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13 September, 2017

How to take Portrait Lighting photos like Apple does with your iPhone

This image was shown during the Apple keynote to sell the new Portrait Lighting software feature. Look at the shadow under the model's nose. Note that it does not reach the lips. The shadow from the chin is also elongated.
This is simply called "Butterfly lighting."

The butterfly portrait lighting effect effect is typically made with a studio light placed above the models face and pointing down. (Via Digital Camera World tutorial poster)
Apple uses actual studio lighting to to sell you on their software feature. 

A large studio softbox light can be seen in the reflection of this model's eyes. This is another image Apple showed when touting their Portrait lighting software feature for the new iPhones. (via Apple Keynote Sept. 12, 2017) 

Another image from the Portrait lighting segment clearly shows a large studio light being reflected in the model's eyes. This image was shown by Apple's VP or worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller as another example of what the software can do.

The studio lighting set up for this type of portrait is called a Rembrandt. The triangle patch of light on the cheek is the hallmark of this style.

Schiller stood in front of an image of studio lighting to try to convince us the iPhone can do the same without having special equipment or knowing lighting techniques. That is simply not true.
The software can selectively modify the exposure, but not the quality and direction of light in the real world.
The only way your iPhone portraits will look as good as the images Apple showed at their event is to use studio lights and to master these portrait lighting techniques.
Poster from Digital Camera World.

09 September, 2017

Should you upgrade to iPhone X and iOS 11 for video production?

ADVISORY: iOS 11 and iPhone X and 8

[This is the September 13 update from original post of August 11, 2017.]

The new mega-smartphone beast with the OLED glass front and all the latest AR technology (Apple iPhone X) is perhaps not in the most impactful upgrade for videographers.

There are some new attractive frame rates on flagship model that allow you to record at 4K resolution.

- 1080p HD at 240 fps (For 8X slow motion video capture)
- 4K at 24 fps (A standard Cinematic frame rate)
- 4K at 60 fps f(For 2x low motion capture and smooth looking digital video)

Also there are new codecs like h.265 (Apple Calls this HEVC) that allow for your monster video files to be less monstrous with regards to your storage capacity.

But, you still have the loss of functionality with the missing headphone and mic port as well as other compatibility issues in the near term.

Let's look at that OS upgrade that will be coming soon.


Smart Film School students will want to research all iOS features as well as potential app failures thoroughly before considering the upgrade.

Remember that Apple will be prompting you upgrade your OS immediately. You are under no obligation to install the latest iOS.

At this moment, there is very little we actually know about how upgrade will work with our must-have video production apps.

But what we do know is that there is a clear and present danger. I prefer to treat app updates and iOS upgrades as a virus, until proven otherwise. And I also prefer to allow well-staffed broadcasters like the BBC to make the first experiments with what may be a toxic upgrade at first.

Marc Settle (a journalism trainer at the BBC in London) writes, "iOS 11 will only really come into its own once developers have updated their apps to take advantage of the new possibilities."

Indeed, one of the biggest temptations with iOS upgrades is that you are tempted to think only about gaining new features for free whilst forget completely about potential losses in your current functionality.

Settle continues, "It’s likely that a number of your apps will no longer work as they simply won’t open after upgrading the OS. All you will see is an on-screen message that the developer of this app needs to update it to work on iOS 11."

That is pretty frightening prospect if you rely on certain apps to be able to do your job.

All upgrades present real risks for reporters who rely on their phones every day to capture, edit and share video stories.

--> Read Marc's full appraisal of the new iOS 11 features.

Before upgrading I demand to see strong evidence that the new flagship model of iPhone and iOS 11 will dramatically upgrade your video projects.

Here is a video you can use as the control for your testing.

This mini-doc was filmed recently in Berlin.


4K resolution @ 24 fps with iPhone 6S+, iOS 10.3.2, Filmic Pro camera app, Siriu Carbon-fiber tripod, Osmo mobile, Røde NTG1, Blimp, boom pole, and Newsmaker radio mic kit.

Also the MoondogLabs Anamorphic lens adapter and Helium Core rig were used for the live performance scene.

All that cinema gear fits into one waterproof bike bag.


At this moment my recommendation is conservative: There is no compelling reason to jump to iPhone (7, X or 8) or iOS 11.

Just. Not. Yet.

The 6S+ model captures gorgeous 4K video and works with the proven #MOJO mics and gimbals.

It is probably now even less expensive to purchase today than when it launched.

It can take several months to see the bugs worked out in the new iOS. And even longer until the experts in the community have verified that the developers of the most-useful video production apps are shipping updated, bug-free versions.

Robb's 'Go-To' apps for mobile journalism and smartphone filmmaking.

My iPhone 6S+ will remain at iOS 10.3.2 until all have been proven to work on iOS 11 without any loss in functionality.

This conservative approach to upgrades is not unusual among creative professionals.

For example, professional musicians and recording studios typically prefer to use older versions of recording hardware and software because they have been proven to be reliable and stable.


When Apple released the iPhone 7 without a headphone port it tempted many professional broadcasters to upgrade . . . and then live to regret the choice.

The loss of that jack meant that they couldn't use a low cost gimbal and a microphone any more.

I can't for the life of me understand why the IT departments of two of the top new broadcasters in the world just ordered hundreds of iPhone 7s for their reporters.

That is the completely wrong move at this moment. The product development cycles for mobile hardware manufacturers are several years long.

If you don't want to lose any important recording functionality - stick with the iPhone 6S+.

The iPhone 6S+ mounted to an Osmo Mobile gimbal captures smooth 4K video and includes a headphone jack allowing low-cost mics to be attached. 

You can't make this configuration with any of the newer iPhones. That is a serious setback for the time being for reporters who purchased the 7 models and realized that the missing headphone jack meant no mic plus gimbal functionality. 

See more gear options here.

This same gimbal rig can also be used to make a low-cost LIVE video studio.

An iPhone 6+ is main camera. You can livestream at 1080p HD video with the iPhone 6 models, use the headphone jack for a microphone and keep constant power supplied with the lightning connector.

Here is more information on that solution.

If you don't have money for a gimbal,
then this mini-tripod configuration will do the job just fine.

While you can use this rig with the newer iPhones there are limited solutions to being able to monitor the audio with headphones while using the lightning connector for the mic in.

The lack of a headphone jack means a loss of function and versatility for a field reporter.


I can't be more specific at this moment, but I can assure you that there are a few new digital mic input solutions with headphone monitoring that are coming to the market.

We'll be testing these models and updating Smart Film School students once more is known about how they work for live streaming and longer video recordings. And how they work with iOS 11 and our pro apps.

There are more than 10,000 students registered in Smart Film School courses.

I advise clients about workflows, training and technology packages for video storytelling and sometimes waiting for the latest phone models and software updates is the best advice.

It always takes extra time for manufacturers and app developers to deliver tested solutions that best serve professional journalists.

Because these folks need reliable solutions that their reporters can depend upon, it is my habit to advise them to proceed cautiously with OS upgrades and new models of phones until robust working solutions have been vetted under demanding field conditions.

Let me know what is working for you!

07 September, 2017

These 10 tips will improve your smartphone videos

10 tips that will help you to shoot and edit smartphone video like a pro.

More smartphone filmmaking resources:

Ready to take a deeper dive?

The Smart Film School is a collection of e-learning course packs that teach you how to shoot and edit video on a mobile phone, produce social video content and master mobile journalism.

Happy Filming!

27 August, 2017

This #MOJO Mobile Journalism course joins @DanRather on the #Journalism Best-Seller list

My #MOJO Mobile Journalism course joins @DanRather on the #Journalism Best-Seller list.

We are the only two journalists with best-selling courses on Udemy.  

To celebrate my second Best-Seller course, I encourage you to see why this material is the top-rated course for teaching and learning mobile journalism.

Several lessons are available for free-preview and there is always a 30-day money back guarantee for Smart Film School courses.

If you are interested in a deeper dive in smartphone filmmaking (and earning money as a freelancer, you might also like my other Best-Seller course.

Check out the Best-Seller course for Smartphone Filmmaking

Connect with Robb Montgomery on Social media.

If you prefer, you can send a message using the form below. 

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18 July, 2017

iPhone filmmaking: Helium Core iPhone rig with Filmic Pro, Moondog Labs Anamorphic lens & Røde Videomic Pro

Can you film cinema-quality scenes while hiking between remote Alpine huts with your iPhone?
And also edit the widescreen anamorphic footage with the same iPhone?

This Helium iPhone rig did not let my phone overheat, delivered pro sound and made it easy to attach an Anamorphic lens and ND filters.

Here is a short scene that was shot, edited and shared from the film location at 2,100 meters elevation.

Locking the focus and shutter speed in Filmic Pro to achieve proper motion blur effects.

The gear travelled in waterproof bags as I hiked for six hours each day.

In the rain.

The week before the Alps trek, I built and tested this iPhone film rig that captures 4K, anamorphic footage with proper sound and motion artifacts.

I built it by wrapping an iPhone 6S+ with a Helium Core cage and attaching it to a modified GoPro chest mount.

The Røde VideoMic Pro on top captures pro audio (As you can see in the YouTube clip at the end of this tutorial)

The complete cinema quality film rig packs flat. It will join me and my backpack on a six-day trek across the Alps next week where I will be making a film project.

The chest mount combined with the extension bar make it very comfortable to record interviews, too.

I attach the Moondog Labs Anamorphic lens adapter and ND filters to be able to record 4K widescreen footage in bright light with a slow shutter speed.

Without an ND filter, the camera has no choice but to record with a high shutter speed - in this case at 1/12,288 of a second.

Which produces strobe motion footage.

With two ND filters attached (An ND 4 and an ND 2), the camera sees less light and I am able to record at 1/48 of a second to achieve a proper 180° shutter.

This allows the motion blur to be recorded in a way that more accurately mimics the way the human eye sees motion. This is one of the keys to pro filmmaking.

In the FilmicPro app, I make a preset to capture 4K video and set it to display the proper 'de-squeezed' preview for Anamorphic filming.

An overview of my Filmic settings.

And how it looks in the viewfinder while filming.

I also am experimenting with different video capture profiles to achieve a film look and am having great results with the Flat gamma curve in FilmicPro.

Recording 4K Anamorphic clips at 'Filmic Quality' means I have to clear off my camera roll and watch for apps that also copy clips inside their sandbox.

That's more like it! I conservatively estimate that the Filmic Pro settings I am using will require about 600MB of memory per minute of recorded footage.

In this ungraded example, I recorded 44 clips to make this film and when I transferred my clips to my Mac (using iTunes) the folder measured 9.54GB and the runtime of the raw footage is around 16 minutes when dropped onto a Final Cut Pro X timeline.

I applied cinema grading to this natural sound short film to show how a final treatment can look for cinema projection.

This means with 100GB of free memory on my iPhone.

Make a film with Robb