Learn how to shoot professional cinematic iPhone video with your iPhone and my FiLMiC Pro Tutorial. Tips for exposure, color, and manual control.
FiLMiC Pro is the best video filming app for iPhone. It opens up a world of new possibilities, with dynamic, flat and log gamma encoding profiles and improved manual exposure and focus controls. If you’re new to the world of pro video, it can be a bit overwhelming. Hopefully this article can help.
While you can just jump in with FiLMiC Pro, it’s important to realise it’s not just another point and shoot camera app. FiLMiC Pro has been designed with the professional videographer in mind. It provides tools, and a level of manual control that is expected from professional video cameras, but may not be familiar if you’re just starting out.
FiLMiC Pro Tips
Here are a few useful concepts that are worth keeping in mind as you start learning how to use FiLMiC Pro. You may want to come back to this after watching the FiLMiC Pro Tutorial video.
Lock Down Your Exposure
Manual exposure is one of the most important concepts, and the best approach is to understand why. What do we have against auto exposure? Well, there are a few answers.
We don’t want the brightness (luminance) levels changing all over the place during a shot. It looks unnatural, and is one of the first dead-giveaways of amateur video. What we want is to set the exposure correctly for each shot, and have it stay constant while recording.
This also means we can color correct each shot easily afterwards, and match it with every other shot in the edit. It’s almost impossible to color correct a shot when the levels are changing dynamically.
While this article is primarily introducing the FiLMiC Pro app, and the reasons why taking full manual control of your camera is important for professional video, I will mention one thing regarding hardware. One of the first things you may want to consider when building your iPhone filmmaking kit is a set of ND filters.
ND filters give you even more control over exposure in bright light, but they also give you control over motion blur. How motion is rendered in video is a key difference between a jittery video look, and a smooth cinematic look.
For more about ND filters, you can read my article, Everything You Need To Know About ND Filters For iPhone Video.
White Balance (Color Temperature)
Color temperature is another basic concept that you need to know. I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea of different colors of white household light bulbs. You can often choose between buying a warm white or a cool white, and usually you will stick to one or the other. When the two are used together in the same room, the space doesn’t look or feel quite right. This is because these different light bulbs have different color temperatures.
Every “white” light source, from the sun to a household light bulb, emits light on a spectrum of color temperature. Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin. The higher the number, the bluer the white, and the lower the number the warmer, or more yellow the white light.
The color of white light is actually relative, it can change, and often changes dynamically without you even noticing. Your eyes will adjust and balance all of the other colors based on what your brain perceives as white. When the sun is out in a clear sky, white may have a color temperature of around 5500 degrees Kelvin. As soon as a cloud covers the sun, the color temperature of white can immediately change to 7000 Kelvin, which is much more blue in comparison.
Lock Your Color Temperature
A camera can automatically and dynamically adjust for changes in color temperature, just like you can set it to adjust exposure levels automatically. However, the same reasons for setting exposure manually also apply to color temperature. A shot which changes from warm to cool white light will affect all of the colors in the image. Even a very slight change can be noticeable and difficult to correct later when you are editing.
Color temperature should be set correctly, and then checked before each shot, and should be locked in the app, so it doesn’t change during each shot you record.
Control and Authorship
It’s all about control. A cinematographer or director of photography makes purposeful decisions about the image they are capturing. Exposure is one of the most critical and important decisions you can make. Often, the camera sensor limits the amount of information you can capture in very bright highlights, and in areas of dark shadow. This is the natural dynamic range of your scene, and the dynamic range of the camera sensor is far less. Especially with a phone camera, you can’t have both. So you have to decide what is more important, that’s part of your authorship of the image.
Own your image, it’s a result of your deliberate choices, and your choices will get better and more tuned the more you practise. It’s a learning process, making mistakes, analysing what to do next time, and constantly improving. You don’t leave that up to the camera.
A FiLMiC Pro Checklist
Keep this checklist in your mind and run through it before hitting the record button. If these settings don’t make sense yet, come back to this after watching the FiLMiC Pro tutorial video.
- Check basic settings such as resolution and frame rate, in case you’ve changed either setting previously.
- Set, and lock ISO (usually as low as possible)
- Check, set and lock shutter speed for a well balanced exposure (this is your primary exposure control on a phone)
- Set color temperature (the auto white balance on the iPhone is pretty good to set the correct value, but then lock it by touching the “AWB” so it turns red).
If you don’t familiarise yourself with some of these basic concepts first, you might find it difficult and frustrating to get the results you want.
FiLMiC Pro Tutorial
In this FiLMiC Pro tutorial I take you step by step through the most important tools and features of FiLMiC Pro v6. I want you to get the most out of your smartphone videos, whether you’re shooting short travel videos on vacation, short films, or even a feature film with your smartphone.
Here’s what I cover in this introductory tutorial.
- Main Menu & Setup
- Exposure & Focus Assist
- White Balance & Gamma
- Exposure & Focus Control
- Playback & Clip Menu
If you haven’t taken a look at my YouTube channel yet, I encourage you to take a look at the videos I’ve shot using FiLMiC Pro and to subscribe to my channel. There’s a lot more resources coming up.
For further reading, here’s a link to a FiLMiC Pro review I wrote in cinema5D – FiLMiC Pro Log Shooting on iPhone – Hands-On Review
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