Is it possible to make Oscar-worthy film footage using an iPhone? Actually, it’s already been done.
Last year, the wildly popular documentary Searching for Sugar Man became the first film shot partly on an iPhone to win an Academy Award. This year, Apple released the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, boasting an improved camera quality that can turn any amateur digital filmmaker into a pro.
In fact, powerful iPhone apps exist for pretty much all the stages of video shooting and editing, from manually adjusting exposure to adding text, music, and artwork to your film. It’s no longer necessary to pour massive budgets into creating quality video footage, as you’ve got all the hardware you need in your pocket. But where do you begin?
We sifted through the video apps on the iTunes Store and found six of the best to assist you throughout the shooting and editing process. Remember to thank us in your Oscar acceptance speech.
1. For that old-fashioned feel: 8mm Vintage Camera
When film director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money while shooting Searching for Sugar Man, he turned to the $1.99 8mm Vintage Camera app. Created by Nexvio, the app realistically mimics retro-looking 8 mm film, which he used to shoot scenes of his award-winning documentary to get an authentic effect of ’70s-style footage. He even used the app to shoot video footage straight off his laptop screen.
As its name suggests, 8mm Vintage Camera will make your footage look wonderfully old and charming. There are 10 filters to choose from, as well as seven different lenses to add flickers, vignettes, light leaks, and even color fringing to your footage. Despite the iPhone 6 Plus’ efforts to stabilize images, 8mm Vintage Camera offers a feature to make your film jitter to resemble real frame shakes produced by 8 mm projectors.
8mm Vintage Camera lets you shoot offline, making it a great app to capture footage on the go and save it directly to your camera roll. The user interface resembles that of an old camera, and although it feels a little clunky, it is simple to use and offers a real-time viewfinder to let you directly control and change aesthetics.
2. For all the bells and whistles: MoviePro
MoviePro is for the film purist who values quality. Priced at $4.99, the app has been completely updated to take advantage of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’ new camera processors. You can record footage at 3K (an impressive 3072 × 1728 pixels per frame) at up to 30 frames per second with an iPhone 5s, 6, or 6 Plus. The audio quality is excellent and adjustable as well, especially when adding a microphone, which can be connected through Bluetooth or cable.
Despite being extremely function-heavy, MoviePro’s interface is elegantly designed with many customizable options hidden behind menus. Its user-friendly design is well executed and has the same Apple software familiarity as programs like iMovie. The default settings like focus, exposure, and white balance are all automatic, making it easy to pick up and get shooting right away. It’s an app that is just as accessible to those with less film shooting and editing experience as the pros.
Almost everything within the app is adjustable, even its interface, which cleverly changes orientation for left-handed users. Surprising features include “Spymode,” which lets you shoot sneaky footage by making your screen black or displaying a static image from your photo library while you’re filming, ideal for undercover reporting or documentary fillmmaking.
When it comes to editing, MoviePro has two different options: the Mini Editor for editing individual clips and the Full Editor for editing multiple clips or managing different projects.
You can do all the usual stuff, like copy, trim, merge, split, and compress clips, insert transitions, even add images. It’s an instant solution for, say, your need to create a quick high-quality, branded pitch video for your startup on a shoestring budget.
3. For professional and on-the-go: Kinomatic
Kinomatic, priced at $3.99, is somewhat of a hybrid: The app is intuitive and also lets you take control over shooting your footage. A relatively new addition to the app market, Kinomatic has been completely redesigned for iOS 8 by allowing you to control the frame rate (either 24, 25, or 30 frames per second, or up to 60 frames per second for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus).
Similar to MoviePro, Kinomatic’s interface is kept as slick as possible without skimping on features or performance. In addition to the usual settings — such as image stabilization and separate manual adjustment of white balance, focus, and exposure — you can add clips, audio and text.
Using the app feels light and easy, and it’s clear the app makers focused on a user-driven approach. “We’re aiming for an intuitive, faster, lighter way to make films. Often equipment gets in people’s way; there are steep learning curves with camera and editor apps,” Mei Olé, co-creator of Kinomatic says. “We spent time with filmmakers and video journalists to understand their process and make a tool that works how they work.”
4. For the social storyteller: Magisto – Magical Video Editor
If MoviePro feels too serious and feature heavy, Magisto, which is available for free download, brings the fun into filmmaking within a social playground. The app is great for sharing film on social media, thanks to its simple share feature, and lets you select from footage you’ve already shot as well as create new video. You can’t go wrong while shooting using its simple user interface, which offers just a handful of features such as a flash and the ability to import additional clips.
Once you’ve captured a few shots, the app takes you straight into your video and photo library, where you can add additional footage at a recommended 45 seconds in total length, which can be somewhat frustrating.
The app then lets you choose a theme for your footage, such as “Indie,” “Be Mine,” “Fashion,” “So Cute,” and many more. (It’s easy to get carried away with themes like “OMG!!” and there’s even a soundtrack option called “LOL!”) Depending on your selection, a list of soundtracks appear that can be added throughout your footage. Add a title and film length, and your movie is ready to be rendered, which takes a few minutes before you can share it with the world.
It’s not until you reach the stage of having your film rendered that you can explore other people’s films. Similar to Instagram, you can comment on and share other people’s movies.
While you don’t have full control over your footage due to the additional effects (think neon bubbles for the OMG!! theme), it’s a fun app to use because the result is somewhat unpredictable.
5. For speeding things up: Hyperlapse.
Hyperlapse, Instagram’s recent free addition to the App Store, was released with great success earlier this year. A “hyperlapse” is a time-lapse video shot in motion that traditionally takes time, skill, and lots of patience to create, but can now be created by anyone in seconds.
The added beauty of Hyperlapse is in its very powerful video stabilizer, allowing for professional-looking film footage without the use of a tripod or a steady hand. Translating Instagram’s simple user interface, you’re given just two options when recording: normal hyperlapse mode or “selfielapse” mode using the front facing-camera. At the press of a button, you can start or stop any recording, and then speed your footage to up to 12 times the normal speed.
The app’s beautiful transitions and smooth gestures offer a seamless experience from start to finish. It even has a low barrier to entry, not forcing you to sign up to start filming. You can of course share your footage directly to Instagram or Facebook, or just save it to your Camera Roll to watch later.
The best part is the growing collective of amazing footage that has been captured with Hyperlapse within Instagram’s community.
6. For slowing things down: SloPro 1000fps Slow Motion Video
Imagine recording a fight and slowing down a punch, seeing the individual specks of dust flying as someone falls. These are visual effects that were possible only in Hollywood just five years ago, and now they’re in the palm of your hand.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are capable of shooting 240 frames per second slow-motion footage; SloPro (with a free version or $3.99 Pro version) can slow down the frame rate by up to 1,000 fps after capturing. To allow this much slower frame rate to be smooth, SloPro adds bridging effects like ghost, frame blend, or optical flow that blend each frame into the next.
The app is simple to use; however, compared with Hyperlapse, it’s clear SloPro concentrates on features over user experience and interface design.
SloPro works on a freemium model, meaning you’ll have to upgrade to the Pro version to remove the watermark, export raw footage at 60 fps or email your videos. The free version does let you share directly to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, but you’ll have to put up with the branding. The app also has a social element, letting you sift through a feed of videos that users have uploaded to YouTube.
Danielle is a writer for Fueled, as well as co-founder and creative director of audio technology companies Capsule.fm and Sterio.me. She cares about creating meaningful experiences by designing technology products for humans, as well as mentoring startups at Startupbootcamp and UX Designers at CareerFoundry.