Recent generations of iPhone – mainly the 6S, 7, and 7 Plus models – have been praised for the sheer quality of video. Filmmakers everywhere prefer to use a DSLR, as it will shoot better video overall. DSLRs have more features and all around better optics, but there are great apps to make your iPhone shoot really close to DSLR quality. Even for seasoned filmmakers, these apps will help you get those shots when using your main camera isn’t applicable.
The Default Camera App
The best way to make your video look better is simply to turn on “AF Lock.” When shooting with a DSLR, manual focus is usually in play, as you don’t want the camera constantly trying to refocus on a subject. We can imitate this with the default camera app on iPhone by first tapping the subject and then pressing and holding the display to activate AF Lock.
Also, make sure your iPhone is recording at the greatest quality possible. In my experience, 4k scaled down to 1080p in post production looks better than shooting in 1080p to begin with.
Work with filters as well if you’re looking to achieve a cinematic look. It may be best to avoid recording with filters and add them later, just in case they don’t look as good as you were hoping the first time around.
And that’s just about where DSLR-like settings end in the default app. You’ll need to open up your wallet just a little bit for more features.
ProCam 4 – Manual Camera + Raw
It costs just $4.99, which is worth it compared to being somewhere in the ballpark of $700 for a decent DSLR.
With it we can start by adjusting the aperture to let more light in and drop the ISO down to reduce noise. It’ll look better already. Use white balance for more vibrant, true-to-life whites. Also, take advantage of manual focus as we did through the default app. All of these features are applied with a use of a slider, and you can see your changes taking place in real time.
Tinker around with it a bit. It’s jam-packed with features, and you never know what you may need to use for each individual project. It also has a nice companion app for your Apple Watch.
Another great option is FiLMic Pro. For $9.99 it will be a little more hefty-priced than some other options. It puts the microphone monitor front and center and works in conjunction with DJI’s Osmo stabilizer. In iPhone 7 Plus you’ll have the added ability to change the lens type for a different look.
As with ProCam 4, control over ISO, aperture, white balance, and more settings are all easily accessed. Overall, it has a much simpler user interface in my opinion than some other options. That alone puts it at the top of the list for me.
If you like making short films, a couple of features worth being except about are the quick access to aspect ratios, such as a more cinematic 17:9, and the ability to control frame rate, like 15fps instead of the most commonly used 30fps.
Again, this app features an Apple Watch counterpart, but unlike the others, this one includes a viewfinder so that you can see what you’re shooting.
Adobe Premiere Clip
You’ll have to shoot your video with other means, but Adobe Premiere Clip lets you darken darks and whiten whites as well as add hues and tints for more of a cinematic flare. It works seamlessly with your other Adobe apps on Creative Cloud such as Premiere Pro CC. It’s easy to use and will allow for export in top notch quality at no additional cost. Best of all, it’s free for iOS.
With the popularity of DJI’s line of drones and the OSMO for iPhone, there is no shortage of innovation from the company. DJI Go is hands down the best app out there for mobile creators. Get a birds eye view with the Phantom series or get super-stabilized footage with your OSMO; DJI Go will keep professional, DSLR-level settings at your fingertips. Overlay a grid on the display to take advantage of the rule of thirds, change white balance as applicable, control hues, and more. The app is free in the App Store but will require a DJI device for use.
Remember, apps alone won’t make you a pro. Time, dedication, and story are what makes it, but a good foundation is a great place to start. In post production work with letter-boxing, stabilization, RGB curves, and the like to further your advancement in iPhone filmmaking.