iPhone Slow Motion Tutorial

In the last post, I included a video tutorial showing how to make a slow-motion film with a GoPro Hero camera. But did you know that your iPhone (5s and above) can shoot slow motion video also? There is an option called “slo-mo”, which allows video recording at 120 frames per second (fps). In the video tutorial below, I show how to set up your phone to capture slow motion footage and then how to edit with iMovie for iOS (if you cannot see the player window, here is the link to the video).

The iPhone: A Film Studio in Your Pocket

One of the biggest misconceptions I encounter about video-making is the belief that one needs special equipment (expensive cameras and microphones), a film studio, and special training to make a quality video. That was perhaps true in the past, but not today. The iPhone in particular has made filmmaking accessible to anyone who wants to create a short video or a full-length documentary. In fact, award-winning films have been partially or totally shot with an iPhone. The following are a few examples.

Some of the footage for the documentary, “Searching for Sugarman” was shot on an iPhone because the director, Malik Bendjelloul, ran out of money. Most of the film was shot on Super 8mm, but a few final scenes were filmed with an iPhone and 8mm Vintage Camera app. I highly recommend this film, by the way, which won an Academy Award in 2013 for Best Documentary Feature. Fantastic example of how to tell a story. Below is the trailer for the film (if you cannot see the player window on your device, here’s the link):

A feature film, “And Uneasy Lies the Mind” was shot entirely with an iPhone 5. The director, Ricky Fosheim, explains in the trailer below why he chose the iPhone and displays some of the accessories he used (link to video in case you can’t see the player window on your device):

Here is a film featuring beautiful imagery from Thailand that was filmed with an iPhone 4s and edited with Final Cut Pro; a Vimeo “Staff Pick” (here’s the direct link to the film):

The next film was made by French filmmaker Maël Sevestre with an iPhone 4s and shows what kind of interesting cinematography can be accomplished with a cell phone camera (if you can’t see the player window, follow this link):

And there is even an iPhone Film Festival. Here’s a music video, “Summer Wine”, that won second place in that category (can’t see the player window? here’s the direct link):

I hope these few examples convince you that you can make an excellent video with your iPhone. I’m now shooting a lot of my tutorials with my iPhone 5s because of the portability and ease of use. With the launch of iPhone 6, which has an even better camera (1080p high definition film at 60 frames per second, video stabilization, 128 gigabytes of storage), amateur and professional filmmakers will have even more moviemaking power in their pockets. And combined with simple but powerful movie-editing apps like iMovie, the iPhone becomes an amazing film studio that you can carry with you anywhere.

How to Shoot Fisheye, Wide Angle, and Macro Views with an iPhone

If you would like to take your videography/photography with the iPhone to the next level, you might be interested in the Ōlloclip, a 3-in-1 lens (fisheye, wide angle, macro) combination that clips onto the phone. It’s small, lightweight, and easy to use. My husband gave it to me as a gift, and I finally got around to testing it out on a recent trip. The version I have is the original Ōlloclip with three lenses for the iPhone 5/5s. The company has newer versions with four lenses (fisheye, wide angle, 10x and 15x macro). They also sell a telephoto and a few accessories (see www.olloclip.com). There is also an app for the Ōlloclip in the App Store, which helps to compose your shots during filming.

I’m still exploring ways to use the Ōlloclip, but thought I would do a quick video review/tutorial about it:

I was impressed with the design and quality of the device. Basically, there are three lenses fashioned into a double-sided clip that can be easily flipped around to access either the fisheye lens (one side) or the wide angle-macro lenses (other side). The fisheye provides a 180 degree view of a scene, and the wide angle approximately doubles the field of view from the normal iPhone camera. To access the macro (10x on my version), you unscrew the wide angle lens. You have to get within about an inch (10-15 mm) of the subject to focus the macro properly (the app contains a loupe that helps to ensure a good focus with the macro).

The clip slips onto the top edge of the iPhone so that the desired lens is covering the rear-facing camera. The clip fits over a screen protector, but is too snug to work with a standard phone cover (other than one that Ōlloclip sells). The clip also covers the power switch on the top of the phone, but this is not a problem as a slot in the clip prevents it from pressing on the switch. You can still access the phone menu through the “Home” button.

All in all, I found the Ōlloclip to be well-made and easy to use. It seems to be pretty rugged, although it probably would not survive a drop to concrete. Due to its small size, the Ōlloclip is convenient to carry in a pocket or purse; however, the Ōlloclip’s small size also makes it easy to lose–so be careful. I carry it inside the provided bag but then store that in a larger bag along with some other iPhone accessories.

I especially like the macro, which works quite well to get close-ups of objects. See the next series of photos (of a dried rose) for a comparison. I snapped all of them without the aid of a tripod to see how much blurring might occur with minor hand shake (normally with macrophotography, you would want to use a tripod and also a remote shutter to eliminate movements that would blur the image).

The first one was taken with the regular phone camera–as close as I could get and stay in focus. If you zoom in, you see that the image is blurred, which I could not see when I took the photo.iphone_regular








The second one was also taken with the regular phone camera, but I used the pinch-zoom gesture to get a bit closer. The image is better but still out of focus.









The third one was taken with the Ōlloclip macro lens attached to the phone. I got the image in focus, and you can begin to see the individual cells of the rose petals; however, it was difficult to see if I had the focus just right while I was shooting (I was aiming for the crack in the center of the image).iphone&macro








The final image was taken with the macro lens plus the aid of the Ōlloclip app. I set the loupe in the app for 3x, which let me better see how well I was focused on the rose petal (this does not affect the view of the final photo). Although the point I selected (crack in theiphone&macro&loupe image center) was in focus, you notice that surfaces in other planes of view are not in focus. The iPhone is limited in controlling depth of field, but The Ōlloclip app allows you to select which part of the image you want to be in focus (AF) as well as the point of reference for exposure (AE), just by sliding two targets around on the screen. This dual setting provides a lot of flexibility in composing a shot. The native iPhone camera app, by comparison, only allows you to set the AE/AF together by tapping on a point on the screen.


The app also works without the Ōlloclip, allowing you to independently set the AF and AE for filming through the native iPhone lens. Conversely, you can use the Ōlloclip with other photography apps, but I’ve not tested those sufficiently to say how well they work with the Ōlloclip lenses.

You can find out more about the Ōlloclip at www.olloclip.com.




A Shutter Remote Controller for Your iPhone Camera

I often work alone and need to stop and consult my notes when filming an on-camera speech or demonstration. In such instances, I would have to leave my position in front of the camera to start and stop video recording, which is inconvenient and time-consuming. There have been other times when I tried to film myself from an unusual position or from a distance away from the camera and wished that I had a way to operate the camera remotely.

You can use wired or wireless remote controllers that operate the shutter on a camera, but I’ve just never gotten around to purchasing one. Recently, I came across an advertisement for a shutter remote controller that can be paired via Bluetooth to any iOS device. It’s called Shutter Remote and costs about $40. Since I often use my phone to record video and take photos, I decided to give it a try with my new iPhone 5s.

The device is small and easy to operate. I found that it worked well to start and stop the camera app on my iPhone, which made filming a whole lot more efficient. Below is a video I made showing how it works and how to pair it with an iPhone.

The Shutter Remote is supposed to work with any native iOS app and also with some 3rd party apps (although I have not tried these). You can also pair it with a Mac computer to, for example, control a Keynote presentation, video playback, or music. If you use iOS devices, especially to record video, this item might be helpful.

I’ve used the shutter remote several times, but not enough to say much about durability. The only problem I’ve encountered so far was that my phone camera app once got stuck in record mode, and I could not stop it with either the remote or phone controls. I had to power my phone off to stop the recording. However, that happened only once and was easy to rectify. Otherwise, it worked as advertised.

Using a remote controller to trigger the shutter on your camera will definitely make your filming a lot easier if you work alone. In addition to filming yourself, you might also need to remotely control a camera to film wildlife; for example, a bird nest high in a tree. Once the camera is set up, you can observe from a safe distance and trigger the shutter to record whatever activity is of interest without scaring your targets away. There are many other examples.

If you’ve tried this or some other shutter remote, please share your experience.

How to Create a Time-Lapse Video with Your Smartphone

Previously, I described how time-lapse films can be very useful to illustrate certain biological or physical processes that occur too slowly to be viewed in real time. I provided a few examples of time-lapse videos as well as a tutorial of how to create one using a series of still images captured with a camera and by editing them in a movie-editing program such as iMovie.

In this post, I want to point you to an app for mobile devices (Smartphone, Tablet) called Lapse It Pro. It can be purchased in the App Store for $1.99. You can try it out by downloading the free version (which lacks some key features, such as high resolution selection). To make this work with a Smartphone, you also need some accessories to ensure a stable platform.

In the following tutorial, I provide instructions for setting up your phone and how to use the app to capture a time-lapse series of images. The app settings allow you to easily change the frame capture rate (for example, one frame every minute). The free app will only capture images at 480 p. If you have the pro version of the app, your phone can be set to capture high resolution images (720 or 1080 p, depending on your mobile device version).