smartfilming

Exploring the possibilities of video production with smartphones

Welcome to smartfilming.blog! — 21. May 2021

Welcome to smartfilming.blog!

If you want to learn about how smartphones and other compact mobile cameras can be powerful and fascinating tools for videography, you have come to the right place! I’m covering a variety of aspects on this topic including mobile devices/cameras, operating systems, apps, accessories and the art of mobile videography, particularly what I like to call “phoneography”. This knowledge can be very useful for a whole range of professional and/or hobby videography enthusiasts and visual storytellers: mobile journalists, smart(phone) filmmakers, vloggers, YouTubers, social media content creators, business or NGO marketing experts, teachers, educators or hey, even if you’re “just” doing home movies for your family! Your phone is a mighty media production power house, learn how to unleash and wield it, right here on smartfilming.blog!

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#44 Split channels (dual mono) audio from the Rode Wireless Go II in LumaFusion — 4. May 2021

#44 Split channels (dual mono) audio from the Rode Wireless Go II in LumaFusion

Rode just recently released the Wireless GO II, a very compact wireless audio system I wrote about in my last article. One of its cool features is that you can feed two transmitters into one receiver so you don’t need two audio inputs on your camera or smartphone to work with two external mic sources simultaneously. What’s even cooler is that you can record the two mics into separate channels of a video file with split track dual mono audio so you are able to access and mix them individually later on which can be very helpful if you need to make some volume adjustments or eliminate unwanted noise from one mic that would otherwise just be “baked in” with a merged track. There’s also the option to record a -12dB safety track into the second channel when you are using the GO II’s “merged mode” instead of the “split mode” – this can be a lifesaver when the audio of the original track clips because of loud input.

If you use a regular camera like a DSLM, it’s basically a given that you can record in split track dual mono and it also isn’t rocket science to access the two individual channels on a lot of desktop editing software. If you are using the GO II with a smartphone and even want to finish the edit on mobile afterwards, it’s a bit more complicated.

First off, if you want to make use of split channels or the safety channel, you need to be able to record a video file with dual track audio, because only then do you have two channels at your disposal, two channels that are either used for mic 1 and mic 2 or mic 1+2 combined and the safety channel in the case of the Wireless Go II. Most smartphones and camera apps nowadays do support this though (if they support external mics in general). The next hurdle is that you need to use the digital input port of your phone, USB-C on an Android device or the Lightning port on an iPhone/iPad. If you use the 3.5mm headphone jack (or an adapter like the 3.5mm to Lightning with iOS devices), the input will either create single channel mono audio or send the same pre-mixed signal to both stereo channels. So you will need a USB-C to USB-C cable for Android devices (Rode is selling the SC-16 but I also made it work with another cable) and a USB-C to Lightning cable for iOS devices (here the Rode SC-15 seems to be the only compatible option) to connect the RX unit of the GO II to the mobile device. Unfortunately, such cables are not included with the GO II but have to be purchased separately. A quick note: Depending on what app you are using, you either need to explicitly choose an external mic as the audio input in the app’s settings or it just automatically detects the external mic.

Once you have recorded a dual mono video file including separate channels and want to access them individually for adjustments, you also need the right editing software that allows you to do that. On desktop, it’s relatively easy with the common prosumer or pro video editing software (I personally use Final Cut Pro) but on mobile devices there’s currently only a single option: LumaFusion, so far only available for iPhone/iPad. I briefly thought that KineMaster (which is available for both Android and iOS) can do it as well because it has a panning feature for audio but it’s not implemented in a way that it can actually do what we need it to do in this scenario.

So how do you access the different channels in LumaFusion? It’s actually quite simple: You either double-tap your video clip in the timeline or tap the pen icon in the bottom toolbar while having the clip selected. Select the “Audio” tab (speaker icon) and find the “Configuration” option on the right. In the “Channels” section select either “Fill From Left” or “Fill From Right” to switch between the channels. If you need to use both channels at the same time and adjust/balance the mix you will have to detach the audio from the video clip (either triple-tap the clip or tap on the rectangular icon with an audio waveform), then duplicate the audio (rectangular icon with a +) and then set the channel configuration of one to “Fill From Left” and for the other to “Fill From Right”.

Here’s hoping that more video editing apps implement the ability to access individual audio tracks of a video file and that LumaFusion eventually makes it to Android.

As always, if you have questions or comments, drop them here or hit me up on the Twitter @smartfilming. If you like this article, also consider subscribing to my free Telegram channel (t.me/smartfilming) to get notified about new blog posts and receive the monthly Ten Telegram Takeaways newsletter featuring a personal selection of interesting things that happened in the world of mobile video in the last four weeks.

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#40 A whole new video editing experience on a phone! — 28. February 2021

#40 A whole new video editing experience on a phone!

Let’s be honest: Despite the fact that phone screens have become increasingly bigger over the last years, they are still rather small for doing some serious video editing on the go. No doubt, you CAN do video editing on your phone and achieve great results, particularly if you are using an app with a touch-friendly UI like KineMaster that was brilliantly designed for phone screens.  But I’m confident just about every mobile veditor would appreciate some more screen real estate. Sure, you can use a tablet for editing but tablets aren’t great devices for shooting and if you want to do everything on one device pretty much everyone would choose a phone, right? 

While phone makers like Samsung, Huawei and Motorola are currently pioneering devices with foldable screens, those are still extremely expensive (between 1500 and 2000 bucks!) and also have to cope with some teething problems. LG, while not particularly successful in terms of sales figures in the recent past, have proven to be an innovative force in smartphone development for some years now. Not everything they throw at the market sticks, but let’s not forget that for instance the now widely popular and extremely useful wide-angle auxiliary lens was first seen on the LG G5 (rear camera) and LG V10 (front camera). I would also hate to not have an amazing manual video mode in a native camera app like the V10 pioneered.

Instead of making a screen that folds, LG has introduced a series of phones that include (or at least have the option for) a dual screen case that has a second, separate screen – basically making it look like if you were holding two phones next to each other. So the concept is that of a foldable PHONE, not a foldable SCREEN! The actual phone is inserted into the Dual Screen case with a physical connection (initially pogo pins, then USB-C) establishing communication between the two devices. First came the V50 (April 2019), then the G8X (November 2019) and the V60 (March 2020) with the latest Dual Screen-compatible phone release being the LG Velvet (May 2020). As far as I know, the G8X (which I got new for just over 400€) is the only of the bunch that comes with the Dual Screen included, for the other phones, the DS is an accessory that can be purchased separately or in a bundle with the phone. It’s important to note that the DS cases are all slightly different (LG refined the design over time) and only work with the phone they were designed for. It probably goes without saying that they don’t work with just any other Android phone – this is proprietary LG hardware. 

The user experience of a foldable screen phone like the Samsung Galaxy Fold is quite different from that of the Dual Screen foldable phone approach. While an expanded foldable screen can give you more screen real estate for one app, the DS is primarily designed for multi-tasking with two apps running at the same time, one on the phone’s main screen and one on the Dual Screen. The DS is not really meant to use an app in an expanded view over both screens as there’s obviously a big gap/hinge between the two screens which is quite distracting in most cases. If apps were specifically customized, integrating the gap into their UI, this could be much less of a problem but with LG being a rather small player in the smartphone market, this hasn’t really happened so far. LG seems to have been quite aware of this and so they natively only allow a handful of apps (a bunch of Google apps and the Naver Whale browser) to be run in a wide view mode that spans across both screens.

Now, while having an app run across two separate screens might not make a lot of sense for many apps, there is one type of app that could actually be a perfect fit: video editors. On desktop, lots of professional video editors (I’m talking about the persons doing the editing) use a dual monitor set-up to have more screen real estate to organize their virtual workspace. One classic use case is that you have your timeline, media pool etc. on one screen and a big preview window on the second screen. It’s exactly this scenario that can be mimicked on LG’s Dual Screen phones like the G8X – but only with a particular app.

Why only with a particular app? Because the app’s UI needs to fit the Dual Screen in just the right way and currently, the only app that does that is PowerDirector. It’s not a perfect fit (one of the most obvious imperfections is the split playback button) but that’s to be expected since the app has not been optimized in any way for LG’s Dual Screen phones – considering this, it’s truly amazing HOW well Power Director’s UI falls into place on the G8X. The joy of having a big preview window on the top screen with the timeline and tool bars having their own space on the bottom screen (using the phone in landscape orientation) can hardly be overestimated in my opinion. It really feels like a whole new mobile video editing experience, and an extremely pleasant one for sure! 

But wait! Didn’t I mention that LG’s wide view mode is only available for a couple of apps natively? Yes indeed, and that’s why you need a 3rd party helper app that lets you run just any app you want in wide mode. It’s called WideMode for LG and can be downloaded for free from the Google PlayStore. Once you have installed it, you can add a shortcut to the quick settings (accessible via the swipe down notification shade) and switch to wide view whenever you want to. The app works really well in general (don’t blame the app maker for the fact that virtually no app has been optimized for this view!), occasionally, certain navigational actions cause the wide mode to just quit but most of the time, you can pick up the pattern of when that happens. In the case of Power Director for instance, you should only activate wide mode once you have opened your project and can see the timeline. If you activate wide view before that and select a project, you will get thrown out of the wide view mode. Also, if you’re done with your editing and want to export the project, tapping the share/export button will quit wide view and push the UI back on just a single screen but that’s not really problematic in my opinion. Still I couldn’t help but daydream about how cool the app would be if Cyberlink decided to polish the UI for LG’s Dual Screen phones!

What about other video editing apps? KineMaster’s UI, while extremely good for single screen phones, is pretty terrible in wide view on the G8X. VN on the other hand works fairly well but can’t quite match Power Director. Interestingly, while VN doesn’t (yet) support landscape orientation in general, once you force it across both screens, it actually does work like that. The biggest annoyance is probably that the preview window is split between the two screen with the lower quarter on the bottom screen. If you use VN in portrait orientation with wide mode, the preview window is cut in half and so is the timeline area. The UI of CapCut is pretty similar to that of VN, so it’s basically the same here. Adobe Premiere Rush isn’t even available for any LG phones currently.

So is this the future of mobile video editing on smartphones? Yes and no. LG’s smartphone business has been struggling for a while and recent news from the Korean company indicate they might be looking for an exit strategy, selling their mobile branch. This also means however that you can currently get great deals on powerful LG phones so if you are on a budget but are really intrigued by this opportunity for mobile video editing then it might just be the perfect time. The way Power Director’s UI is layed out should also make it great for phones with a foldable screen like the Galaxy Fold series so if we assume that this type of phone will become more common and affordable in the near future, people doing a lot of video editing on the phone should definitely consider checking this out!

As always, if you have questions or comments, drop them here or hit me up on the Twitter @smartfilming. If you like this article, also consider subscribing to my free Telegram channel (t.me/smartfilming) to get notified about new blog posts and receive the monthly Ten Telegram Takeaways newsletter about important things that happened in the world of mobile video.

For an overview of all my blog posts click here.

I am investing a lot of time and work in this blog and I’m even paying to keep it ad-free for an undistracted reading experience. If you find any of the content useful, please consider making a small donation via PayPal (click on the PayPal button below). It’s very much appreciated. Thank you! 🙂