Filmmaking apps for Android

Hey there!
Have you ever used your Android phone to shoot videos? Yeah? Well, so have I. I’ve got this LG L9 phone and it’s doing a pretty good job at recording footage, but one thing that’s been bugging me for a while is continuous auto-focus and auto-exposure. These are two awful things, apart from Auto White Balance, that I can’t stand seeing in my footage. So, I’ve decided to check out a bunch of camcorder apps out there on Google Play and here’s what I’ve picked.


Cinema FV-5

This app is relatively new (been around for a year or so) but it’s very powerful and has great potential. Let’s have a look.

Interface and features

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-16-34

As you can see from the screenshot, the interface is well thought-out – we’ve got some regular settings on the left and a quick access panel with all the sweet stuff at the bottom. Let’s go into detail on those menus.

The left column includes (from top to bottom):

1. General settings (gear icon)
2. Menu: stabilization, histogram, composition grid, and crop guides

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-50-46

3. Flash adjustments: On, Off, Continuous

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-51-00

4. Audio monitoring (requires headphones and only works before you hit the Big Red Button)
5. Playback

Now, let’s take a look at the quick access panel at the bottom of the screen (from left to right):

White Balance:

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-51-16

Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, Fluorescent (x2), Incandescent, White Balance Lock (allows you to lock Auto at its current state)

Focus mode:

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-51-27

Auto (central focus point), Macro, Face Detection, Continuous, Touch (selectable focus point), Infinity, Autofocus Lock (allows you to lock autofocus to avoid changing focus by mistake)

Light metering mode:

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-51-38

Matrix (exposure is frame-based), Center-weighted (priority is given to frame center), Spot, Touch (exposure is metered based on the area you touch), Auto-exposure Lock (allows you to lock auto-exposure at its current state)

ISO:

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-51-49

Auto and Manual (e.g. from 100 to 800). The Manual range depends on your device.

Exposure Compensation (EV):

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-52-01

On my device it ranges from -1.5 to +1.5 .

Fun fact: by setting ISO at 800 and using positive exposure compensation values on my LG L9, I was able to achieve a much brighter image (and a much noisier one, of course) than I could get from stock camcorder.

The top status bar displays information about currently used settings.

I won’t go into detail on General settings menu hidden behind gear icon, but I’ll just say that it contains 5 extensive sub-menus and you can set up pretty much everything from resolution and bit rate to codecs and size limits. Here’s a screenshot for illustration:

Screenshot_2015-01-16-19-52-18


Performance and stability

When it comes to shooting videos, Cinema FV-5 simply rocks. You can adjust anything from the left and bottom panels on the go (except for audio monitoring) and use relatively smooth pinch zoom. There are a couple of things, though, that you have to be aware of (Disclaimer: these bugs may only be present on my device):

  1. I don’t recommend reviewing your footage within the app by tapping that ‘playback’ icon. Every other time I do that, my camera driver crashes and I have to restart the device to fix it.
  2. I wouldn’t recommend minimizing the app too often, as that may also cause trouble.
  3. If you want to record high quality audio with your videos, I’d recommend you to keep from ticking ‘Custom audio settings’ option in the Audio tab of General settings.
  4. I wouldn’t recommend using Continuous or Touch autofocus modes. Neither of them worked for me and they tend to screw up autofocusing until you restart the app. Stick to Auto, Macro and Infinity modes.

That said, I love the application and use it most of the time to shoot videos with my smartphone. And here’s a short tutorial on setting up Cinema FV-5 on your Android phone:

 



LGCamera

I’ve picked this app since it doesn’t have the bugs of the previous app, yet I have to admit – it kinda lags behind Cinema FV-5 here and there.

Interface, features and performance

Screenshot_2015-01-16-20-50-30

LG camera app has a rather grayish and not very user-friendly interface. The only quick access settings are flash adjustment (not available during recording), exposure and autofocus lock.

Screenshot_2015-01-16-20-51-14

Most other settings are hidden in the menu (shown above) and there is no way to access them quickly. On the other hand, the menu remains accessible during recording, so you can still change things like white balance and exposure compensation on the go.

Screenshot_2015-01-16-20-51-25

It’s also worth noting that this app combines a camera and a camcorder which has its downsides. For instance, the app always shows a preview for photo mode, so you can’t frame precisely until you hit the REC button or choose 16:9 aspect ratio for photos.

Screenshot_2015-01-16-20-51-43

On the feature side, LG Camera is a little behind the Cinema FV-5. On my LG L9 this LG Camera app lacks adjustments for such functions as ISO, light metering modes and audio monitoring. On the other hand, contrary to Cinema FV-5, LGCamera allows you to record videos from your front camera and it can restart video recording when your current video exceeds 4GB limit. Also, it has a wider range of resolutions available and can take (not very high quality) photos during recording.

Stability

When it comes to stability and bugs, LGCamera performs better than Cinema FV-5 – it only crashed on me when I accidentally locked the screen during recording. On the other hand, some devices may suffer from inability to use the highest frame rate, available in stock camera, so you might have to add a line or two to ‘camera script’ available via a submenu in the last menu tab to ensure those 30 fps that you’re looking for.
All in all, I like the app, since its touch focus works flawlessly and it’s quite stable most of the time. And here’s a video on setting it up for your Android phone:


Thanks for stopping by!

Read next: Camera API – Another great Android app to unleash your filmmaking spirit

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