Review: Mobile Filmmaking with Filmic Pro, Gnarbox, LumaFusion

By Brady Betzel

There is a lot of what’s become known as mobile filmmaking being done with cell phones, such as the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and even the Google Pixel. For this review, I will cover two apps and one hybrid hard drive/mobile media ingest station built specifically for this type of mobile production.

Recently, I’ve heard how great the latest mobile phone camera sensors are, and how those embracing mobile filmmaking are taking advantage of them in their workflows. Those workflows typically have one thing in common: Filmic Pro.

One of the more difficult parts of mobile filmmaking, whether you are using a GoPro, DSLR or your phone, is storage and transferring the media to a workable editing system. The Gnarbox, which is designed to help solve this issue, is in my opinion one of the best solutions for mobile workflows that I have seen.

Finally, editing your footage together in a professional nonlinear editor like Adobe Premiere Pro or Blackmagic’s Resolve takes some skills and dedication. Moreover, if you are doing a lot of family filmmaking (like me), you usually have to wait for the kids to go to sleep to start transferring and editing. However, with the iOS app LumaFusion — used simultaneously with the Gnarbox — you can transfer your GoPro, DSLR or other pro camera shots, while your actors are taking a break, allowing you to clear your memory cards or get started on a quick rough cut to send to executives that might be waiting off site.

Filmic Pro
First up is Filmic Pro V.6. Filmic Pro is an iOS and Android app that gives you fine-tuned control over your phone’s camera, including live image analyzation features, focus pulling and much more.

There are four very useful live analytic views you can enable at the top of the app: Zebra Stripes, Clipping, False Color and Focus Peaking. There is another awesome recording view that allows simultaneous focus and exposure adjustments, conveniently placed where you would naturally rest your thumbs. With the focus pulling feature you can even set start and end focus points that Filmic Pro will run for you — amazing!

There are many options under the hood of Filmic Pro, including the ability to record at almost any frame rate and aspect ratio, such as 9:16 vertical video (Instagram TV anyone?). You can also film at one particular frame rate, such as 120fps and record at a more standard frame rate of 24fps, essentially processing your high-speed footage in the phone. Vertical video is one of those constant questions that arises when producing video for mobile viewing. If you don’t want the app to automatically change to vertical video recording mode, you can set an orientation lock in the settings. When recording video there are four data rate options: Filmic Extreme, with 100Mb/s for any frame size 2K or higher and 50Mb/s for 1080p or lower; Filmic Quality, which limits the data rate to 35Mb/s (your phone’s default data rate); or Economy, which you probably don’t need to use.

I have only touched on a few of the options inside of Filmic Pro. There are many more, including mic input selections, sample rate selections (including 48kHz), timelapse mode and, in my opinion, the most powerful feature, Log recording. Log recording inside of a mobile phone can unlock some unnoticed potential in your phone’s camera chip, allowing for a better ability to match color between cameras or expose details in shadows when doing color correction in post.

The only slightly bad news is that on top of the $14.99 price for the Filmic Pro app itself, to gain access to the Log ability (labeled Cinematographer’s Toolkit) you have to pay an additional $9.99. In the end, $25 is a really, really, really small price to pay for the abilities that Filmic Pro unlocks for you. And while this won’t turn your phone into an Arri Alexa or Red Helium (yet), you can raise your level of mobile cinematography quickly, and if you are using your phone for some B-or C-roll, Filmic Pro can help make your colorist happy, thanks to Log recording.

One feature that I couldn’t test because I do not own a DJI Osmo is that you can control the features on your iOS device from the Osmo itself, which is pretty intriguing. In addition, if you use any of the Moondog Labs anamorphic adapters, Filmic Pro can be programmed to de-squeeze the footage properly.

You can really dive in with Filmic Pro’s library of tutorials here.

Gnarbox 1.0
After running around with GoPro cameras strapped to your (or your dog’s) head all day, there will be some heavy post work to get it offloaded onto your computer system. And, typically, you will have much more than just one GoPro recording during the day. Maybe you took some still photos on your DSLR and phone, shot some drone footage and had GoPro on a chest mount.

As touched on earlier, the Gnarbox 1.0 is a stand-alone WiFi-enabled hard drive and media ingestion station that has SD, microSD, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports to transfer media to the internal 128GB or 256GB Flash memory. You simply insert the memory cards or the camera’s USB cable and connect to the Gnarbox via the App on your phone to begin working or transferring.

There are a bunch of files that will open using the Gnarbox 1.0 iOS and Android apps, but there are some specific files that won’t open, including ProRes, H.265 iPhone recordings, CinemaDNG, etc. However, not all hope is lost. Gnarbox is offering up the Gnarbox 2.0 via IndieGogo and can be pre-ordered. Version 2.0 will offer compatibility with file types such as ProRes, in addition to having faster transfer times and app-free backups.

So while reading this review of the Gnarbox 1.0, keep Version 2 in the back of your mind, since it will likely contain many new features that you will want… if you can wait until the estimated delivery of January 2019.

Gnarbox 1.0 comes in two flavors: a 128GB version for $299.99, and the version I was sent to review, which is 256GB for $399.99. The price is a little steep, but the efficiency this product brings is worth the price of admission. Click here for all the lovely specs.

The drive itself is made to be used with an iPhone or Android-based device primarily, but it can be put into an external hard drive mode to be used with a stand-alone computer. The Gnarbox 1.0 has a write speed of 132MB/s and read speed of 92MB/s when attached to a computer in Mass Storage Mode via the USB 3.0 connection. I actually found myself switching modes a lot when transferring footage or photos back to my main system.

It would be nice to have a way to switch to the external hard drive mode outside of the app, but it’s still pretty easy and takes only a few seconds. To connect your phone or tablet to the Gnarbox 1.0, you need to download the Gnarbox app from the App Store or Google Play Store. From there you can access content on your phone as well as on the Gnarbox when connected to it. In addition to the Gnarbox app, Gnarbox 1.0 can be used with Adobe Lightroom CC and the mobile NLE LumaFusion, which I will cover next in the review.

The reason I love the Gnarbox so much is how simply, efficiently and powerfully it accomplishes its task of storing media without a computer, allowing you to access, edit and export the media to share online without a lot of technical know-how. The one drawback to using cameras like GoPros is it can take a lot of post processing power to get the videos on your system and edited. With the Gnarbox, you just insert your microSD card into the Gnarbox, connect your phone via WiFi, edit your photos or footage then export to your phone or the Gnarbox itself.

If you want to do a full backup of your memory card, you open the Gnarbox app, find the Connected Devices, select some or all of the clips and photos you want to backup to the Gnarbox and click Copy Files. The same screen will show you which files have and have not been backed up yet so you don’t do it multiple times.

When editing photos or video there are many options. If you are simply trimming down a video clip, stringing out a few clips for a highlight reel, adding some color correction, and even some music, then the Gnarbox app is all you will need. With the Gnarbox 1.0, you can select resolution and bit rates. If you’re reading this review you are probably familiar with how resolutions and bit rates work, so I won’t bore you with those explanations. Gnarbox 1.0 allows for 4K, 2.7K. 1080p and 720p resolutions and bitrates of 65 Mbps, 45Mbps, 30Mbps and 10Mbps.

My rule of thumb for social media is that resolution over 1080p doesn’t really apply to many people since most are watching it on their phone, and even with a high-end HDR, 4K, wide gamut… whatever, you really won’t see much difference. The real difference comes in bit rates. Spend your megabytes wisely and put all your eggs in the bit rate basket. The higher the bit rates the better quality your color will be and there will be less tearing or blockiness. In my opinion a higher bit rate 1080p video is worth more than a 4K video with a lower bit rate. It just doesn’t pay off. But, hey, you have the options.

Gnarbox has an awesome support site where you can find tutorial GIFs and writeups covering everything from powering on your Gnarbox to bitrates, like this one. They also have a great YouTube playlist that covers most topics with the Gnarbox, its app, and working with other apps like LumaFusion to get you started. Also, follow them on Instagram for some sweet shots they repost.

LumaFusion
With Filmic Pro to capture your video and with the Gnarbox you can lightly edit and consolidate your media, but you might need to go a little further in the editing than just simple trims. This is where LumaFusion comes in. At the moment, LumaFusion is an iOS only app, but I’ve heard they might be working on an Android version. So for this review I tried to get my hands on an iPad and an iPad Pro because this is where LumaFusion would sing. Alas, I had to settle for my wife’s iPhone 7 Plus. This was actually a small blessing, because I was afraid the app would be way too small to use on a standard iPhone. To my surprise it was actually fine.

LumaFusion is an iOS-based nonlinear editor, much like Adobe Premiere or FCPX, but it only costs $19.99 in the App store. I added LumaFusion to this review because of its tight integration with Gnarbox (by accessing the files directly on the Gnarbox for editing and output), but also because it has presets for Filmic Pro aspect ratios: 1.66:1, 17:9, 2.2:1, 2.39:1, 2.59:1. LumaFusion will also integrate with external drives like the Western Digital wireless SSD, as well as cloud services like Google Drive.

In the actual editing interface LumaFusion allows for advanced editing with titles, music, effects and color correction. It gives you three video and audio tracks to edit with, allowing for J and L cuts or transitions between clips. For an editor like me who is so used to Avid Media Composer that I want to slip and trim in every app, LumaFusion allows for slips, trims, insert edits, overwrite edits, audio track mixing, audio ducking to automatically set your music levels — depending on when dialogue occurs — audio panning, chroma key effects, slow and fast motion effects, titles with different fonts and much more.

There is a lot of versatility inside of LumaFusion, including the ability to export different frame rates between 18, 23.976, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 48, 50, 59.94, 60, 120 and 240 fps. If you are dealing with 360-degree video, you can even enable the 360-degree metadata flag on export.

LumaFusion has a great reference manual that will fill you in on all the aspects of the app, and it’s a good primer on other subjects like exporting. In addition, they have a YouTube playlist. Simply, you can export for all sorts of social media platforms or even to share over Air Drop between Mac OS and iOS devices. You can choose your export resolution such as 1080p or UHD 4K (3840×2160), as well as your bit rate, and then you can select your codec, whether it be H.264 or H.265. You can also choose whether the container is a MP4 or MOV.

Obviously, some of these output settings will be dictated by the destination, such as YouTube, Instagram or maybe your NLE on your computer system. Bit rate is very important for color fidelity and overall picture quality. LumaFusion has a few settings on export, including: 12Mbps, 24Mbps, 32Mbps and 50Mbps if in 1080p, otherwise 100 Mbps if you are exporting UHD 4k (3840×2160).

LumaFusion is a great solution for someone who needs the fine tuning of a pro NLE on their iPad or iPhone. You can be on an exotic vacation without your laptop and still create intricately edited highlight reels.

Summing Up
In the end, technology is amazing! From the ultra-high-end camera app Filmic Pro to the amazing wireless media hub Gnarbox and even the iOS-based nonlinear editor LumaFusion, you can film, transfer and edit a professional-quality UHD 100Mbps clip without the need for a stand-alone computer.

If you really want to see some amazing footage being created using Filmic Pro you should follow Richard Lackey on all social media platforms. You can find more info on his website. He has some amazing imagery as well as tips on how to shoot more “cinematic” video using your iPhone with Filmic Pro.

The Gnarbox — one of my favorite tools reviewed over the years — serves a purpose and excels. I can’t wait to see how the Gnarbox 2.0 performs when it is released. If you own a GoPro or any type of camera and want a quick and slick way to centralize your media while you are on the road, then you need the Gnarbox.

LumaFusion will finish off your mobile filmmaking vision with titles, trimming and advanced edit options that will leave people wondering how you pulled off such a professional video from your phone or tablet.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.


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