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Elusive Silence: iPhone XLR Mic Interface Noise Floor Comparison [VIDEO]

During my time in the Boston University film production program, we students were given access to some nice mics, and by that I mean the $1000 Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun mic. It’s called a shotgun mic because it looks a bit like the barrel of a firearm.  Its tubular shape helps it accept sound that’s in front of it and reject sound from all other directions – which is handy when you’re trying to record any specific sound by itself e.g. dialogue and not, say, a nearby bus. In the sound kit film students were lent, this mic was paired with an aluminum Nagra reel-to-reel field recorder the size of a small briefcase of money.  To this day Nagra units are valued at between $1000 and $5000.  Together these two pieces of equipment were capable of capturing sounds richly and beautifully. So much so that during production I was often distracted by the allure of some stumbled upon mundane-turned-magical noise: the piquant clink of a china teacup laid on its saucer, the exquisite baritone creak of a wooden door or the majestic chattering fury of a squirrel on high. (more…)


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FiLMiC Pro 2.9.5: The Video Camera App Gold Standard

For anyone familiar with manual camera controls, the built in camera app on the iPhone 4s is disappointing.  Like any full-auto approach it’s designed for ease-of-use and decent performance under varying conditions, but that’s it.  There’s only one control: exposure and focus are simultaneously spot-set via screen tap.  You have no other options.  And the screen taps don’t stick.  If the shot changes or the subject moves too much, then it resets exposure and focus based on whatever is in the middle of the screen.  There are situations where this kind of behavior is the way to go: casual run and gun video.  But if you want to make video that looks good, you’re going to want to set up each shot. (more…)


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The iPhone 4s Microphone Question

Mic Performance vs. Portability

I really struggled with getting a mic for my iPhone.  Was this a phone or video production studio?  Video production studio first, phone second, I decided.  Then I thought:  did I really need something that plugged in and stuck out of the side?  My initial impressions were that the built in microphone was surprisingly good.  But after some informal testing, I found that I certainly wanted some kind of self powered, directional mic  that could grab dialogue from across a room while shooting video.  Then there were more questions.  How high end should I go?   What about monitoring the audio?  How could I tell if I was clipping?   As I began looking at options, I knew three things for sure: I didn’t need a ‘stereo’ mic.  I didn’t need a 15 foot XLR cable coming out of the phone.  And I didn’t want to take my case off.  Ever. (more…)


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iOS iMovie Followup

Since the review I’ve encountered some issues within iOS iMovie that I’ll detail below, in the hope that they can be fixed in the next release.

Color change when adding title mid shot

I noticed that when  adding a title from the Simple Theme in the middle of a shot, there is a change in the color – a lightening – especially noticeable on her arm in these pictures.  It lasts as long as the title is up (see pics before and after the title).  I’ve confirmed the issue happening when a movie that is output to camera roll; it does not appear during playback on the editing timeline.   The issue does indeed occur during optimized playback (from the home screen), so I would assume that it happens when uploading to Youtube as well, but I haven’t confirmed it.  In the ~5 minute long project where I encountered this issue, there was also some audio drop at the point where the title came in, but I haven’t been able to replicate the audio drop in subsequent smaller tests, so it’s possible that my cut was bad in the original instance I suppose. Either that or the audio drop is related to the higher memory load of the larger project. Whatever the case, this color shift won’t be noticeable unless you place a title within a shot by bounding it with cuts, as described in the iMoive review. If the title is applied to a whole shot, as would normally happen in iOS iMovie, you’d never notice the effect. (more…)


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Shooting video good on the iPhone or How I learned to white balance and love the gray card

The iPhone 4s has an amazing stabilized 1080p video camera. It has the potential to shoot beautiful, rich video, even in low light. Don’t ruin it by relying on AWB (automatic white balance)! Reference link: here.If at all possible set your white balance for a shot and lock it. If you move to another spot, even just a few feet away, the lighting changes, reset the white balance and re lock it. Your audience will love you for it. (more…)


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iOS iMovie on the iPhone 4s: A One Horse Race

Let me start off by saying that iOS iMovie (link) is, quite simply, THE 1080p HD video editor for the iPhone 4s. I’m not saying this because of how it works; I’m saying it because it’s the only one. I was very surprised to find that, as of April 2012, iOS iMovie is the only game in town for editing full 1080p video on the iPhone. Despite the other contenders’ claims that they support ‘HD’, Splice (last updated Sept. 2011) and ReelDirector (last updated Aug. 2010) are tragically limited to 720p. I imagine that the authors have put a lot of effort into their apps for previous iPhone generations and for whatever reason they haven’t gotten around to reworking everything for 1080p on iPhone 4s. 720p isn’t bad, but since you can do things like, say, Airplay 1080p to a big TV, it’s a shame to have to throw away resolution (and require a lossy recompression step to do it! :sadface:). Anyhow, for me it’s a deal breaker; if I can shoot 1080p video, I want to output in 1080p. So iOS iMovie it is! – and that’s fine, because iOS iMovie works really well. Although it doesn’t offer the boundless freedom and deep control of a full featured editing system, the fundamentals are rock solid and the touch based editing experience is a breath of fresh air. (more…)


Elusive Silence: iPhone XLR Mic Interface Noise Floor Comparison [VIDEO]

During my time in the Boston University film production program, we students were given access to some nice mics, and by that I mean the $1000 Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun mic. It’s called a shotgun mic because it looks a bit like the barrel of a firearm.  Its tubular shape helps it accept sound that’s in front of it and reject sound from all other directions – which is handy when you’re trying to record any specific sound by itself e.g. dialogue and not, say, a nearby bus. In the...
article post

FiLMiC Pro 2.9.5: The Video Camera App Gold Standard

For anyone familiar with manual camera controls, the built in camera app on the iPhone 4s is disappointing.  Like any full-auto approach it’s designed for ease-of-use and decent performance under varying conditions, but that’s it.  There’s only one control: exposure and focus are simultaneously spot-set via screen tap.  You have no other options.  And the screen taps don’t stick.  If the shot changes or the subject moves too much, then it resets exposure and focus based on whatever is in the middle of the screen.  There are situations where this...
article post

The iPhone 4s Microphone Question

Mic Performance vs. Portability I really struggled with getting a mic for my iPhone.  Was this a phone or video production studio?  Video production studio first, phone second, I decided.  Then I thought:  did I really need something that plugged in and stuck out of the side?  My initial impressions were that the built in microphone was surprisingly good.  But after some informal testing, I found that I certainly wanted some kind of self powered, directional mic  that could grab dialogue from across a room while shooting video.  Then...
article post

iOS iMovie Followup

Since the review I’ve encountered some issues within iOS iMovie that I’ll detail below, in the hope that they can be fixed in the next release. Color change when adding title mid shot I noticed that when  adding a title from the Simple Theme in the middle of a shot, there is a change in the color – a lightening – especially noticeable on her arm in these pictures.  It lasts as long as the title is up (see pics before and after the title).  I’ve confirmed the issue...
article post

Shooting video good on the iPhone or How I learned to white balance and love the gray card

The iPhone 4s has an amazing stabilized 1080p video camera. It has the potential to shoot beautiful, rich video, even in low light. Don’t ruin it by relying on AWB (automatic white balance)! Reference link: here.If at all possible set your white balance for a shot and lock it. If you move to another spot, even just a few feet away, the lighting changes, reset the white balance and re lock it. Your audience will love you for it.   What is this white balance? White balance is just...
article post

iOS iMovie on the iPhone 4s: A One Horse Race

Let me start off by saying that iOS iMovie (link) is, quite simply, THE 1080p HD video editor for the iPhone 4s. I’m not saying this because of how it works; I’m saying it because it’s the only one. I was very surprised to find that, as of April 2012, iOS iMovie is the only game in town for editing full 1080p video on the iPhone. Despite the other contenders’ claims that they support ‘HD’, Splice (last updated Sept. 2011) and ReelDirector (last updated Aug. 2010) are tragically limited...
article post