Can the iPad work as a field monitor?

The Apple iPad, in use as an e-reader.

In the blogosphere, there’s been a burst of activity surrounding the much-hyped release of the new iPad by Apple.  Aside from the humorous jokes and witty quips about Apple’s glaring oversight with regard to the name (the now-canceled MadTV skit comedy show had previously done a sketch about a womens’ hygiene product called the ‘iPad’), many have questioned and begun brainstorming about possible additional uses of the iPad.

Movies, books and music are obvious uses, but – as with the App store for the iPhone – the iPad is a new market rife with prospects for software developers dabbling in small application creation.  Some of the best App’s have been the most common-sense tasks, but have proven enormously helpful.  Cinemek’s Storyboarding tool and the See4K app with RED One calculations are chief among them.

One idea that came up in discussion, primarily based on some forum posts regarding the quality of the monitor on the iPad, has been the thought of using the iPad as a field monitor.  After quick discussions, the idea was ultimately deemed unworkable, but it did get me thinking about why it wouldn’t work.

1. Connectivity – The new iPad, for all its features, isn’t capable of connecting at the data rates necessary for a production-friendly picture.  True, you might be able to send something wirelessly or across a Bluetooth connection, but it will still not be as seamless as a strong SDI connection.

2. Features – Certain features such as blue gun, pixel to pixel, underscan, overscan and more would not be able to be programmed/built into a viewing device such as the iPad.  The additional need for interchangeable power supplies (multiple batteries, etc.) would also not make for a practical field monitor.

3. Pricing – As with the introduction of the iPod, the iPad is not the profit generator here.  The digital content sold for the device will be the financial boon.  Production monitor manufacturers have nothing else to provide for the needs of the business, whereas Apple is eyeing the massive dollar amounts to be collected for the digital content.  The same holds true with Amazon’s Kindle.  Amazon can afford to make the reader cheaper because they’re getting you on the other end with the e-book sales.

4. Durability – Regardless of build, there is a certain amount of rugged strength required for any equipment which will be subjected to day-in, day-out use.  The iPad (and this is being said without the benefit of having been able to hold and handle one) just may not be robust enough for a prolonged shoot in inclement conditions.

All this being said, I’ve been known to be wrong before.  ;-)

Thoughts?  Comments?

~ by Carlos Tovar on January 28, 2010.

10 Responses to “Can the iPad work as a field monitor?”

  1. the iPad is not really a great choice for a field monitor, what about the nice shinny screen, or the battery life. I would hate to take a computer/what-ever-in-the-hell-is into the field with me as a monitor. Plus in typical Apple fashion it will break within 6 months.

    • Battery life is 10 hours, and you can put on an anti-glare screen.
      And as far as everything Apple breaking in six months you are high or stupid.

  2. I’m guessing Ikan reads this blog. It’s my feeling that if they were first to market with a robust wifi connectable device that gave ALL camera users (with a standard hdmi or other cable out) a little gizmo that sent a s

  3. gah. as I was saying.. little gizmo that sent a signal down the USB/iPhone wire to the iPad, they would be rock stars round the world. Hm. Happy thought. Yes. And the wifi would be viewable on any iPhone (see GoodReader app for their wifi ideas) … idunno just riffin’ here. Free thoughts.. unlike the first commenter whose thoughts come at great cost to the reader.

  4. Very interesting concept. You’re certainly spot on for why it wouldn’t work as your ONLY field monitor, but I think it could DEFINITELY have a use as one of your monitors on set. If someone could think up a wifi video tap, this could be a great director’s tool. Certainly not your only monitor, but definitely one you could keep on you as you wander about the set. Cost is a big factor, but what if you already own one? After all, it does a lot of other stuff, right?

    I love these kinds of creative applications. Here are a few ideas I pondered after the device’s announcement:

    http://www.candlerblog.com/2010/01/31/ipad-for-filmmakers-hopefully/

    This is a new one, and I bet in due time you’ll be seeing iPads on set with streaming video…maybe.

  5. Hi Carlos – found your blog through a link today on the 2pop enewsletter.
    I don’t see that the iPad would be any less durable than a regular flat screen monitor – maybe more so, since it’s built specifically to be handled and touched. Either way, I imagine that if you could get a video signal to it, it would work in a pinch, much like using a teleprompter app on the iPhone – not ideal, but better than nothing.
    I don’t know what Mike has been doing with HIS Apple products, but I’ve never had one break down, period, let alone within the first 6 months.
    I seem to be missing the point of the Pricing argument. If anything, that’s an argument FOR the iPad – they can offer a quality screen cheaper because they aren’t making the money off the hardware.
    As far as the features, I imagine some of those could be simulated through an app, but I’m no technician.
    The glossy screen might be a problem, but since it’s made to display video I have to think that unless you’re in the bright sun without a sunshade, you’d be all right.
    Battery life – Apple promises 10 hours, but even if it’s half that – how often are you in the field with no power and the monitor on for five hours straight?
    Overall, the iPad seems like a decent device. I imagine it won’t be long before we start seeing apps and devices made specifically to use the iPad for this purpose.

  6. A corollary- iPad as a teleprompter…. saw that there’s an app for the iPhone for this, so why not use the iPad’s large-enough screen to scroll text?

  7. Yes, yes, yes!

    Interaction is ALWAYS a cool thing. Glad you guys all stopped by to share your thoughts.

    After continuing to look into it and talk to some guys from our software department in-house, we’ve continued brain-storming about new uses for the product.

    Jonathan; definitely a good point about using as a director’s monitor. How about this one? An application that’s all in one… storyboarding, pdf reader (for call sheets, script pages, etc) and then a director’s monitor? One beefy app that can be an on-set management tool. Hmmm… ;-)

    Crowdson; I like your thinking! Trust me, if there’s a way to integrate the new hardware, it will get discovered quickly and don’t think that the gears in our heads haven’t been turning on the conundrum. ;-)

    Jeff C; excellent point. the iphone teleprompter app’s certainly prove a point for a usable, quickie teleprompter. Maybe there’s room for an iPad app that will perform all the same functions and more… ;-)

  8. How would you adjust color to bars? What about false color? We have one at the office, and I think it’s awkward to hold for very long. It’s not HD, though it does have a nice picture. I think it is what it is, and what it is not is a field monitor. Seems more logical to me to simply buy a field monitor if you need one, rather than trying to rig something like the iPad to do something it’s not designed to do.

  9. Hello all…

    Ever since I saw the demo for the i pad last year I had it in mind for a Director’s/client monitor. I am often seeing all kinds of pseudo matching monitors being used on sets these days. I am a television DP/steadicam op and I own several different monitors that all suit different needs, and I tend to spend big bucks for the ones I use for focus/color/framing etc, however, I am always looking for fancy nice looking (and not that important to be completely accurate) monitors for the directors/producers/clients to have…it keeps them involved and feeling cool!!!! Hope we all know how important that is…also, when they have their own monitor it keeps them away from over my shoulder…

    Anyway, I thought the i pad would be a perfect fit for this…they’re cheap, the director could take notes, and maybe do shot to storyboard comparisons…my focus puller could keep logs…and I could even use a sun path chart or calculate my hyper-focal distance quickly between shots… I think the options are endless. It would be nice to be able to attache a battery…and I have already made designs for rigging and stand mounting using Berkey System parts. Yeah and you’d need a shade in sunlight…but that’s most monitors under $4,000 USD.

    Bring on the experimentation

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