Saturday, February 9, 2013

Smartphone Filmmaking: An App Review

I previously wrote a post about using your iPhone to take decent photos. This post, I’m taking it a step further. Since I was short on cash, I’m using my iPhone to film a short film for the Mobile Film Scramble. I’m new to the whole iPhone filmmaking thing, but having such a portable camera that you carry around everywhere makes being a guerilla filmmaker even easier than ever. And I love being a guerilla! It’s an addictive adrenaline rush.

So, one setback to filming on your iPhone is the fact your iPhone reads exposure, white balance, and focus as the same thing. This leads to very average footage. To fix this, I downloaded an app called FiLMiC. There is a pro version and a classic version. The verdict?

The footage was surprising good! Here is an exterior shot, raw and dirty. There is some loss of quality due to upload.

And an interior shot:

Being able to set exposure and focus separately improves the video quality exponentially. Overall, I was happy with the results, even with my now ancient iPhone 3GS. Changing the frames-per-second is also a great feature, since it allows you to use Hollywood standard (that’s 24 FPS), Euro standard (25 FPS), and video standard (30 FPS). It’s hip these days to shoot digital video at 24 FPS, so if you are feeling like Scorsese, you are free to do so with this app.

You can also do some minor edits in this app, but I prefer to do most of my edits on a full size computer. Maybe in a few years my views will change, but right now, I am of Camp Towers of Processing Power. Still nice to do edits on the fly, though.

There are some problems with this app. First of all, even though the app allows you to have more control of the built-in camera, it still relies on automatic data entering your aperture. Many people like this. Control freaks like me who prefer complete manual control do not. But, you are using an iPhone, not a Canon 1D, so it’s a minor issue.

Personally, I don’t see too much variance with the white balance. Maybe this was fixed in FiLMiC Pro, but the classic version seems a little slow to read white balance. Also, the record button is slow to respond. It may be a programmed to record a few seconds after you stop recording. For me, this is a little annoying, considering your iPhone, iPad or iPod has finite storage space. This may lead to happy accidents for you, however.

Try it out! If you are like me, you might want to buy the classic version first, to see if you like it. The classic version is only $0.99 and will work on all iPhones. The pro version requires iOS 6 or higher.

Happy Filmmaking!

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