The new version of Filmic Pro is a big upgrade that adds features you’d normally expect to find in high-end video cameras. At the same time, they’ve made the interface cleaner and faster to use, removed a couple of annoying bugs, and improved focus speed and accuracy.
What’s special about Filmic Pro?
Compared with the standard Camera app, Filmic Pro gives you a lot more options for video format and quality, and better control over focus, exposure and white balance. It also integrates well with external hardware.
Key features in Version 6
- New, easy-to-use arc sliders for manual controls can be invoked by tapping a single button.
- Analytics overlays provide pro-level feedback on exposure and focus.
- Colour controls are much more sophisticated, with flat and log profiles available for iPhone 7/7 Plus.
- The interface is cleaner and simpler.
The Filmic Pro screen, with manual exposure and focus enabled. You use the arc sliders to adjust and program exposure, focus or zoom; the exposure slider switches between ISO and shutter speed.
From left at the bottom, the buttons open the imaging panel, invoke the manual arc sliders, and reveal analytics overlays.
Tap on the central panel to switch between basic and three-colour histogram, graph display, and audio levels plus time counter. (It also shows battery and memory usage.)
On the right at the bottom are settings, playback and the record button.
The standard Camera app can only record in a limited range of frame rates (multiples of the US 30fps standard), in 16:9 widescreen. Filmic Pro gives you a lot more choice. There are eight aspect ratios (screen shapes), from ultra-wide 2.76:1 to square. In addition to the US NTSC formats, frame rates include 24fps cinema standard plus 25 and 50fps European broadcast rates, and slower rates as low as 3fps (which can be useful in low light). Timelapse intervals range from 1 second to 1 minute (you can’t set the interval in the native Camera app). You can also choose higher bit rates than Apple’s for better video quality. And in the new version, all of these settings (and presets) can be selected from a single display panel.
All the main settings can now be accessed from this panel. Formats can be saved as presets.
The Resolution panel lets you set aspect ratio, resolution and video quality.
Focus and exposure
Filmic Pro uses separate ‘reticles’ to set exposure (circle) and focus (square).
The standard Camera app uses one box for both, and doesn’t give you direct control of ISO, shutter speed or focus distance.
Tap and hold on a reticle, or use the button next to the colour icon, to bring up easy-to-use ‘arc’ sliders for precise manual adjustments. You can set ISO (sensitivity), shutter speed, focus and zoom level: you can even pre-program automated focus pulls and zooms.
Colour adjustment is much more sophisticated in this version, with a Temperature panel giving precise control over colour temperature and tint as well as standard presets.
On the iPhone 7 series there’s an additional Tone subpanel where you can select natural, dynamic, flat and log profiles. The last two can retain more detail in highlights and shadows, giving more scope for image correction.
Another iPhone 7 feature, accessed in this Colour subpanel, is Temporal Noise Reduction.
Filmic Pro are hoping to bring these extra features to iPhone 6/6S models within the next few weeks.
Stabilisation and lens
The standard iPhone camera lens is equivalent to a 29mm wide angle when you’re shooting stills. But video is much narrower, because of digital image stabilisation. Filmic Pro allows you to turn off the stabilisation to get the full wide angle field of view.
On a twin-lens iPhone 7 Plus, Filmic Pro uses either the wide or telephoto lens in normal use. That gives you more control than the Camera app, which switches between them depending on the zoom level.
This update adds the kind of ‘analytics’ overlays you get with pro video cameras. Zebra stripes can show when your image is overexposed, and a clipping overlay warns when the highlights are burnt out. You can even use false colour, which shows overexposed areas in red, correctly exposed parts in green, and underexposure in blue. Focus peaking uses edge contrast to help you see which parts of the images are in focus.
Analytics works really well when you use it with the arc sliders: focus peaking appears as you adjust the focus, they’re replaced with zebra stripes when you change the exposure, and the overlays fade out when you finish making adjustments.
I’ve used it to get crane-type shots with my iPhone on a boom pole, monitored from an iPad Mini. It works with the new version of Filmic Pro, but its interface hasn’t yet been updated to match version 6.
Filmic Pro works well with other hardware: with my Osmo Mobile, I can use the buttons and joystick to adjust exposure and focus. It also lets you preview an unsqueezed image from the Moondog Labs anamorphic lens, and flip the inverted image from a 35mm adapter.
Filmic Pro is more complex than the native Camera app, though all its features are explained in tutorials on their website.
It’s heavier on battery and not as stable than the native app, though Version 6 seems much better than its predecessor. (I’ve had issues with video freezing when the phone is low on memory.)
Viewing and selecting clips within Filmic Pro is slower than in the Photos app, though there are some useful batch upload features. But you can save clips to the Camera Roll, organise them in Photos and edit them in iMovie.
One issue with the older version was slow and imprecise autofocus, but it’s much improved in the latest version.
I recommend Filmic Pro for anyone who’s serious about iPad or iPhone filmmaking, and is willing to take the time to learn it. It’s good value and gives you far more creative control than the standard Camera app.
*Version 6 is a free upgrade from older versions. I had an issue with it crashing on launch, but I solved this by doing a clean install (using iTunes to save the clips to my Mac, then deleting the app and downloading it again from the App Store).