With the iPhone 11 Pro, Mobile Filmmakers Finally Get a Cinema Camera

FiLMiC Pro Enables Video shooters to switch between all four cameras in the iPhone 11 Pro
Credit: Apple
The new version of FiLMiC Pro offers video switching and simultaneous record of multiple cameras.

When Phil Schiller said that the new iPhone 11 Pro was the first mobile device that Apple has ever given the name "Pro" to, there was a reason. That's because after we saw the demo, it became abundantly clear that mobile filmmaking was a thing, and Apple was dead set on giving them a cinema-grade camera to shoot with. And thanks to an upcoming release of FiLMiC Pro, that's not going to just be hype. The future is here.

Phil Schiller introduces the iPhone 11 Pro
Credit: Apple

The iPhone 11 Pro Camera

The major thing to notice about the iPhone 11 Pro is the third lens. Now the iPhone comes with a 12mp 26mm f1.8 wide angle camera, a 52mm f2.8 2x Telephoto, and a Super Wide 13mm f2.4. The still image capability of all three is damned impressive, being able to grab the same image simultaneously from all three cameras, and then zoom out between them to reveal up to four times more of the image in the ultrawide mode.

In addition, the still camera can preimage 9 still shots between two cameras, and then when you press the shutter for the image you want, the computational machine learning will analyze all 10 images in a microsecond, combine them and give you an image that has details at just about any area of the photo. And they also have a new micro mode for up close and personal portrait photography. And there's also a low light "Night Mode," which is clearly Apple's answer to the Google Pixel's Night Sight camera.

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A friend of mine said it reminds him of the 16mm Bolex camera, which had a three-lens array that a shooter could instantly switch from lens to lens to grab a shot, rather than take time to reset and change out the lenses. And that is an excellent way to look at it. In the iPhone camera app, users will not only be able to take multiple pictures but will also be able to change from camera to camera while recording video in real-time. That's awesome. 

The iPhone11 Pro's Three Camera array harkens back to the days of Bolex
Credit: Apple

FiLMiC Pro + iPhone 11 Pro

And here's where the new FiLMiC Pro turns things up to 11, literally. Apple invited FiLMiC Pro to the Steve Jobs Theater to highlight an upcoming build of the app, which gives mobile filmmakers some game-changing new features. Now a cinematographer will be able to not only switch between shots in real-time from all four cameras (including the Selfie camera) but will have a kind of video switcher to see each image and choose it with a simple touch of the screen. There's also a refined director's viewfinder, which will enable users to zoom into each focal length from the SuperWide camera to the 2x telephoto, all while recording at 4K at 60fps.

The Cinematic 4K/60 image of the iPhone 11 Pro
Credit: Apple

FiLMiC Pro also has a nifty picture in picture (PiP) option, which will give documentarians a unique perspective for interviews with two separate cameras recording streams at the same time as discreet files. According to FiLMiC,  If using the selfie camera as one of the camera selections, then the video can be composited together with an inset for the selfie camera or can be recorded as discreet files. The current Apple API for this feature supports up to 1080p video when recording with multi-cam. That's something Apple didn't mention in the presentation, but still, I was gobsmacked by this. Mobile filmmakers can now shoot twice as much footage, reducing their set times. That's just wild. The new version of FiLMiC Pro will be available later this year.

FiLMic Pro can record two 4K streams from separate cameras simultaneously
Credit: Apple/FiLMiC Pro

Final Thoughts

One thing is certain, I'm sure all the lens manufacturers, including Moment, are burning the midnight oil to redesign their product lines to take advantage of how Apple is changing the game. It certainly means that we're going to have to buy all those lenses again. But will we mind? I doubt it.  We're pretty used to buying new cases and lenses when the iPhone gets redesigned. 

And while this version of the iPhone 11 Pro seems more like a Tock part II in the tick-tock development cycle, it is without a doubt a HUGE update. This is a professional filmmaker's smartphone camera, and it may be the first time that mobile shooters will have a smartphone made just for them, rather than using a consumer smartphone to create a niche film style. The iPhone 11 Pro clearly indicates that mobile filmmaking has become a serious art form in our industry, and Apple has given mobile shooters the tools to take their films to the next level. I can't wait to see what Soderbergh does with it.

But I have only one question. If the iPhone 11 Pro can record multiple streams simultaneously and can fire off 9 still shots before you press the shutter button and give you a computationally perfect image, then why couldn't they give us portrait mode for video so we could have some BOKEH? It seems like the A13 Bionic chip is powerful enough to handle it. Oh well, maybe next summer at WWDC.

The iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999 for 64GB, $1099 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. But you can save money by trading in your old iPhone X, dropping the price $599/699 respectively. That's a HUGE trade-in allowance. Pre-orders start this Friday at 5am. Shipping starts September 20th.

Your Comment

13 Comments

FYI - the 52mm "telephoto" is now f2.0, not 2.8. Big upgrade from my non-stabilized 2.8 Iphone X.

September 10, 2019 at 4:06PM

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Matthew Swanson
Actor/Writer/Director
216

"... then why couldn't they give us portrait mode for video so we could have some BOKEH?" maybe because using excessive bokeh is the sure sign of an amateur.

September 10, 2019 at 5:37PM, Edited September 10, 5:37PM

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William Streeter
Filmmaker
204

"Excessive" is a weasel word here, the writer just asked for bokeh.

It could be perfectly justified subtle bokeh that they want, as opposed to "excessive"...

Besides, nothing wrong with being an amateur and wanting excessive bokeh either, if that's what you want, or think that your movie requires. Millions of people with these phones will still be amateurs.

To answer the real question:

The reason why we don't get simulated bokeh in video is two-fold: first, photos are hit and mess with the depth detection system atm, so it's not suitable for video (you'd have some seconds with nice bokeh and others where part of the talent's here disappears, etc).

Second, for the depth system to work, it takes time to bounce a grid of marks on the subjects face and back, several times, and process that into a depth mask. This incurs delay, and wouldn't work with 24fps video. And it only works in certain distances where the rays from the depth sensor can reach (the photo app tells you to "move further/closer" to get the Portrait mode to work). So again, not suitable for video, where the talent is moving and can get closer/away from the camera. You'd have bokeh and then next frame you wont.

September 11, 2019 at 2:10AM, Edited September 11, 2:11AM

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Whatever

September 10, 2019 at 9:03PM

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Is it me? Or is the word "pro" being overused, undefined and losing it's zing?

September 10, 2019 at 9:34PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Writer, Director, Content Creator.
918

Pro today just means "makes money from doing it".

If you're a "musical comedy pro and content creator" you already know pro is being overused, as that's not a real job in the traditional use of the word. E.g. nobody would traditionally consider a vlogger a "Professional" in the movie/media industry.

And yet, here we are...

September 11, 2019 at 2:13AM

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yip...exactly...just marketing gimmicks yes

September 11, 2019 at 6:46AM

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Oliver Milne
Director/Cinematographer
215

Hahahahaha you guys do anything for money! Bet you have no idea what a cinema camera is. You just get paid by the brands and write what any shit they want in your article. Change your business to a brothel I reckon so you'll get more money.

September 11, 2019 at 1:56AM, Edited September 11, 1:56AM

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Vince
VFX Producer / Creative Director
169

Is Steven Soderbergh getting paid from Apple too?

https://www.cnet.com/news/iphone-loving-steven-soderbergh-shooting-on-fi...

Or perhaps what's a movie and whose a pro in 2019 is not what your ideas of it from 1980s or 2000s is?

Nobody cares whether an Arri or Red etc. are the "true" cinema cameras. If you have the need/budget/crew/etc for them, more power to you...

Meanwhile people do work, get awards, get creative work done, and make a living doing it, with all kinds of smaller and mobile cameras, and the post, as the article says, is about "Mobile Filmmakers". Those exist, and already use mobile phones... So the whole idea here is that this camera setup offered, is closer to their movie-making needs that what exists already on mobile already

September 11, 2019 at 2:18AM, Edited September 11, 2:19AM

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Totally fine, but I still don't get why you would shoot a film with a phone instead of a used t2i or GH2. You can get one for peanuts, mount it to things with a 1/4, put cheap SD cards in it, manually focus, have extra batteries in your pocket. You could even make a phone call between takes without having to dismantle your rig.

September 12, 2019 at 5:29AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
1258

exactly .... not to mention you can almost buy a BM Pocket 4k for the price of a new phone. Now don't get me wrong, i have used some short b-roll from my phone ... airport / airplane come to mind and now with a movi robot and some Sennheiser 3d headphones you can have a small throw down rig with you that has some great potential ..... but let's keep it real .... tool are tools ... pro and cinema is stretching it

September 12, 2019 at 7:20AM

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It's quite impressive indeed for a phone. And IPhones are quite "cheap" in the US compared to other countries! Somebody wanting to make small travel videos on the go for instance could use that phone instead of a gopro or a small camera, to gain a little bit of room and weight.

September 22, 2019 at 12:19AM

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Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer
445

Portrait mode is not a video mode and should never be. That's for amateur shooters holding a phone in one hand.
And the three cameras on the 11 will just encourage the jump cut which professionals have taken painstaking care to avoid.
Just because technology can make it happen does not mean that we throw away all we have learned as filmmakers over decades.

December 3, 2019 at 11:18AM

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