SHOOTING WITH FILMIC PRO
With one shooting day left, ‘What About Molly?’ is coming to an end. As with the end of any experience it comes smiles, hugs, tears, good memories and of course reflection. Starting my reflection early, I sat down this week thinking about the film and specifically the images captured. Some shots we knocked out of the park and others we struck out. The question is why? What was different? What were the lessons learned?
At the beginning of the project, the decision was made to shoot on the iPhone. After some research, I purchased an anamorphic lens from Moment as well as an ND filter for shooting in full sun, more on these items later. With my camera and lens selected, I needed a platform for shooting and that’s when Filmic Pro came into the picture.
Filmic Pro is an app you can purchase and download on your phone. I think I paid $15 and I have to say it was money well spent. The app comes with a lot of functionality allowing you to shoot like a pro, but it did come with a bit of a learning curve. Continue on as I break down the good, the bad and the ugly of Filmic Pro.
Starting off, this app is a simple platform and couldn’t be easier to use, if you know what the hell you’re doing. If you’re like me and new to all things Filmic, you’re in luck as there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to help get by.
The first of many benefits is that Filmic Pro allows you to shoot 4k in 24fps. The native iPhone shoots at a higher rate than 24 frames. This alone sets us up for a more cinematic experience. Aside from shooting 24fps, the app also has an option to desqueeze your footage. When shooting with an anamorphic lens, the image gets squeezed and looks distorted. Directly in the app, you can set it up to desqueeze your image automatically so the picture looks great.
The next item on my list is the control. You have full manual control over ISO, shutter speed, focus and white balance. It’s everything you could want as a filmmaker and if you have no idea what those items are, worry not, you can set them all to auto and continue on with your film (except for white balance, more on that later).
Being able to have full control over the image gets you that much closer to the professional film look you're after. Not only do you have full control, it’s on a device so small that you can capture shots you might not be able to get with a large film rig like an Arri or Red camera setup. Hell, we can even add a DSLR and mirrorless to that list as well.
If you’re going to shoot on an iPhone, Filmic Pro is certainly the way to go. However, there are a few things to look out for.
Don’t forget about that white balance. Early on in shooting, I forgot to lock my white balance. As you shoot, people move and so does the camera. When this happens, in the middle of a shot, your white balance will automatically adjust causing weird coloration in your image. One moment it will be more blue and the next, more red.
This isn’t an issue so much with the app as it is user error. The feature is a bit hidden so make sure you find it, learn how to lock your white balance and do it before shooting. Perhaps Filmic can make it a little more obvious in the future, but who knows. Lesson learned.
Next is the focus. Okay, I'll admit, I still don’t have this figured out all the way. On the Filmic app, the monitor comes with two selection tools. One is a circle, where you can automatically set shutter speed, ISO and white balance. The other is a square that can be used to lock focus, or at least it's supposed to.
When shooting an over the shoulder shot, that's over one character's shoulder, on another character speaking, the focus lock works about 50% of the time. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have an on set monitor so looking at the iPhone screen, everything looks in focus. When I get the image on my editing machine, it’s VERY obvious the image is out of focus.
I place the square on the person talking and I lock it. That’s how it’s supposed to work. However, the person not talking is often the image in focus. I’ve tried to implement a technique where I have the actor closest to me move out of frame so I can lock focus on the actor in the distance. Still doesn’t really work.
My recommendation here is to get an on set monitor or avoid shots of this nature entirely. Obviously, not wanting to limit yourself, an on set monitor would probably be best. If you want to run and gun in the way that I do, just get your shots but always get a few extra for safety. Get those close ups as they will save your ass.
Remember that little circle I was talking about to set your shutter speed, ISO and white balance? Be careful with this little guy.
Placing the circle where I need it for the shot, making the image look amazing on my phone, I would lock it and shoot. This is my mistake for taking such an automatic approach to things. What looks great on my little screen doesn’t look great on my 4k editing monitor. Grain, fuzziness, out of focus, all issues I've battled.
When shooting 24fps, you want your shutter speed to be set to 1/48. This will give you that buttery film look you so desire. By using the auto lock, you allow the app to set this for you and it’s not always going to be 1/48. Again, what looks good on your phone doesn’t always look good on your editing machine.
The same is going to apply to the ISO. By using the auto, you run the risk of having a high ISO. This will cause the noise in your image. Again, if you want to run and gun in the way I have, use these auto features, lock them and shoot. Just make sure you get plenty of coverage to hopefully save your ass in the end.
With one day of shooting left, I’m going to take a more manual approach to my shutter speed and ISO selection. I’m going to lock my shutter at 1/48, shoot in a lower ISO and adjust my lighting as needed. This will hopefully ensure that I get the pristine image quality I’m looking for.
Again, this issue isn’t so much the app's fault as it is my own lack of knowledge. I have to say, I learned a LOT about cameras and settings through this entire journey. My growth alone was well worth the investment made.
In all honesty, Filmic Pro is an amazing tool that I highly recommend to anyone shooting on iPhone. Allowing full control over your image gives you a chance, at the very least, to compete with filmmakers creating with a more professional camera setup. Thank you Filmic Pro for making this possible for us all.
If you plan to shoot on your phone and use Filmic Pro, watch a few tutorials online, take my advice and play around a bit before you start filming. Get used to the features and quirks before heading into day one. If I had taken a moment to do the same, I might have saved some time and money....Reshoots are expensive.
If you have any questions, comments or other advice for fellow filmmakers, please leave them in the comments below! It would be great to build a list out for all filmmakers to reference.
Cheers and happy shooting!
- The Failed Filmmaker