by Richard Lackey | 7th December 2016
This comprehensive Filmic Pro tutorial will guide you through getting the best results possible with the Filmic Pro camera app. I hope it helps put you on the right track to creating great-looking content with your phone. In a previous article – 10 Tips To Shoot Cinematic Smartphone Video – I went into detail describing the most important aspects to achieving the best video possible from your smartphone. In the following video tutorial, I take you through the actual Filmic Pro app and explain the best settings to use step by step. I’ve been shooting with my iPhone SE since July and believe I’ve figured out how to get the best out of it. The whole thing started out of curiosity more than anything else, but it got more serious when I discovered what is actually possible from a phone under the right conditions. Of course, capturing video is only the beginning – dealing with it properly in post, and in color correction and grading specifically, is what can give it that real big-camera impact. Color correction and grading tips specifically for smartphone-originated video will be next, so stay tuned for more!Read more
by Richard Lackey | 31st October 2016
Achieving cinematic smartphone video results is not just a matter of taking it out of your pocket, point and shoot. Use these 10 tips to extract the best from your phone camera. Here’s a short video I shot recently at Dubai Creek. It was edited and color graded in DaVinci Resolve, and shows what is possible with a professional grade in post if you have well shot footage to begin with. Tutorials will be coming up soon on my YouTube channel. Everything I’m about to say comes down to one principle when dealing with any camera with limited hardware that doesn’t allow you room for error: When it comes to shooting cinematic smartphone video, make sure you record the absolute best image you can in camera, because you can’t really fix it in post. Now, having established that, let’s get down to it: 1. Pro video camera app If you want to shoot cinematic smartphone video, the first thing to do is buy a video camera app that gives you manual control over your camera and allows recording at maximum bit rate. In addition, the camera has a fixed aperture lens so there’s no iris control, which means your exposure will be the result of just your ISO setting and shutter speed. This is important to understand. Personally, I use Filmic Pro. I like it, but it isn’t the only one out there. Mavis is very good also, and gives you a histogram which is very useful for judging your exposure. Shoot at UHD 4K and at maximum bitrate, which is around 100 – 105Mbps. Save the 1080p high frame rate setting for specific special shots. It’s much more important to have the maximum bitrate and maximum resolution for post. I choose to shoot at 24fps for most shots. These are the most important things you want to learn to use manually. ISO Shutter Speed Focus 2. Shoot within the limits of your phone’s camera It is important to be aware of the limitations of your phone’s camera. The main one, and one that will affect how you will shoot, is dynamic range. Every camera sensor and camera system as a whole has a limited range of overall scene luminance (brightness) it can handle while still recording useful image data. This range is pegged at the maximum luminance level, beyond which the camera just records pure white. From there, we count down to the lowest useful luminance limit, below which there is too much noise for the image to be of any use. This range is measured in stops, and every halving, or doubling of light counting as a stop. The dynamic range limit is mostly determined by how well the sensor performs in low light, and how well it can reduce noise in the shadows. To recap: Your useful maximum luminance level is determined by the point at which the sensor’s photosites are saturated. In other words, the point where the sensor is physically unable to respond to further increases in light above that point, rendering these pixels are pure white. The useful minimum luminance level is determined by the lowest (darkest) point at which there is an acceptable (low) amount of noise in the image. The range in between these extremes is the dynamic range. As far as i have been able to establish, the iPhone sensor gives you 7-8 stops of dynamic range, or contrast ratio. For the best results, you need to make sure the maximum contrast in your scene falls within this limit. 3. Lighting and time of day Choose your timings when shooting outdoors carefully to get the best looking image possible from your camera. Also make sure you have enough light when shooting interiors, especially at night. This ensures you have the best options open to you later in post production to enhance the image. As with any 8-bit 4:2:0 video, you can color grade it if you’ve recorded a great image to begin with, but fixing exposure problems in post can be impossible. Over exposed (blown out) areas in your image are also impossible to correct, so it’s best to avoid over-exposing altogether. Again, it comes down to making sure you record the absolute best image you can in the first place. Keeping in mind a maximum contrast ratio (dynamic range) of 7-8 stops, you’ll want to always shoot any exterior shots in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening depending on the time of year and your daylight hours. If the weather is overcast, you can likely shoot outside any time of the day. But if there is sunshine and blue sky, you’ll definitely run into problems if you try to shoot under high sun. 4. Exposure Choosing your exposure with a phone camera is often a trade off. In some cases you can capture all the light and contrast in your scene, but sometimes you have to choose between retaining detail in the highlights or in the shadows, or find some middle ground and compromise. When you choose to compromise, make sure you are aware of what detail you are going to lose, and know how it may affect you further down the line. Exposure on a phone camera with a fixed aperture is going to be controlled by setting your ISO, and your shutter speed. ISO I rate the iPhone for example at about 50 ISO native, and using Filmic Pro I can fix the ISO to 50 (or 51 in this case), which will give me the cleanest image. I don’t bother shooting with the phone at all in low light situations anymore, as that would necessitate rating it very high. For me, the compromises in image quality are not acceptable, so I don’t do it. 5. Shutter Speed This leaves us with only shutter speed, and the compromise here is that often there is too much light for a slow cinematic shutter speed. Ideally you want to mimic a 180 degree shutter angle. When shooting at 24fps, this will be 1/48th sec, 1/50th sec at 25fps, or 1/60th sec at 30fps. The best solution is to use an ND filter in front of the camera lens. This is easiest if using an external lens system which allows threaded filters. Alternatively, you can literally just shoot through a 4×4 size IRND filter by holding it against the back of the phone, as I did. I had the cleanest results when using an IRND rather than a straight ND, at least with the iPhone SE. I did experience infrared pollution with a straight ND, but didn’t investigate it further. However, the results of an IRND were perfect with very little color shift. If controlling light with an ND is not possible for you, you’ve got no choice but to allow a high enough shutter speed to achieve a correct exposure, and this will reduce the desirable motion blur of moving objects. Once you’re happy with these settings, lock them so they don’t change during your shot. 6. Keep it steady This has nothing to do with the camera itself or specific settings, and everything to do with how your audience will perceive your shots. It will drastically improve your results if you make sure you’re capturing smooth, steady shots that are perfectly stable when they should be fixed, and in smooth motion when there should be camera movement. Some stabilization can be achieved in post, but a stabilizer for your phone – such as the DJI Osmo Mobile – is a tool that can have a huge impact on your work. It’s a highly recommended tool to step up your mobile filmmaking game. 7. Framing and composition Keep in mind all the same rules of framing and composition that you would shooting with any other more conventional camera. A phone is compact and lightweight and gives you a lot of flexibility, but a good shot is still a good shot. Choose interesting angles, look for symmetry and reflections. If the shot allows, you can even add a simulated shallow depth of field to your cinematic smartphone video by framing foreground objects close to the lens so the background is thrown out of focus. 8. Focus Perfect, pin sharp focus is critical. If I feel a shot is even slightly soft I won’t use it. Watch out for autofocus in low light: around sunset and dusk which is the lowest light levels I’ll bother with, auto focus becomes pretty useless. Rather, switch to manual focus, which a pro-video app will give you. Filmic Pro, for example, allows manual focus control by means of a slider on screen. 9. Shoot 2160p, edit and finish at 1080p I highly recommend editing and finishing at 1080p with phone originated 2160p media. You don’t have to, but I find the downsampled 1080p from a 2160p source gives a superior end result. This also gives you the opportunity to stabilize and crop into shots when needed for either technical or creative reasons. In my experience, you can easily crop in 150% to 2160p source material in a 1080p timeline. As long as the shot is in focus, it’ll look great. At times, I’ve even punched in 200% and in the end you can’t really tell. 10. Color correction If the shots in your cinematic smartphone video are well exposed, creative and interesting there is no reason you can’t approach color in post the same way you would with any other more capable video camera or proper cinema camera. As long as you don’t push the codec too far, you can successfully color correct, shot match and bring a stylized look to your phone camera shots. The key is making sure the image is exactly where it needs to be in-camera first, which allows you to enhance what you’ve shot correctly, not trying to pull back non-existent highlights or save terribly noisy images. That exposure has to be dead on in-camera when you decide how to expose it, knowing the consequences of your decisions in post. If you remember and practise these 10 tips, you can create video content that most people won’t believe came from a phone camera.Read more
by Richard Lackey | 25th July 2016
A couple weeks ago, I was out with my iPhone SE and a little camera app called Filmic Pro. Once graded in Resolve, the results blew me away. Actually, two things really impressed me. Firstly, the amount of control the Filmic Pro app gave me. And secondly, how far I was able to take it in the grade. I posted a quick write-up on my blog last week, but I’m going to get into more detail here. If you haven’t heard of Filmic Pro yet, you’re about to be introduced to your phone’s best friend. Please do yourself a favor and quit wasting your time with PokemonGO. Remember: you are literally dying, every second of every minute, of every hour… I’m going to show you a far better reason to spend your limited time on this earth wandering the streets pointing your phone at things. Filmic Pro is not the only pro camera app worth mentioning, though. I plan to get into another fantastic app called Mavis in another article. But for now, it’s FilmicPro’s turn. Before you ask, yes, Filmic Pro is available on Android, but I’ve only used it on iOS so my experiences relate to shooting with an iPhone. What is Filmic Pro? Filmic Pro is a video camera app aimed at pro mobile-video creators who want manual control over the camera, with the ability to finely control parameters, set up custom presets and – perhaps most importantly in my opinion – max out the video recording bitrate. “FiLMiC Pro is the 2x Video Camera App of the Year that beat the $5000 Sony FS100 and tied the $13,000 Canon C300 in blind audience testing at the Zacuto: Revenge of the Great Camera Shoot Out.” That’s a serious claim. I am sure, however, that you’ve heard of the film “Tangerine” which was a hit at Sundance, and subsequently picked up by Magnolia Pictures for theatrical release. Tangerine made news headlines because it was shot with Filmic Pro on the iPhone 5s with some additional accessories, which we’ll touch on later. A few other accolades and achievements: Featured in Apple’s “Your Verse” and “iPad Filmmaker’s” and WWDC 2015 Keynote videos Shot Bentley Motors “Intelligent Details” video campaigns (behind the scenes video here) Best App Ever finalist – Tap! Magazine Gizmodo Essential App 5 Stars, Editors Review, cnet.com App of the Week: Time.com/Techland Editors Choice – Wired, Film Riot, Macworld Bentley Motors: Intelligent Details (iPhone 6 + Moondog Labs Anamorphic Adaptor) How does Filmic Pro work? For the princely sum of a mere $9.99 you can buy the only video camera app you’ll ever need for your phone. All it takes is a simple iTunes app store purchase, download, install, and you’re ready to shoot. Easier and quicker than any pro camera firmware update will ever be. Filmic Pro gives you manual, granular control over all the functions necessary to shoot professional grade video with your phone. Functionality depends on the device, but if you’re on the latest generation Apple iPhone’s you’ve got everything that the hardware offers you. Here’s the highlights (Filmic Pro 5 for iOS): Fully optimized for iOS9 New, blazing fast code base in Apple’s Swift 2 Sync Audio Frame Rate Presets for 24,25, 30, 48, 50 and 60fps High Speed Frame Rates from 60 to 240 fps (depending on iPhone model) Resolution: 4K (UHD), 3K, 2K (on the newest iPhones) 1080, 720 HD and 540 SD 4K (UHD) resolution 8-bit 4:2:0 H.264 Quicktime recording at up to 100Mbps Various Aspect Ratios at all resolutions and including Cinemascope (2.59:1) Super 35 (2.35:1) Letterbox (2.20:1) Super 16 (1.66:1) 17:9 Digital Cinema Initiative Full Granular Manual Controls for Temperature Tint ISO Shutter Speed Exposure Bias Focus Variable Speed Focus Pulls Variable Speed Targeted Zoom New and Improved User Interface Fully customizable Slow and Fast Motion FX 17:9 Digital Cinema Aspect Ratios Improved Core Audio Support for External Audio Input Devices New Peak Limiter and Voice Processing Audio Filters Uncompressed or Compressed audio (AIFF, Linear PCM or AAC) Audio metering Audio Gain Control Headphone monitoring Stereo recording support Support for 3rd Party 35mm adapters Support for the Moondog Labs Anamorphic Adapter (2.40:1) Important Considerations There are a few important things to keep in mind when shooting video with the iPhone. Exposure & Shutter Speed The iPhone (and all phone cameras as far as I know) have a fixed aperture lens. In the case of the iPhone 6s, 6s plus and SE, it is fixed at f/2.2, which means the primary control over exposure is shutter speed, and the ISO setting. The iPhone sensor base sensitivity seems to be its lowest limit, at ISO 25, which would make sense considering the pixel pitch. I’m not sure if this is the case, but under midday sunlight for instance, the required shutter speed to maintain correct exposure at ISO 25 is at least 1/2000th sec at the fixed aperture of f/2.2. This is fine for still photos, but it’s the equivalent of a 4.32 deg shutter angle at 24fps for motion. Assuming a normal shutter angle of 180 deg at 24fps, the shutter speed you want to achieve a cinematic feel to motion in the frame is 1/48th sec. To achieve this under strong direct sunlight will require a 6 stop reduction in light hitting the sensor, which is an ND 1.8. I have yet to test the iPhone with a strong ND, but I did try it through a ND 0.8 (almost 3 stops) and had terrible color shift and IR pollution. I have yet to test it with an IR cut filter. Scene Contrast (Lighting) Ratio I haven’t tested the iPhone’s dynamic range properly but it feels to me that the limit is somewhere between 7-8 stops. You can light for this in a controlled situation with no problem, and the magical golden hour in the early morning or late afternoon light should prove no problem for the iPhone either, but midday sun is going to produce very bad clipped highlights or turn shaded areas into silhouettes no matter what you do. You can see from the frame grab above that highlights were clipped, and there was nothing to recover in the grade either. This was under harsh direct midday sun, in the summer, in Dubai… so pretty extreme contrast, but still it shows the limitations of the iPhone’s dynamic range. Low Light I did shoot after sunset, but none of the shots were really usable. As you would expect of a sensor with a low base ISO, it’s going to have very limited low light performance. I would say this is certainly true of the iPhone. Accessories So far, I haven’t used any special accessories, cases or lenses with my iPhone SE. There are a number of good options for this from various manufacturers, but the two to catch my eye are: Moodog Labs Anamorphic Adaptor – This is the lens that gave Tangerine its signature widescreen look. This is a clip-on anamorphic (1.33x) lens which costs $175. ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss – A set of three Zeiss comprised of a wide-angle, a telephoto and a macro. Currently, only the wide-angle is available. Post Production and Color Perhaps the most surprising part of this whole experiment for me was getting the footage into DaVinci Resolve. My expectations were understandably low, as I’ve worked with 8-bit 4:2:0 H.264 before and I’ve experienced how quickly it falls apart. However, I was able to balance the image from the iPhone very nicely and then take it to quite an extreme stylised look without noticeable banding or noticable compression artifacts. First of all, I will say I would never work in a UHD timeline nor expect an UHD deliverable from the iPhone. I was more interested in seeing how Resolve would perform a high quality scale down to 1080p, and how much better, or cleaner the resulting 1080p image might be. As it turns out, the 4K UHD media wasn’t nearly as limited as I thought it would be. In fact, the 4K UHD image was so sharp and clean at 100Mbps that I managed to crop (zoom) in up to 200% on some shots on my 1080p timeline and I doubt anyone would be able to tell. I’ve got some frame grabs up in the article on my site which show the image crop of 4K UHD source media at 150% and 200% on a 1080p timeline. The Future of Mobile Cinematography Filmic Pro has turned my skepticism into a solid belief in the whole mobile videography movement. In the words of Chase Jarvis “The best camera is the one that’s with you”, and as our phone cameras improve technically, this is an exciting field which is only going to get better.Read more
We only send updates about our most relevant articles. No spam, guaranteed! And if you don't like our newsletter, you can unsubscribe with a single click. Read our full opt-out policy here.