App - Google Chrome Remote Desktop for iOS

Back in May 2014, I wrote a post about a couple of remote desktop apps that might come in handy. One of them was Chrome Remote Desktop from Google. It was only available for android at the time but was supposed to become available for iOS in October 2014. That didn't happen then but it is available now.

YES! You can now use your iPhone or iPad to control your OSX or Windows machines using Chrome Remote Desktop (FREE!).

Remote Desktop apps can come in handy if you need to be away from your laptop but still need to access it. For instance, you need to share some of the screen grabs you've taken to help with continuity. Maybe the person you need to share the images with is in a position where you don't want to take your laptop (up on some scaffolding).  You can use your iPhone or iPad with the remote desktop software to connect to your laptop, open the folder with the screen grabs and share the images. No need to disconnect any of your laptop cables. 

Another example would be for the times you're squished in some little corner and there is no room for you to comfortably use your laptop. As long as your laptop is getting a video feed from VTR (or DIT) and you have a good internet connection, you can work your laptop from your iPad.

There will still be some lag but it still may be an easier way to work. YMMV. Also, you may have to do more pinching and zooming to see the part of the screen you need (my eyes are old, so I need this :-))

Below are some pictures of my iPad Mini connected to and controlling my 2013 MBP and Windows 8.1 machines (only one at a time though). 

Rather than reinvent the wheel,  I'm providing a link that has a pretty good walk though on how to install Chrome Remote Desktop for iOS.

How To Set Up Chrome Remote Desktop For iOS

Give it a try and see if it works for you. It's free, so it can't hurt to try. 

App - Smart Tools v1.7 for Android 2.2+

A couple of months ago, I was working on a shoot that had some green screen elements. Since it was a small shoot and we didn't have a 2nd AC. There was a point where we were using a crane and I needed a tilt measurement. While the 1st AC was able to get all the other measurements, we weren't able to get the tilt because the powers that be were rushing to get the shot. 

I have had the Smart Tools app on my GS3 phone and Nexus 7 for some time. I pulled out the Nexus 7 and used the Protractor III (Camera - Plum Bob) applet (?) to get an approximate tilt. As I was lining the edge of my tablet with the bottom of the camera I noticed that I now had a little camera icon available to me. It had either always been there and I hadn't noticed it or I hadn't paid attention to an update. Anyway, I clicked on the camera icon and it saved the measurement as a picture, Hurray! I didn't have to remember it while I was rushing to get back to my laptop before the camera rolled so I could get my screen grabs.

I have tried to find a similar app with camera integration on iOS 7 but haven't had any luck yet. If you know of a similar or better app on iOS, please drop me a line at ScriptyTech@gmail.com

Smart Tools v1.7 

Yes, skeumorphism is still alive in this app.

The straight green line on the bottom image shows the bottom portion of the camera I used to align my Nexus 7 to.

Apps - Splashtop & Chrome Remote Desktop

I don't know about you but my laptop is seriously tethered to power and peripherals when I'm working. I also capture a lot of still images from my video feed... usually hundreds per day because I like to capture for every take (I only use selects from favorite takes in my notes). 

Occasionally, I need to share some of the screen captures for various reasons (talent continuity, eyeline comparisons, set continuity, etc.). It's kind of a hassle to ask people to step over to my laptop to show them an image capture. So, I'm starting to experiment more with apps for Android and iOS that will allow me to just walk over with one of my tablets or my smart phone to show my concerns.

The following apps do require a strong wifi connection to work. I will suggest a couple of non-wifi options at the end of this post.

Bonus: You can actually use these apps on your portable device to capture images while away from your laptop, which can came in handy.

Splashtop Remote Personal - Cross Platform

I've been using Splashtop in its various incarnations for a few years. It was originally released on webOS (I was a BIG Palm Pre and HP Touchpad fan). As far as I can tell, the app has now spread to every platform except Linux. 

Splashtop basically allows you to connect to your laptop and control it over wifi.  For Splashtop Personal, the laptop and portable device (a tablet or smart phone) have to be on the same wifi network. There is a paid subscription version for use when the laptop is on a different wifi network than your portable device. The laptop has to be running Splashtop's streaming software (free) and the portable device runs the Splashtop app.

After you connect your portable device to the laptop, use the portable device to open the folder with the image you need and walk over to the person you need to share it with. There will be lag, so if you want to swipe through several images, know reaction time will be slow.

Splashtop Personal 

Since the iPad Mini is more a 4:3 device (the Nexus 7 is closer to 16:9), there will be a black bar at the bottom of the screen if you choose to view using your laptop's native resolution. There are other options which work better for the iPad Mini screen but it will play havoc with your laptop screen (at least they do for me and it drives me crazy).

Here are the screen resolution choices for the iPad Mini

Chrome Remote Desktop - Android Devices only but coming to iOS later this year.

Chrome Remote Desktop works similar to Splashtop but it uses Google's Chrome browser as the server. This means it works with Windows and OSX computers but only Android devices can be used for access an control (a Chromebook would work as well). The Google Chrome Blog states that an iOS app will be released later this year.

One big difference between Splashtop and Chrome Remote Desktop (CRD) is that with CRD your laptop can use one wifi signal while your portable device can be on another (or a cell signal). It's free and does not incur additional charges as with Splashtop (though I feel Splashtop works a little better).

Android Police wrote a great article on how it works and doesn't work.

Here is how Chrome Desktop Remote looks running on my Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy S3.

Other options

For those times when you don't have access to a good wifi connection or you're having issues with the apps there are a couple of other options to try.

  • Use your phone or tablet to take a picture of your laptop screen with the images you need to share enlarged to full screen. It's easy and quick but you'll very likely have a lot of reflection issues (not necessarily a deal breaker)
  • I have also copied the whole folder of captured images to my tablet or phone. It takes a moment or two for the images to index but then I can quickly scroll through everything. The drawback is that the images take up a lot of space (not a problem on my Android phone since I have a large SD card installed). You also have to update the images frequently if you need to share them a lot. You can copy just select images as needed as well.

 

App - QTAKE Monitor for iOS 7+

I was lucky enough to learn about a "new to me" app this week that is really handy for Script Supervisors using iPads (Thank You Tom V.!) . It's called QTAKE Monitor by IN2CORE. 

Most HD VTR operators I work with use QTAKE. As of December 2013, there is an add on software module that will allow up to 16 iOS devices (iPads and iPhones running iOS 7 and higher), to tap into QTAKE so the devices can be used as monitors that can also capture still images! Yay! This is great for those who use iPads and have to sit with VTR to pull stills. It saves time an aggravation for all.

The one catch is that as crazy expensive as QTAKE is on it's own, the software module is another $3500 plus the cost of a wifi router. Hopefully, the costs can be included as part of the VTR rental package so that more VTR operators will invest in the module.

 

Blurb from the website (blurb says 8 devices, VTR says 16... I go with VTR):

FEATURES
•    Stream content of the QTAKE VIEWS to a maximum of 8 devices using QTAKE HD STREAM Module
•    Connect to one or two QTAKE HD Systems (tap and hold to select source)
•    Use the TALK button to communicate with the QTAKE HD operator
•    Monitor audio of the selected view (tap to select view)
•    Choose single or dual view mode (double tap to switch)
•    Save a screenshot to your camera roll with a two-finger tap
•   Display selected view on your Apple TV or enable full display mirroring using the MIRROR button (external display and AirPlay support)

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
QTAKE Monitor app is free to download from the App Store, but requires QTAKE HD STREAM Module.

 

Here is how the setup goes.

Step 1:     Sign into VTR's wifi

Step 2:    Open the QTAKE Monitor app.

Step 3:     Select the VTR stream source. VTR will then have to grant permission on his/her end (just takes a second).

You're in! If 2 cameras are rolling, you'll see them both. If only one camera is rolling, you'll see and image on "A" and no video detected on "B". 

In our case, we were only shooting with one camera but VTR was running a composite. "A" showed the blue screen image we shot earlier and "B" showed that image composited with the background plate we were shooting.

To go full screen on a single camera, use a one finger double tap on the camera of your choice. To quickly capture a still use a two finger single tap and the image will be saved to your camera roll. Of course, can still use the old home + power button for the same result (this is the only way to capture the two cameras on screen at once, the 2 finger single tap does not work in this case). 

Even though I use a laptop for all my monitor and capture needs, I can only see one camera at a time and have to use a switcher to change from one camera to the other. I can see using the QTAKE monitor app as a 2nd screen that allows me to see both cameras at once.

It is also great for the glam squad to be able to have their own monitors and directors can move around easily with iPad in hand.

The app is free, so check it out!

BTW, I know Teradek has a similar system. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but will make a point to do so. I will report that experience as well. :-)

My Rig - The Standing Versions

Sometimes I just get tired of sitting all day. My current sitting rig can "kind of" be turned into a standing rig (see my previous post on why I don't feel it's stable) but I opted to go with a separate rig.

After surfing around Amazon, I found a the Quik Lok LPH-003 Laptop Stand  with side table. I purchased one that was used but in "like new" condition for under $80.

This is the stand I use when I know I'm going to be on a stage for several days as it is a bit heavy (almost 14 pounds). It is very solid and very adjustable as far as table tilt and stand height. When I get tired of standing, I can easily lower it to a comfortable height for sitting.

When not on set, it is my everyday "standing desk" at home.

One evening while tweaking my sitting rig I realized that the laptop table I use would fit on the cheap tripod I already owned. Since I have extra laptop tables, I put together I lightweight tripod table rig that is great for travel (used this rig on a shoot in New York recently) and local location shoots.

I've added a Velcro strap (as a safety) to stabilized the table connection to the tripod and another strap to attach my laptop to the table. It works really well. The legs are adjustable (though not as much as the Quik Lok table) and can be lowered for a sitting position. I foresee using this on all future beach shoots.

Plenty of options for suspending items that I need close at hand.

Options are good to have. :-)