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.

More App Store Rejection Fun

Apparently, Apple has heard the public complaints about their recent rejections from the App Store. Their solution? Cover the rejection letters under NDA:


Nice. It’s no secret that I can be considered an Apple fan boy and all, but this is getting ridiculous. I wonder how many rejected developers will break the NDA?

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.


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.

Indie Film Distribution Through iTunes

According to Ars Technica, TuneCore, a service which has made it possible for pretty much anyone to sell songs on iTunes is now doing the same for indie film makers. Apparently, all it takes is a flat, upfront fee, you get to keep all the profit from the stores which you choose to sell your film through. Albums range from $20-30, while film fees depend on the length; $550 for a 60-minute, $770 for a 90-minute feature.

This sounds like a great option. I know many people who have a difficult time getting distribution in the physical arena. This would allow their films to reach audiences around the world for a small fraction of the overall budget. I’m looking forward to finding new indie films up on iTunes.