Let’s put aside discussion of “does anyone really need one.”  Of course not. Save extensive talk for elsewhere. This is a post to discuss how useful tablets or slates can be for filmmakers. I’m going to do two separate top 5 countdowns comparing the iPad to Android. Since Android can appear on many different slates it’s not entirely accurate but still an approximate comparison.

The iPad

5. Long battery life. The iPad has a fantastically long battery life. That means that if you’re reviewing a shot list at a shoot that is happening in the middle of  forest, you don’t need to worry about being tethered to a charger. You’re good to go for the entire duration of that shoot.

4. Synchronization. Nothing syncs quite like an Apple product. I’ve used Windows Mobile to Mac, Windows Mobile to Windows, Android to Mac and Mac to Gmail. They all work but none of them work with the same app and I’m a Mac user for video editing so having an Apple made product just saves extra steps.

3. Media review. One thing I love about iTunes is the intense amount of metadata it allows for. I’m a very anal producer and the idea of taking the dailies and cataloging them for review on the iPad would be great. Why catalog them on the iPad? Well, if I’m working with another person and I want to meet with them at a mutual location or come to their house we can just flip through the clips and discuss the best takes etc. Makes the post process quite nice.

2. Communication. This is not film specific but what producer these days doesn’t live by their email and social networking? With 3G and Wifi N, you can’t go wrong. That speedy data access keeps things in check.

1. Oh the apps! There are over 60 incredible filmmaking apps for the iPhone that work just right for the iPad. Given time, I’m sure that there will be many more that specifically cater to the iPad’s real estate. Honestly though, some of these apps are incredible. Check them out.


5. Video out. A lot of Android tablets are coming equipped with A/V, component and even HDMI out for those presentations or video exhibitions you might share with investors, fans, friends and family.

4. GPS. Going to a remote place to shoot? There are Android tablets coming out with GPS hardware built in. Also, let us not forget that Android is by Google and Google Maps is so great that Apple couldn’t make their own app.

3. Camera. The iPad is the iPad until the next iPad replaces it. It sucks that there’s no camera and there’s no way to get one until this generation of iPad is replaced. Since Android is so dynamic in hardware options there will be tablets hitting the scene with built in cameras. Some that even have a front facing one for video chat and a rear facing one for snapshots. A great way to chat with coworkers, get a few photos from location scouting and it opens the door way for a light meter app.

2. The price tag. Since Android doesn’t cost manufacturers money, they can sell their tablets for low prices. A great plus for filmmakers that are tight on money. Like me!

1. Oh, the apps that will be there. The Android Marketplace is steadily growing and I have a feeling that it will continue. Photoshop has a mobile app and there are already depth of field calculators out there. Let’s see what else they can produce.

Final Thoughts

I think I’m going to go with Android on this one. Syncing will be a pain but the cost is the deal sealer for me. Plus, I truly believe that Android has room to grow and those apps will get there. In the meantime there are some basic productivity options on Android tablets right out of the box. That basic productivity still unlocks things like shot lists, scripts, itineraries etc. I’m posting a page that will keep a tab on the developing world of Android Tablets as a good filmmakers tool. Here is the link. Keep a tab there to see what I find!

Let me just add-the iPad is a great device. It’s great for the right person. I would only use it for admin purposes. I wouldn’t really take advantage of gaming, movies, music or much of what makes the device start at $499. I want something simple at a low price. Android delivers on that front.