We’ve seen the photo go from strength to strength in our time. It started out as the arduous yet charming process of developing 35mm film. Remember those days? Getting the developed photos back in the little colored envelope and realizing that they were out of focus or overexposed wasn’t that fun. Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of film. Then we got disposable cameras and polaroids. The latter being a forbearer of things to come in the iPhone age. Now, we don’t even think about taking a photo. It’s second nature, almost a new language. Selfies rule the realm. Snapshots with movie stars replace the traditional autograph. Instagram put the creativity back in to mobile photography, and with the ever-expanding pixels of the latest smartphone models, it’s a legitimate advancement of the form.
Not so with video. Despite nearly all smartphones having the capability to record high quality footage and being the main contemporary avenue through which we consume media, it was still uncharted waters for many users. Just an odd grainy Snapchat or Instagram video was the extent of most users’ experimentation. In recent months however, the landscape seems to have shifted, and now things are beginning to change. There’s been a whole host of video apps introduced and with it people are discovering a love for the moving image. Whether it’ll evolve into the casual shorthand that photos now enjoy remains to be seen. But for now, the signs are good. Video apps come in all shapes and sizes, with different uses and specialties. We’re going to take a look at some of the best available to you whether you’re a casual shooter or a director-in-training.
1 – Periscope
I suppose we better start with the big gun. Periscope is responsible, and will be further responsible as the months move on, for bringing live video streaming to, well, the literal mainstream. Though it debuted a few weeks later than its biggest rival Meerkat, Periscope was bought by Twitter for many millions of dollars. Together they have formed a fortuitous partnership that will no doubt seem them conquer their nemesis. The Twitter acquisition has the added bonus of crippling Meerkat by depriving them of crucial Twitter statistics they require to keep their streams current. But anyway, business is business. What does Periscope bring to the table in terms of actual video performance? Well, it’s a live streaming app, where people can stream anything they like to anyone who cares to tune in. Everything from you and your friends playing video games to major world events (not to mention a whole pile of bizarre, hilarious and other creative stuff) can be found on Periscope at any one moment. It’s live, it’s exciting and it feels progressive. In this day and age, it feels like what we should be doing with our smartphones. Users can interact with the stream and even the broadcaster by commenting and ‘hearting’ the feed. While it’s always more exciting to catch a stream live, every stream stays online for 24 hours after the fact, which is a great bonus for those discovering streams through Twitter or through word-of-mouth. In contrast, Meerkat does not keep any streams whatsoever. If you miss them, they’re gone for good. One could write a whole separate article on the ascendency of live streaming video apps, but for now it is suffice to say they are an important part of mobile video apps’ bid for digital domination.
2 – AireLive
An app which has integrated video streaming seamlessly and naturally into the traditional social media experience comes to us in the form of AireLive, a heavy hitter poised to become one of the big names in social media in the coming months. AireLive is arguably a more successful live video streamer than Periscope, though they’ve got some ground to make up as they’re not able to stand on the shoulders of Twitter. AireLive features every kind of social networking interface you can think of and combines it into one handy, sleek package. What’s worthy of note here is the way video streaming, whether it’s their lagless live option or the more intimate and ground-breaking four way FaceChat, has been made the prioritizing feature within the app. It does everything else too of course. You can post photos to your timeline, make 10 second videos and send video messages. But the developers have obviously looked ahead and seen the light. The future is video. The app is free to download on the App Store and Google Play and it’s only a matter of time before it’s embraced by the wider smartphone community.
3 – FiLMiC Pro
While between them Periscope and AireLive have the social side of things covered, let’s now take a look at what the iPhone can do creatively. Professional film cameras are getting smaller by the year, inspiring some smart developers to deliver their users that unique ‘filmic’ look at a fraction of the price of professional/prosumer cameras. Leading the charge is FiLMiC Pro, which gives potential Spielbergs the best bang for their buck. The app is currently available to download for $7.99. It produces truly stunning results. The main lack of the fabled ‘filmic’ look is down to smartphones lacking the ability to change lenses. Even the fitted one is cheap, and it doesn’t exactly scream cinematic. FiLMiC Pro tackles this in two ways. First, by turning your iPhone’s little under achieving camera into a fully realized 2k HD video camera. The 2k refers to the amount of pixels that show up in an image. The traditional 2k would be 2048 x 1080. Though you can now overindulge and shoot anything up to 8k, 2k is perfectly suitable for any type of cinema screen, effectively turning your iPhone into a fully functioning cinema camera. The second way that FiLMiC Pro transforms your smartphone is in the way it allows you to control exposure and depth of field, making up for the lack of interchangeable lenses. It can even shoot Cinemascope, which gives your image that ‘Laurence of Arabia’ letterboxing effect. This is a truly revolutionary app for indie filmmakers, and if you don’t believe me, the proof is in the pudding. During a recent blind audience test (not that they were actually blind obviously, I think you get what I mean), a buffed-up FiLMiC Pro iPhone beat out the $5000 Sony FS100 and tied with the $13,000 Canon C300. Impressive stuff indeed.
4 – Vine
Vine is another tried and tested favorite, and has been used creatively since its debut in late 2012. Again, the keen-eyed, tech-savvy hawks in Twitter snapped this one up before its official launch, and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since. For example, earlier this year, the company behind the app launched Vine Kids, an adaption of its service aimed specifically at children. Vine encouraged (and still encourages) smartphone users to get creative, and is probably responsible for perpetuating the idea of being able to introduce an unseen audience to a snippet of your daily life, a concept that would be fully expounded upon later by Periscope and AireLive. Short form comedy is the mainstay of Vine. The rapid fire ability to edit together snatches of words or motion invariably lends itself to humor. Indeed, it could be argued that Vine introduced a new kind of digital language into our modern lexicon, a visual shorthand utilizing a variety of memes and stock-phrases. But that might be getting beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, Vine is one of the most popular and rewarding mobile video apps out there today.
5 – Slopro
And lastly, we have SloPro, named after the revolutionizing GoPro portable HD cameras. Not much explaining to do on this one, but it is pretty cool. Another useful app for amateur filmmakers, SloPro is the first camera upgrade app to give users the ability to shoot in slow motion from their iPhone. Video usually runs at 30 frames per second. This app lets you shoot at anything from 60 fps (half time) to an astonishing 1000 fps (mind-bendingly glacial time). This means that for every second you shoot at 1000 fps, the camera will capture just over 33 seconds of video. Needless to say, this app has become very popular as everyone knows that anything looks more beautiful and more meaningful in slow motion (especially music videos). Also, amazingly, this app is entirely free. With all these tools available to us lucky smartphone users, we are able to incorporate video into our daily routine more and more, and use it creatively or socially in a seamless, straightforward way. It’s a great time to be alive and a great time to own a smartphone.