PRO TIPS for Shooting iPhone ProRes Video
FiLMiC Pro released a new update to their app (version 6.17) that now allows recording 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes video. Using an iPhone. Yep, you read that right. Pretty crazy!
Here's a first look video I made about this new amazing feature:
I've only been working with it for a short time but I've already learned a lot and wanted to share some tips. So check out the video below along with more detailed info in the list that follows under it.
PLEASE NOTE: This list will be updated as I use this feature more, so check back to see what I've learned and added:
For "everyday" shooting I'm finding ProRes Proxy to be great. The quality is very good (better than most anything else you've shot before on a phone, with a few caveats) and also the file sizes are manageable (this is the key part). They end up being similar in size to shooting with FiLMiC Extreme (though those H.265 HEVC files can vary in size), which is what I typically use. UPDATE: I'm seeing some YouTube comments questioning this and I get it... I thought the same thing at first. Proxy is not normally what you think of for a quality video file - but test this out before you discount it. Here I've found that "Proxy" is really just a name versus what you're used to (i.e. low quality HD proxy files for editing). Keep in mind these files are 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 color and with a bit rate of up to 170Mbps. Using Filmic Extreme 4K 10-bit HEVC it's 4:2:0 color and typically about 135Mbps. All the sample shots in the first video above were shot ProRes Proxy except for the green screen test, and that was ProRes HQ. Also, when I say "everyday" I mean casual b-roll and probably YouTube stuff, social media, etc. For anything that was more involved or required heavy color grading I would likely shoot ProRes 422 - or HQ if visual effects are needed.
Shooting ProRes the look is REC 709 and "baked-in", so you only have to do minimal color correction and grading in post (although you can do stylized grades, but not quite like shooting with log). So do your best to get it right in camera. And protecting the highlights is still probably the most important thing to do (ESPECIALLY ON SKIN - make sure you get this right!). You really can't do much in post if you're highlights are blown out as there's no data there to recover.
Currently you cannot shoot log using ProRes, so if you are doing something like a movie or a music video or commercial etc. I would most likely shoot 10-bit LogV3 in FiLMiC Extreme. This will give you the most latitude in post and allow you to create a very cinematic look in color grading using LUTs and more. I will be doing some comparisons with this and ProRes soon.
If you are doing any VFX shots though - even on a film or commercial etc. - then shooting in ProRes HQ would likely be the best option as you get the most information (since it's 10-bit 4:2:2) to pull a key and/or do composites, etc.
One big benefit to shooting ProRes on a phone I've discovered (as compared to HEVC or H.264) is the fact that it resolves detail better, especially when it's moving. So for example shooting grass or tree limbs or someone's hair, etc. the footage just looks better and performs better in post (like for doing a green screen composite).
Speaking of detail though, the iPhone has always over-sharpened its video output and shooting with ProRes is no different - so, I typically will "de-sharpen" iPhone shot footage. In other words, soften it some to help reduce the digital edge and lessen moire that can sometimes occur when shooting fine detail (like grass or tree limbs, etc.). This can be done in a variety of ways in post depending on the NLE you're using or you could add a softening filter while shooting such as a pro mist.
Getting the files off your phone can be very slow using the Lightning port (this is the same with FiLMIC Extreme files too), so I almost always use AirDrop. I find it's the fastest way to transfer files, especially if you're working on a Mac computer. One caveat here is if you shoot HFR (high frame rate like 120fps,). In those cases I do use Lightning as AirDrop can recompress the files into H.264, but this doesn't affect ProRes since currently it can only be shot up to 4K 30fps. UPDATE: I've seen comments on Twitter and YouTube saying some are having trouble with this... AirDrop works 99% of the time for me, so I'm not sure I understand what they're doing. The one thing I do typically recommend is to select and transfer 10 files or under at a time. If you select 50 clips or a large number it can sometimes time-out and stall. The other thing is I've noticed some people are saving their footage from FiLMiC Pro into the Photos app instead of in the FiLMiC Library. I don't recommend doing this. In my experience the FiLMiC Library is more stable - not only for saving the files, but for transferring. Also, you don't have to worry about iCloud uploading your 5GB ProRes HQ file. And lastly, the Photos app does not support all aspect ratios, and so again - do not save files from FiLMiC Pro there. One other thing, neither of these methods is ideal for these large file sizes, but since Apple has now added ProRes to their phone lineup I'm hopeful that the iPhone 14 Pro series phones will have USB-C or Thunderbolt (like the M1 iPad Pro). It only makes sense to do this now. If not that, then another faster way to wirelessly transfer media will be necessary. It's been rumored for a long time that the Lightning port is going away, so my guess is it will be gone on the next base model iPhones, but hopefully the pro models will have "pro" connections.
If you're editing on an iPad with LumaFusion then ProRes support is now available with it too, however, the large file sizes aren't ideal unless you're editing from an external SSD. I need to test this, but when I shoot ProRes I'm typically doing something that I'm going to edit on my laptop or desktop computer where I have plenty of storage. But the good news is that LumaFusion does now allow importing and exporting using the ProRes codec.
If you're producing social media videos or similar then ProRes is probably not for you. The quality gains will likely be minimal for what you're doing and especially if you're editing on your phone or iPad where storage can be a challenge.
If you're considering buying an iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max and shooting ProRes I would highly recommend getting at least the 512GB or better yet the 1TB model. If you go with the 256GB you can still shoot in ProRes, but you're recording time will be limited. Also remember that ProRes is not currently available on the iPhone 13 or 13 mini.
Shooting ProRes will most likely be used by filmmakers like me who often use their iPhones as a B camera with traditional setups (like a Sony mirrorless) and/or for higher quality insert shots on larger scale productions such as indie films, music videos, commercials and more. Although I think lots of YouTube creators will add it to their production workflow and some might make it their main setup.
The main thing to remember is that even though we're shooting ProRes now - which is freaking amazing - the final image quality is largely dictated by the camera sensor and lens. And so we're obviously using the built-in optics and small phone sensors (although they are getting larger now). These have improved greatly over the years and continue to get better, but they are limiting factors in the ultimate quality you can achieve shooting with an iPhone.
Is that a bad thing? Heck no. It's actually very good for what it is (and depending on what you're doing). But just don't think you'll be getting the same quality as a RED camera shooting with ARRI Ultra Primes.
This is an amazing leap forward for mobile video that I believe will have a huge impact on not only mobile filmmakers, but the larger video & film industry as a whole - and that includes Hollywood.
I can't wait to see what people create and where this tech goes in the future.
P.S. New to shooting with FiLMiC Pro? Consider enrolling in my course. :)