The Padcaster – Filmmaking In A Frame
If you work in production, iPads have become ubiquitous on set. With its Retina display, the iPad delivers higher than HD resolution (2048 x 1536) and has become the go-to device to view on set dailies and many production professionals have also been using the iPad as a film slate and teleprompter as well. But for shooting, most believe the iPad is not ready for primetime.
But in the past year, we’ve seen a number of solutions for the iPhone such as cases, handles, bayonet mounts, and lenses. Both the iPhone and iPad camera’s can capture 1920 x 1080 video and because they’re devices you always have with you, they’re ideal to capture shots on the fly. With the iPad alone, you can shoot, edit and even distribute HD content.
I recently had the opportunity to test out the Padcaster, which is a smart yet simple accessory that will help turn your iPad into an all-in-one filmmaking device. The Padcaster is a simple aluminum frame with a urethane front and a small hole to let the iPad’s camera lens shoot through. What makes the Padcaster a useful tool is that it has a multitude of both 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 threaded holes lining the frame in order to mount filmmaking accessories such a light, a microphone, monitor, etc. At the bottom, there is a round plate that works with a quick release plate for your tripod head and the plate can also balance the Padcaster on a level surface. Although there are no handgrips on the Padcaster, it’s still pretty easy to shoot handheld. What’s also cool about the Padcaster is that you can also remove the urethane front and use the aluminum frame as a DSLR cage, which typically run around $500.
Your iPad snaps into the Padcaster easily and fits very snug. Included with the Padcaster is the Lenscaster, which is a universal lens mount (72mm) that screws into the frame with four simple screws and allows you to attach lenses that goes over the iPad’s camera lens. I used a 72mm Vivitar Wide Angle Lens that attached to the mount. To capture shallow depth of field, you can also use a depth of field adapter such as the ones from Redrock Micro, Letus, or Cinevate. DoF adapters with DSLR lenses can give you a more cinematic look but since the iPad’s native camera lens isn’t exactly Zeiss Master Prime glass, it’s not an ideal solution. (If having a pleasing bokeh is super important to you, a low end DSLR might be a better solution.)
Although the iPad has a built-in microphone, if you want to do any type of professional sound recording, you’re going to need an audio interface to the iPad’s dock. The most common solution is the Apogee Electronics Jam ($100), which lets you record to an iPad or iPhone and its all-digital connection gives you professional sound quality, as well as gain control.
I tested out the Padcaster using the FiLMiC Pro app, which is one of the best HD video apps for mobile devices. Costing just $4.99, FiLMiC Pro gives you real time, 4x zoom, and full control over focus, exposure, white balance, frame rates and also includes slow and fast motion capture. There are also a number of video editing apps (iMovie, Pinnacle Studio) and coloring apps (Red Giant’s Movie Looks HD) that allow you to finish your movie without ever offloading the footage to a separate computer.
Although the Padcaster is a great tool, it’s important to remember that the accessory is not going to make your images look as a good as a 5D Mark III. It all comes down to the iPad’s native camera and lens. But for those who want to get decent video without investing resources into a new DSLR (not to mention accessories), the Padcaster is a terrific solution for iPad owners. Also, it retails for only $149.
Contact: Padcaster, (212) 414-9570, www.thepadcaster.com.