Movie Pro and Filmic Pro are two great iOS apps to use when recording video. They are both a step up from the standard camera app, allowing much more manual control. Of course, more control means more complexity, so if you are just starting, it’s better to use the built in camera app. But once you are ready for some additional features, both apps are great. And they have similar features – so I’m going to cover the MoviePro features and you can apply the concepts to Filmic Pro if you wish.

Short version: Set your volume input to show green bars half way up the screen. Set your Frame Rate to 30FPS. Set your Shutter Speed to 1/30th. Set your ISO to make the scene look properly exposed.

Sound input volume and monitoring

This feature is one of my favorites. With the built in app, if your recording is too quiet or too loud, you don’t know that until you play back your video – and the only way to change the input volume is to move the microphone closer to or further from the sound source. But with these apps, you can test your microphone and adjust the input volume accordingly – before you start recording. These apps also display which microphone is in use – internal, headset or Bluetooth (available only in MoviePro.

To adjust the input volume, speak in your normal voice and watch the audio meter (can be turned on and off in settings.) You want the green bars to light up and be touching the orange – but not the red. It’s hard to see the colors, so you can shoot for getting the bars half way up the meter at the loudest point. Change the input volume while you talk to get the ideal number of bars. Some microphones will need to be turned all the way up, others near the bottom and others in between. I’ve found that my AT3500is needs to be turned all the way up.

Exposure Explained

Setting manual exposure on your iphone consists of two settings: ISO and Shutter Speed. On DSLRs, the Aperture is also adjustable, but it’s fixed on an iPhone – so you only have two settings to change.

ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor. Higher numbers mean more sensitive. This is just like the old 35mm film canisters from before digital cameras took over. 100 was “great for sunny days.” 400 was for cloudy. 1000 was for indoor shoots. The drawback was that 1000 film was more grainy than 100, and the same is true today, although it’s less noticeable than with film. But note that if you push your ISO up to 6400, you’re going to have a grainy image, no matter how expensive your camera. This is the best option available on an iPhone for controlling the brightness of the image.

To recap: ISO 100 requires more a brighter scene than ISO 1000.

Shutter Speed is the amount of time the sensor is turned on. This is measuring in fractions of a second. The longer the sensor is on, the more light will hit the sensor. The reason it’s called shutter speed is going back to the old film camera days. The shutter would open and close (either fast or slow) exposing the film. The drawback to shutter speed is that it changes how moving images look when played back. Faster shutter speeds result in choppy video images.

To recap: 1/120 requires a brighter scene than 1/30.

Aperture is the size of the opening the light moves through. I mentioned that this is not adjustable, but it’s the 3rd part of exposure, and I didn’t want to skip it. This of aperture being like the size of a window. A large aperture lets in a lot of light, a small aperture lets in a little light. Aperture is measured in F-stops, with small numbers (F1.2-4.5) being wide open, and large numbers (F16-22) being small openings. Changing the aperture is probably the most effective way to change the image quality of a video because it controls how much of the image is in focus. People tend to like images where only the subject is in focus better than images where the entire scene is in focus. Unfortunately, this isn’t adjustable on the iPhone.

To recap: F22 requires a brighter scene than F2.

Setting Manual Exposure in MoviePro

When setting these properties on MoviePro, you’ll click on the icon at the bottom of the screen. You can set them to automatic, locked on a particular location or set the ISO and shutter manually. You can start by trying automatic, and if it looks good, then use automatic. But if the scene is changing (you’re moving from a bright background to a dark background or the sun is being intermittently blocked by clouds,) or the scene is atypical (there’s a really bright or dark background.) You’ll need to use manual.

I recommend setting the shutter speed to 1/30th or 1/60th*, then adjusting the ISO until the subject is properly exposed. These apps don’t have graphs to help determine what “proper” is, so you’ll need to look at the screen and make it look good to your eye. You are looking to make your subject look properly exposed, not the entire scene. If the background is too bright or too dark, that’s OK. In my opinion, that’s even better because it helps the viewer focus on the subject.

* Complicating things with the Frame Rate

Frame Rate does not have anything to do with exposure, but it’s measured just like shutter speed in fractions of a second or frames per second (FPS) (1/30th or 30FPS, 1/60th or 60FPS, etc.) And it’s related to shutter speed. Frame Rate is the number of times per second that an image is captured and displayed in your finished video. Our eyes collect about 30 images per second, and TV (in the US) is broadcast at 30FPS. So TV looks like natural motion to us. Movies are typically 24FPS. So these look slightly different. 24FPS is also the speed of TV in many other countries.

Unless you plan to broadcast your video on a foreign TV station, I suggest setting your frame rate to 30FPS.

Your shutter speed should be proportional to your frame rate. So if your FPS is 30, then your Shutter Speed should be 1/30 or 1/60 or 1/120. If your FPS is 24, then your Shutter should be 1/25, 1/50, etc (yes, it’s not exact, but it’s close.) Your shutter speed should be equal or faster than your frame rate (so don’t set your Shutter Speed at 1/15 and your FPS at 30.)

Frame Rate is set in the settings menu.

White Balance

White balance sets the color you will capture. White light is actually a range from cold white to warm white. Your camera needs to know which white is appropriate. Usually it will set this automatically and do a good job. But these apps allow you to adjust the white.

One way to adjust is to hold up a white card and tell the app that color is white. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a great experience with this in MoviePro. I also haven’t had a great experience with the automatic setting. And I’ve found that the manual temperature setting isn’t accurate either. However, using this manual setting, I can get a color that is pleasing to my eye.

White light ranges from about 3200 (warm/yellow light) to 6500 (cold/blue/daylight.) If you are outside on a sunny day, you can set the temperature to around 5500 and the image should look correct. Inside with warm lightbulbs, you should set the temperature to 3200 for the image to look correct. And you can adjust until it looks right to your eye. Essentially, by turning the camera towards 3200, you are removing yellow and turning the camera towards 6500 you are adding yellow.

The Settings Menu

A number of other settings are accessed by clicking the cog.

Frame Size

The frame size is how large of an image your iPhone captures. Commonly this is 1080p (1920×1080) or 720p (1280×720.) The larger the image you capture, the more you can zoom in when editing. But this also impacts the file size – larger images will fill up your phones memory faster. I recommend 1080p

Video Stabilization

If you are hand holding you phone, then video stabilization will remove some of the shake. I recommend “auto.”

Video Quality

MoviePro allows you to capture a higher quality – less compressed – image. But higher quality will result in larger file sizes. I recommend staying at 100%