Filmmaking apps and websites which help to make pre-production SO much easier: Chloe Bush

22nd November 2022

Screen and Film School Manchester’s student blogger Chloe Bush discusses one of the most daunting aspects of filmmaking – the pre-production process.

Planning and preparation are the key to any successful film shoot, especially when you’re a student filmmaker, as it’s likely that you’ll be working with a limited budget and resources. Luckily, there are a number of apps and websites out there, which are free to use, and will undoubtedly help to make the planning process of your shoot so much easier.


Students are always living busy lives and trying tp keep track of who is doing what tasks, by which dates, during pre-production can be a nightmare. Before you know it, tasks haven’t been completed, production is falling behind schedule and the stress is starting to build up. To avoid this happening, there’s one very easy solution: set up a Trello page. Trello is a free, shared project working space which allows users to create ‘cards’ under headings to organise tasks. By setting up and assigning one ‘card’ for each task that needs to be completed by your fellow crew members, everyone will be able to clearly see who is responsible for completing which tasks and when they need to be completed for. Trello even emails reminders to people assigned to specific cards when the completion dates are approaching so that users know to make sure they’ve uploaded the completed documents.

Sun Tracker (eg: Sun Calc)

When shooting low budget projects in outdoor locations during daylight hours, there’s one major light source that you’ll want to use: the sun. Since most affordable LED lights won’t provide enough output to overpower the light that’s coming from the sun, the best solution is to work with (not against!) the sun to create the cinematic lighting that you’re hoping for! Sun Tracker apps and websites can be used to track sunlight and sunset hours as well as the positioning of the sun at your location at certain times of day, so that you can decide which direction and time of day will provide the best lighting for your projects! Golden hour (just after the sun rises and before the sun sets) and blue hour (shortly before sunrise and after sunset) are also popular times of day for filming due to the aesthetic which they create.

Viewfinder (eg: Magic Arri Viewfinder)

When assessing the suitability of a location for your student film, it’s a good idea to examine how it’s going to look on camera. This is where a viewfinder can come in handy. You might have seen a director using this telescopic device (often hung on a lanyard around their necks) to help them set the framing of their film. However, don’t feel you need to make the costly investment in a physical viewfinder, because there are free apps that allow you to do exactly the same thing. Viewfinder apps use your phone camera to show you what a scene would look like through certain framing compositions, and allow you to experiment with different lenses, so that you can get an idea of how different shots in your intended location will appear on camera. Don’t like that tree in the background? Use a different lens or different angle to see if you avoid the tree and still get the framing composition that you want. If it’s not possible to do, then at least you’ll know before the shoot that you might need to consider another area of the location or another location altogether. Many viewfinder apps will also allow you to capture images, meaning that you can photograph the shots that you might want to use in order to help you create a shot list further down the line.

The more you can prepare during pre-production, the smoother your filming days will go and the better your film will turn out – trust me!



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