The native camera on most smartphones produces high quality footage, but you will get better results with a third-party app. Here are some recommendations.
Most smartphone cameras will shoot at 1080p (Full HD) and even 4K (Ultra HD). But they don’t give you separate control over focus and exposure, and you can’t control audio levels.
The other issue is frame-rate. Frame-rate doesn’t matter if your story is going online or on social media, but if it’s going on TV, you need to take it into consideration. In NTSC countries, recording frame-rates are 30fps / 60fps, and in PAL countries you need 25 / 50fps.
All iPhones and most Androids shoot at 30fps / 60fps, so if you’re working in a PAL country, you need an app that allows you to select 25fps / 50fps. Find out which system is in use in your country here.
You should use an app that gives you control over focus, exposure, frame-rate and audio levels. One of the best choices is Filmic Pro (iOS / Android), an app that is available both for iOS and Android phones. It costs around $US15 as one-time purchase. Excellent alternatives to Filmic Pro include ProShot (iOS / Android), Kinomatic (iOS only), as well as Open Camera (Android only) and Cinema 4K (Android only).
Filmic Pro is regularly updated by its developers in response to the needs of journalists and filmmakers. You can access the latest tutorials on the Filmic Pro website, and follow Filmic Pro on Twitter for tips and examples of best practice. This short tutorial will get you started:
ProShot is a great alternative if Filmic Pro won’t work on your smartphone. This tutorial will get you started with its functions and tools. The video is aimed at iOS owners, but the app works on both iOS and Android phones.
Kinomatic is another excellent video recording app with similar levels of control to Filmic Pro. It is iOS only. This short tutorial will help you learn the functions and tools.
Open Camera is a simple but powerful app for Android phones. The app is completely free, based on ‘open source’ software. The developer website has a full user guide, and this tutorial explains how the app works.
Cinema 4K is a powerful Android-only app with manual control of focus, exposure, white balance and other important features. Here’s a short tutorial.
New apps come out all the time, and professional apps are updated regularly. We recommend you read this review of video recording apps for iPhones and Android published on the Smartphone Film Pro blog in September 2017 for a recent list.