar with Adobe Kuler. ColorSlide is basically an iPhone front-end allowing you to search, browse, and bookmark the palettes. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sign in with your Kuler account, though you can email links.

ColourMill Colour (Free, iTunes Link)
A great little photo adjustment app by The Mill. Allows you to chose from predefined looks or adjust lift/gamma/gain (both luminance & separate RGB) and saturation on your own.

PSMobilePS Mobile (Free, iTunes Link)
From Adobe themselves. Crop, adjust exposure/saturation/tint, apply filters and save & upload your completed image to photoshop.com. I admit I don’t use this too often, but it’s handy to have.

AnimTimerAnimation Timer ($4.99, iTunes Link)
Tap out timing for your animation. It’s similar to the “lap” feature on stopwatches, though instead of fractions of a second, you get frames, 35mm footage or timecode. It’s handy for timing everything from edits to complex character animation.

EditCalcEditCalc ($0.99, iTunes Link)
A simple timecode calculator. Works in 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 59.94, and 60 fps. You can also work in varying film footages, from 16mm 1perf all the way up to 70mm 5perf.

DataCalcAJA DataCalc (Free, iTunes Link)
Recently released, this app will calculate storage for varying frame sizes/rates and codecs, and closely mirrors their Mac & Windows calculators in function. You can work in days/hours/min/sec or timecode. What I really like about the app is you can chose between working in KB (1000 bytes), KiB (1024 bytes) or even Bits, which is handy if you’re working in Snow Leopard. One complaint is that they don’t offer 720p24 as a preset, though you can use custom setups, so it’s not that big of a deal. When you’re all done you can mail a summary of your calculation; useful if you’re on set and need to let your assistant know what’s coming.

iBlueSkyiBlueSky ($9.99, iTunes Link)
If you’re not familiar with mind mapping, you might not care much about this app. But it’s hands-down the best app for this purpose. What I really like is that I can email my maps as OPML files (along with other formats) and open it up with OmniOutliner on my Mac.

PocketVFXPocket VFX ($0.99, iTunes Link)
This is just for fun. Framestore (vfx credits include Avatar, The Dark Knight, The Golden Compass, and Where the Wild Things Are) has released an app of their own. You, too can have Framestore’s power in your own pocket!

Have other favorite design/post apps? Share them in the coments.

Fringe: Why I Won’t Be Watching

Last week, J.J. Abrams’ latest television show, Fringe, premiered. At first, I was excited to see another serial sci-fi on network television. Unfortunately, it did not take long for my excitement to wane. And (mostly) not due to the content of the show, rather it is the artistic choices that have me disappointed.

On the surface, Fringe is about an FBI agent who is assigned to a special group to investigate strange happenings that are collectively dubbed “the pattern.” It is believed that these events are the result of some one (or group) using the world as their laboratory. The general premise is interesting, though the details are a bit infuriating.

Granted, the show is about fringe science, but a “pulse camera” that when aimed and flashed at a dead woman’s optic nerve (after the eyeball has been removed from her socket, though while it is still atached) produces images on a monitor that she saw before she died. Not the moment before she died, mind you, but rather hours before when she was conveniently looking out a window to see a bridge that tipped the investigator off as to the location of the killer. Normally, I’m all for suspended reality, but there were so many times I would audibly say to my self “oh, come on!”

However, like i said, it is not really the content or premise of the show that pushes me away. It is the uncanny artistic resemblance one of Abrams’ other shows that does it for me. The soundtrack could be lifted directly from Lost. The stingers and transitions are just too identical. Then there’s the mysterious, possibly evil, Massive Dynamic, which provides a plot convention so similar to The Dharma Initiative that I was expecting to see Dr. Pierre Chang from the training videos walking around somewhere. Not to mention that there was a Massive Dynamic commercial at the end of the premiere pointing to their website for yet another ARG.

Lastly, while each episode can stand on its own, there are still so many questions posed which you just know aren’t going to be answered until season 3 (or will all be answered in one fell swoop in the season finale, only to ask 20 more). I get it Mr. Abrams, you like to keep people guessing and have a story arch spanning entire seasons. I just hope you learned from Lost that you have to actually answer those questions as you go along and not piss off your viewers.

I want to like Fringe, I really do. In fact, I might catch an episode here and there. I like Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv is okay as Olivia, and Josh Noble plays the cliché mad scientist well. But there just isn’t enough to keep me hooked, and there’s too much to push me away. It felt too formulaic, granted it is an Abrams formula, but formulaic still. It’s a shame.

iTunes 8: Initial Thoughts

iTunes 8 landed yesterday after Apple’s “Let’s Rock” special event. With new features like the Genius Sidebar/Playlists, Grid View, and a revamped visualizer, it might actually warrant a full version bump. However, iTunes has never had the most consistent version numbering. After playing with the new features and interface, these are my first impressions:

Genius Recommendation Engine

Genius SidebarPerhaps the most notable feature in version 8 is the Genius feature. There are two ways to utilize this feature. The first is the Sidebar. This will recommend songs and albums for you to purchase from the iTunes store based on your current selection. This is actually a more personalized replacement for the MiniStore.

The other way to access this feature is the playlist option. This will comb through your library and select 25, 50, 75, or 100 songs from your library that presumably go well with the song you have selected. While it is a nice way to listen to music, it seems better suited for some genres and not others. For example, I had iTunes build a playlist of 75 songs based on “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. It pulled songs like “Six Underground” by Sneaker Pimps and “The Salmon Dance” by The Chemical Brothers, it also chose songs like “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic (don’t judge). I decided to try it again, this time with “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys. This time it performed much better and gave me a nice hip hop-ish mix.

I’m not really sure what algorithms the Genius feature uses, but it definitely is interesting. It should be noted that this feature only works on one song at a time (so you can’t build a Genius playlist using three songs), and it only seems to work with songs that the iTunes Store recognizes. It will, however, pull from the entirety of your library to build playlists, regardless of whether or not those songs appear in the iTunes Store. I was glad to see this as I was worried it would be limited only to what they carry.

Grid View

Grid View presents an iPhoto-like view of all your albums, artists, genres, or composers. While an interesting way to view your music, I’m not entirely convinced of its usefulness, though I’m sure many will love it. I have two primary complaints with the implementation of this feature. First is that it does not handle “albumless” songs gracefully. It continues the problem with the album grouping view from iTunes 7 that puts each albumless song in its own “album.” So if I have 10 songs from VNV nation that don’t have albums tagged, they show up as ten different blank album covers. This could be easily solved by treating all songs with no album as belonging to the same “album.” Second is that the increasingly cluttered UI of iTunes is made even more cluttered and inconsistent when in this view:

iTunes UI

Looking at it again, it is reminiscent of the movies view in previous versions. The most baffling part of all this is the apparent need to darken everything, from the tabs/selectors at the top to the scroll bar, which turns to a dark gray. Even the scroll indicator is darker than normal when the iTunes windows is in the background. This just seems to be another example of Apple ignoring its own Human Interface Guidelines.

Visualizer

I’ll only touch on this briefly, as I rarely use visualizers anymore. The default visualizer in iTunes 8 is pretty. There’s nothing else to really say about it.

Other Tweaks

Artwork Grouping – With Grid View replacing the “Artwork Grouping” in the view buttons, I thought that it that view was lost. It is actually now built into the list view as an artwork column selectable by either “Show Artwork Column” in the View menu, or clicking the small arrow in the far left of the column labels. Unfortunately, you cannot reposition this column

Revised Preference Window – Apple simplified the preference window as well. Many things are more logically grouped, for example AirTunes and iPhone/iPod Touch Remote settings are now under a tab labeled “Devices” along with iPhone and iPod backups. This replaces the “Syncing” tab from iTunes 7. Also, certain features seem to have been removed, such as the “Smart Shuffle” slider which would change the likelihood of hearing two or more songs by the same artist  in a row.

Closing Thoughts

While some of the new features are interesting, I think the Genius Playlist is the only feature I’ll be regularly using. Grid View just doesn’t do it for me, visualizers aren’t my thing, and I rarely spend time in the preferences window (though I greatly appreciate slimming it down).

What really bothers me about iTunes is that it is becoming a behemoth of an app. When it first started, it was a music organizer. Now it syncs my iPhone, holds TV shows and movies, purchase apps… One of the original goals of the NeXT system (and by extension OS X) is one app for one function; hence Address Book, Mail, and iCal all being separate apps, and not combined like other PIMs. I think it’s time for Apple to really take a look at what iTunes is becoming and rethink its function and organization.