Filmmaking 101: Shooting In Low Light with Your iPhone and FiLMiC Pro

Image Credit – iDownloadBlog

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Although the CMOS camera sensor in your iPhone is barely the size of a fingernail, Apple has some secret sauce that helps it to capture great images, even in low light. But with a little help, you can make it downright cinematic. And as you can expect, it’s all in the settings of FiLMiC Pro.

We like to talk about FiLMiC Pro. A lot, it seems. But with it’s ability to give mobile filmmakers complete control of the iPhone’s camera, what’s not to like? And in Version 6, thanks to the LOG flat gamma profile that’s been added, users can get some pretty incredible low light images after color grading in their app of choice.

The latest iPhones use an A11 chip and with iOS 11 can shoot native 4K in H.265 (dubbed “high efficiency”), but FiLMiC Pro ups the ante by adding H.265 support for all iPhones using the A10 chip. So iPhone 7 users can play along too. But how do you get the best low light image in FiLMiC? Well, here’s a few tips.

  1. Shoot in 4K. It takes up four times as much space as 1080p I know, and not everyone has a 256GB iPhone. But for shooting in low light with FiLMiC’s 100MBps bit rate in 4K, you could use up to 400 MB for every minute of video you shoot at 60fps. But I think it’s worth clearing space on your phone for the results you’ll get. Even if you’re planning on 1080p as your ultimate destination, it’ll look better if you’re source material is in 4K. And look at the bright side. If you’re shooting in H.265, you’re using much less space than the old H.264 standard.Also note here you may have to go into your phone camera settings and change them from “Most Compatible” to “High Efficiency” (that’s Apple Speak the H.65 codec). You can also access this setting in FiLMiC’s settings. Another setting is under the Transfer to Mac or PC settings, which will either Automatically downscale the image to H.264 or keep the original codec. Enable “Keep Originals.”
  2. Shoot in the lowest ISO you can. FiLMiC’s lowest ISO setting is 22, so why not start there? Then increase the ISO gradually until you get where you need to be. Do some test shots in similar conditions to dial in what will be the best result based on your ISO setting.  Not only that, but you’ll become familiar with just how FiLMiC does what it does and be able to manipulate it on the fly as you get better at it.
  3. Use Your Wide Angle Lens.  Starting with the iPhone 7, Apple gave users two lenses to choose from, the wide angle F1.8 and the telephoto. Use your wide angle for shooting in low light, You’ll get more light on the sensor and a nice little bit of bokeh to boot.
  4. Double Your shutter speed. Start by taking your frame rate and double it. So if you’re shooting at 24 fps, your shutter speed should be around 1/48th of a second. 60fps will require 1/120th. If your image comes out underexposed, then move your shutter speed to the same as your frame rate, 1/24th or 1/60th respectively. You’ll get a little more motion blur as a result, but that can be pretty nice in some settings, and it’s far better than noise.
  5. If you have to, up the ISO. Start with the lowest setting you think you can get away with, like ISO 125. Then, if you have to, move up gradually until you get the results you want. But only as a last resort. Keep in mind that you can always use color correction and noise reduction tools to fudge it if you get close.

Note that Android settings will vary, so if you’ve fallen to the dark side, consult your OS camera settings for what it supports. The FiLMiC Pro App Settings for Android should be the same.

From there, it’s up to your color grading skills to do the rest.

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About James DeRuvo 520 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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