Patrick Moreau and fabulous team over at @stillmotion sent me the very first worldwide copy of SMAPP, their filmmaking iPhone application. And I'm honored as well as very impressed by what they've accomplished. This team is doing some amazing things and you'll want to have this tool in your arsenal.
Okay, but what does it really do? According to their website, “SMAPP was designed not only to make the filmmaking process easier but also help the filmmaker really understand the decisions they are making. Learning this craft can be intimidating and there are so many tools that we often don’t even realize we have, or we don’t fully understand how to best use to tell our story effectively. SMAPP was created to make all of filmmaking more approachable and to empower the filmmaker to tell relevant and meaningful stories, their stories, with more confidence than ever before.”
But what does SMAPP really really do?
Okay, okay, we've heard that but what does it really really do?
SMAPP is built of several tools that you see in the screen shot above. Each section of the app has it's own purpose and flavor.
the first batch of tools are under the “interact” tab. This is where the real meat of the application is for many people. This is kind of the stuff that @stillmotion teaches in their classes (and will teach on their KNOW tour) but at the same time it's some of the hard to remember. And this is also where their skill at looking at things differently comes into play. They've designed this to be very interactive and it's fascinating to see their outlook on things.
There are four tools under interact. “Lens selection” / “get creative” / “shot list” and “gear up”
Each of these is an interactive tool meant to help you make some decisions about lenses, story, and what kind of gear to include in your particular movie. Each of these tools also comes with a heck of a lot of internal @stillmotion knowledge which is where this application shines.
I think the “lens selection” tool is one of the most interesting for someone who's been a photographer and wants to learn about filmmaking or story telling as they like to say it. The reason is the lens selection tool gives you several parameters such as: your environment, minimizing or maximizing your subject, feeling dramatic or comedic, or focusing on the context or details.
When you move the sliders, the bottom of the screen shows you the suggested lenses or combination of lenses that might fit your particular scene. I think this is a fabulous way of teaching different ways of telling a story through a lens selection. Of course the tool doesn't stand by itself. The best way of learning this is to also go through the tutorials on the tutorials tab. Each one of those tutorials can help you understand why the lens selection tool works so well.
There are something like 50 or more tutorials that @stillmotion has created for this application and they're all exactly what I expect from this amazing team. The thing to note tho is that they're not all included with your app purchase; many are an additional in-store purchase.
stillmotion's trailer for tutorials
Okay so there's lots of cool stuff in this application (and I haven't even mentioned many of the tools included – I just don't have the time right now to get into all of them!). Are there any negatives?
One potential negative that many people may be surprised about at the outset – many of the tutorials are not included in the original purchase price. They are an in-store purchase. And some of them are quite expensive. One of the two hour downloadable tutorials is $200. If you're on a budget of course there are quite a few free tutorials and many shorts tutorials from 3 to 5 to 10 minutes are two dollars or three dollars but some of the longer tutorials are indeed $30, $40 or $100 or more dollars each. I think if you're not careful you could end up spending quite a bit of money. But another way of looking at it is that you're not spending several hundred dollars for the complete overall course right up front. You can pick and choose what you want to learn about and spend what you have in your budget.
I don't think there's anything wrong with charging for these tutorials – they are excellent. The problem I think @stillmotion is going to encounter with this pricing is that many people are used to other applications where the in-store pricing is much lower for add-ons. So there may be a little bit of sticker shock when people get to the tutorial section. But like I said, this individual pricing allows people to choose what they want to learn. However, if I were pricing them, I would have been a bit more aggressive in my pricing (meaning lower). I personally just feel that people would be more inclined to purchase them if they were lower and i'd probably sell more videos in the long run with lower prices. But that's me.
That being said, I highly admire @stillmotion's training materials and I think they're very worthwhile and I don't think people will be disappointed once they see quality that the materials are and the amount of knowledge that is included, they may find out that indeed there quite a bargain – especially if they were going to have to travel to a training class to begin with.
But let's get past the pricing and get to the real meat of the application itself. For $2.99 you're getting an amazing bargain!
The interaction section all by itself is worth the $2.99. With the “lens selection tool”, the “shot list tool”, the “gear up” section; these are amazing little tools that nobody else's created anything even remotely similar. These are very unique and worthwhile.
The “gear bag” section is also well worth the price all by itself. For each item that they put in the gear bag, they give a description of strengths and weaknesses of the product, great features, what skills you may or may not need, what their recommendations are for events or commercials or documentaries, as well as some of their lessons learned, and lastly they give you an idea of whether you should rent or buy and any related tutorials. Here there are sections for camera bodies, stabilizers, accessories, and audio.
Bottom line summary
Ok, that was long winded for a ‘summary' – what should you do? If you're a beginning filmmaker, buy this period. If you’re an intermediate filmmaker, the app is worth the expense and then pick the tutorials you need more help with. If you're an expert filmmaker, then you can still probably learn something from the tool – heck even the packing list section of the app is probably worth the $2.99 to help you remember what to pack.
So the bottom line is ‘buy this'
disclaimer: @stillmotion did give me the app for free – whoopie, I saved $3 – ha!
(cover photo credit: snap from the stillmotion site)