I don’t pretend to know much about video but I DO understand that iPhones capture footage at a variable frame rate depending on the amount of available light. This is great for home movies (hmmm) but not great if you want the footage to end up on TV. Especially when European TV standards demand 25fps and the iPhone and iMovie create footage that tends towards the 30fps end of things. This has made using iPhone footage really difficult for broadcasters.
Even ‘pro’ style apps for iPhones such as FilmicPro have been reported to not film at a constant rate. It looks as though it’s more to do with iOS than the individual apps. So the only real solution is putting the finished shots through an edit process – to stabilise the video and make it easy to import into ‘proper’ editing software back at base.
The problem is that a lot of people will automatically think of iMovie when it comes to editing and then converting the format or quality of some footage on their iPhone. On paper, it looks like the perfect ecosystem solution. It isn’t. iMovie DOES convert 30 (ish) fps footage down to 25 but only by discarding some of the frames! Not by re-encoding the whole film. The BBC’s PNG system looks like it can output at 25fps but – yet again – the problem is that it can only deal with raw footage (or top and tailed at best) which requires someone back at base to put the whole thing together… if the concept of Mobile Journalism sets out to do one specific thing it is to refine and change workflows. Just getting someone else to do the job at base isn’t really the solution we should be aiming for.
So.. we need another app to edit and stabilise the footage.
In the short film below I originally shot it on FilmicPro at 25fps but it still needed nailing at that frame rate. So I’ve put it through Voddio to give it a fixed rate.
The final version of it – a 1080 mov file at 30mb rates out, according to Quicktime as 24.71 fps. I sent it on to the BBC’s Rob Wood – one of our finest editors – who says it checks out, in FCP X as a solid and constant 25 fps progressive.
Interestingly I’ve also shot footage with the inbuilt iPhone camera app and put that through Voddio and the frame rate comes out as a full 25 fps when converted. Not sure why that is happening whereas footage imported (and supposedly shot at 25fps) in FilmicPro is converting at 24.71.
So what does this mean? Basically that you can film and edit 25fps video on an iPhone that isn’t going to get editors screaming at you when you send your pictures into them… and in Mobile Journalism’s tight turn arounds and deadlines it’s great news.
And the easy solution that gets round all of this importing/exporting kerfuffle? Film it in Voddio’s own inbuilt camera app, the file is stored in Voddio itself and can be added to a new project natively. When it’s exported you can define the frame rate, the bit rate, the quality – from full 1080 HD down to 640×360 and it can be outputted to a PC or Mac via filesharing without the need for cables if connected to a wifi network.