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iPad 2: Good and bad news for mobile Filmmakers

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A couple days ago, Steve Jobs announced the iPad 2. I know, because I was sitting on set, reading all about it on my embarrassingly antiquated iPad 1.

First, the good news: The iPad 2 proves that not all sequels suck. In fact, it joins an elite club of follow-ups that surpass their predecessors (I’m looking at you, Troll 2). That said, there are some pretty unfortunate missteps. Here we go!

WIN: TWO CAMERAS

The new iPad includes a rear-facing HD video camera, and a forward-facing VGA camera, similar to the setup in the iPhone 4. Naturally, the HD camera gives mobile filmmakers a new way to capture their footage, but it does much more than that. In the same way the iPhone’s camera allowed the development of incredible apps like Storyboard Composer and Artemis, the new iPad cameras are sure to spark some creative genius. In the words of Twitter tweeter @davepowersNYC, “2cameras & built in iMovie, really curious to see how casting evolves.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

In this age of tiny cameras and smartphones, people typically can tell when you’re shooting video. That can make stealing shots with an iPhone difficult at times. DSLRs have risen in popularity partially because bystanders have no idea when you’re shooting video. The same will be true with the iPad 2, at least for a little while. I have no doubt that guerrilla filmmakers will be pretending to be playing Angry Birds, while secretly shooting video for their next low-budget feature.

Naturally, both cameras will come in handy while doing FaceTime conferences from set, but that’s nothing new since we’ve been able to do that with our iPhones for some time now.

FAIL: SMART CASES

What in the hell was Apple thinking when it designed the Smart Cover? Seriously! Maybe it’s just me, but this is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Forget for a moment that this brilliant innovation doesn’t in any way protect the rear of the device. Let’s just focus on the fact that the new cover bears a striking resemblance to a WeeWee Pad.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve hated every case Apple has designed for mobile devices ever since I owned a Newton.  I know this isn’t a filmmaker issue. But, then again, I like to think filmmakers have taste.

Is it just me? Maybe it’s just me… But I don’t think so. Fugly!

WIN: HDMI OUT

With the addition of a $39 cable, the iPad 2 will be able to send mirrored video out to any HDMI display. That means anything you see on the iPad screen can also be seen (or recorded) on any HDMI device. So why is this good for filmmakers? Many reasons.

First, it means you have the option of showing your movies on a larger display (if one is available). I’ve been in pitch meetings where I’ve shown video on my iPad, even though there’s a large HD television in the room. By keeping Apple’s new HDMI cable in my pocket, I now have the option of utilizing such larger screens (which also means better speakers).

Next, it means you can turn your iPad into a mobile test pattern generator. Just load up your photo album with various bars and charts, and then attach it to the monitor you want to calibrate. Of course, this is assuming that the iPad 2’s video output isn’t discolored or inaccurate in some way. We should know that soon.

Along the same lines, you could even use your iPad 2 as a source for graphics and titles during a live, multi-camera shoot. For instance, if you’re switching live video, and your switcher has an available HDMI input, you could use the iPad 2 as a title generator. Just load up your favorite graphics app, or create your titles ahead of time. Some apps even allow for very nice title animation. Hell, even Keynote can generate smoother animations then those I’ve seen while attending events with live switched video. However, it’s far from a perfect solution since the iPad’s screen is not 16×9, and neither is the mirrored video. That means the iPad’s video output will NOT fill the HD screen. So, I guess we can call that a MINI FAIL.

FAIL: SAME SCREEN

There were many rumors flying around, suggesting that the new iPad would have an improved screen, similar to the iPhone’s retina display. Sadly, that didn’t happen. The new iPad has the exact same screen as the previous iPad. Yes, it’s a good screen, but after reading screenplays on my iPad for hours on end, my eyes can get a little strained. I tend to think a display with improved resolution might help in that regard. Or I could just read a script on paper, but where’s the fun in that?

An improved screen would have been nice for video playback, and interface clarity as well.

WIN: FASTER PROCESSING

A faster computer is a better computer. More power means more potential. ‘Nuff said.

WIN: iMOVIE FOR iPAD

Holy crap, does this look good! I’ve been using iMovie on my iPhone to cut many of the videos I post here on the site, as well as videos I use to communicate ideas to producers when I’m directing. However, it’s not always easy editing video on the iPhone’s small screen. Now, Apple is preparing to release a significant upgrade to iMovie, bringing it to the iPad. It comes with precision editing, multi-track audio, additional themes, and a wide variety of export options. It’s a universal app, so these improvements should also be available on the iPhone 4.

FAIL: iMOVIE FOR iPAD

If you already own an iPad, and you don’t plan on upgrading to an iPad 2, you should forget about using iMovie. Apple has announced that this new version will only be compatible with the iPad 2, iPhone 4, and the fourth generation of the iPod Touch. I don’t know about you, but that really pissed me off. I’m hopeful that the app still works on my iPad, and just lacks the ability to record video. But knowing Apple, that’s unlikely to be the case. WEAK!

WIN: LIGHTER AND THINNER

Here’s another obvious advantage for mobile filmmakers. The new iPad is lighter and thinner than its predecessor. Actually, I suppose that’s an obvious advantage for just about everybody.

FAIL?: NO THUNDERBOLT

You know what? Scratch that. Thunderbolt on an iPad is like chrome siding on a banana. Sure, it looks good, but it doesn’t taste any better. Thunderbolt will matter when the iPad’s storage capacity increases, processor power quadruples, and Apple releases Final Cut Pro Mobile.

So, what did I miss? How will the iPad 2 improve or bone your workflow? Let me know in the comments.

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9 Responses

  1. WIN – Two Cameras!
    Obviously! 🙂

    WIN – Smart Covers!
    (you don’t have to get baby blue – geesh! A Nice black or red leather cover for me please) The back is… well… the back. I’ve never used a case on any of my iPhones (they’re too purty!) – and I don’t plan on one for my iPad 2 either – but maybe a smart cover will work for me.

    WIN – HDMI out!
    Yay! I know lots of folks have wanted mirroring display out. The iPad displays 16:9 movies, so they should output 16:9 as well, right?

    FAIL – Same Screen
    I’ve read that a retina display that size would be "unlikely" but I was hoping for a bit better screen as well. Probably iPad 3….

    WIN – iMovie for iPad
    How awesome is that!!!! But sorry, it’s a win. Just because you own an iPad and don’t want to upgrade doesn’t make it a Fail.

    WIN – Lighter and Thinner
    I had NO IDEA iPad 2 was going to be such a complete re-design. Glad I waited for it.

    Thunderbolt?… N/A to an iPad….yet.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed shooting and editing HD video on my iPhone 4 – I am really looking forward to trying it out on an iPad 2. March 11 can’t come soon enough!

  2. Those covers really are ugly… and that blue??? What was Apple thinking? It’s like they threw something together last minute and then are trying to convince people it’s sexy. Far from it!

  3. LOL! My wife and I have two pups, and we thought of weewee pads as soon as I saw the cover! Glad we weren’t the only ones!

  4. The new iPad cover is a big WIN, IMO. My wife has an iPad 1 and I HATE the cover. If you don’t like baby blue, just get a nice black or gray leather one. I think the black is especially nice.

    Dan.

  5. With HDMI out, and if you have a switcher with HDMI in, can you use the iPad2 to play out video B-roll into a show? Hmmm, that would be cool.

  6. <sarcasm>
    HDMI out? Awesome, it’s like an $800 HTC EVO with lower output resolution. COOL!
    </sarcasm>

    Actually, I have used my HTC EVO for client presentations using the HDMI output. nothing beats showing your work on a large screen using the aforementioned larger speakers. It will be a welcome addition to the iPad.

  7. Does anyone know if the Ipad2 can be used as a video field monitor? use the HDMI to input a video feed from a video camera or HDSLR maybe.

  8. This article is a good quick look at the pros and cons of the iPad 2.

    Hopefully, iMovie and Keynote will support full screen playback via the HDMI out based on the HDMI device that it’s patched to. I’d have to guess that this actually happening depends on the video hardware in the iPad 2 to begin with.

    But, long before the iPad 1 ever shipped, I’ve been hoping to see the "MacPad" (a MacBook and/or MacBook Pro in tablet form). Then, with the exception of the price, I think we’d have an "epic win" all around. Something similar to the ModBook, but from Apple directly.

    So, if anyone in product development at Apple is reading this, MacPad 1 please!

  9. Robert, So far the best solution for iPad-as-field-monitor is the Cube from Teradek. Here’s our coverage from ShowBiz Expo: http://gohhh.com/cube

    Dan, I saw some photos of the Black cover… and you’re right. It looks quite nice. That said, I think I’ll stick with something that protects the back as well. With so many useful cases out there (i.e. the modulR), the Smart Cover still seems inadequate for set use. I suppose it’s fine for meetings.

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