If you want to have complete manual control over your iPhone's video camera, then you will want to download the FilmicPro app. I first came across the app when a friend told me about the FilmicPro short film competition. When I read the description in the App Store, I was blown away by one claim in particular: that it beat out some pretty high-end digital production cameras in a blind audience test during Zacuto's Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout (which you should take the time to watch, by the way).
I downloaded the app and started shooting some tests. My plan is to edit the footage, post it, and then give my overall impressions of the workflow and the quality of footage the app produces. For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the app's settings, features, and what it's like to shoot with it.
The first thing you notice when you first launch the app is that you have an entire set of manual controls, like you would on most any camera. You can set your white balance, ISO, frame rate (24fps-60fps in 1080p; up to 240fps in 720p), and audio levels. You can also adjust exposure and zoom controls.
Here are some of the features that really grabbed my attention when I first started shooting with the app:
- Variable frame rates - Now you can shoot from 24fps up to 60fps in 1080p and up to 120fps and 240fps in 720p.
- Variable bit rates - You can choose how your footage is encoded; whether at Apple's standard 24Mbps, 32Mbps, or up to 50Mbps.
- Image Stabilization - Hand shake is all but eliminated when using this app. I was able to shoot some wonderfully smooth hand held shots when the Image Stabilizer was turned on (It can be toggled off in the app's settings).
- Rack focus - To pull focus between two marks, first frame your shot, then manually dial in and lock the two focal points. Once those points are set, simply hit the Focus icon on the screen and the app will automatically toggle between the two focus marks.
- Zoom Rocker - The zoom controls are on the right hand side of the screen and I first thought that I would have to repeatedly tap the + or - buttons to zoom in or out. To my surprise, however, all you have to do is hold either button (just like a normal zoom rocker) and the camera zooms in and out smoothly.
- Custom Presets - Once you have dialed in the settings you want for the camera, simply save them as a Preset so you can call them back up later.
Some things to consider:
- Mirrored Image - As of this writing, there seems to be a bug that causes the image on your screen to be mirrored when you first launch the app. Everything is opposite of where it should be and your camera movements are backwards as well. This can be fixed by switching to the front facing camera and then back again.
- iTunes Ingest - Although you can email individual clips straight off of your phone, or upload clips directly to Vimeo, to ingest several clips at once for editing, you will need to go through iTunes. It would be nice to have the capability of dragging and dropping all files directly from the phone to a hard drive for ingesting and editing.
- Cropped Previews - When I pulled up my FilmicPro library to preview the clips I shot, a few were severely cropped and were not playing back at the full 1920x1080. I'm not sure if this is a bug in the preview window, or if the footage itself was actually cropped. I will have to ingest the footage to my computer to know for sure. However, I did contact FilmicPro support to make them aware of the problem. Hopefully the footage itself was not cropped, or this could cause big problems for shooters who want to use this app as a viable production solution.
I will definitely be putting this app through its paces over the next few days and posting my thoughts and impressions. I would love to shoot an entire short using only this app. In the meantime, if you are already using FilmicPro, please leave your tips in the Comments section below.