Beastcam is a solid and stable pro video recording app for iPhone, a different beast than FiLMiC Pro. You can find more information in my Beastcam review.
In February 2020, before the world was closed, I started testing the Beastgrip Pro Series 1.55X anamorphic lens. At the same time, I was asked if I would like to test the beta version of the Beastcam app. It was actually a no-brainer, because Beastcam was the only video camera app at the time that supported a 1.55-fold desqueeze. I am very happy that I was able to spend some time with Beastcam and the anamorphic 1.55x lens before Dubai was banned for a month.
Many of you who have heard of Beastcam know that it has been coming "soon" for some time. To be honest, the few betas I've used in the past few months have been so stable that it feels ready since the first installation. In this review of the basics, I will guide you through the things I like about where it excels and how it differs from the market leader FiLMiC Pro. As you walk past, you'll also learn some of my techniques (regardless of which app I'm using). There are some advanced functions and also the photo camera functions, which I don't want to go into here and which you can explore yourself.
Why should you use Beastcam?
There are many video camera apps, but only a few that meet all the criteria for me.
- Provide the required manual control through a responsive, intuitive user interface
- Show simple and instant feedback on the image you take (settings and image analysis).
- Record high quality, high bit rate video files
- Offer everything in a seamless picture experience
Beastcam does all of these things without complicating anything. My favorite thing at Beastcam is its simplicity.
Everything you need to interact with Beastcam is arranged in the viewer. To change something, just tap on it.
Simple control and intuitive operation
Beastcam is a great professional video camera app for beginners to get a handle on manual settings. For Beastcam, you don't need to learn how the primary controls work in relation to each other before you can use the app. All key variables you need to think about are isolated from each other. This is a different approach than FiLMiC Pro, in which, for example, ISO (gain) and shutter speed are linked in a manual exposure control.
The FiLMiC Pro exposure sheet slider is clever, refined and polished. Generally these are the things I love about FiLMiC Pro (in addition to FiLMiC LogV2, of course). The funny thing is, I didn't know that I preferred to separate ISO and shutter speed until I started using Beastcam. The reason is my absolute contempt for video noise, and although I have nothing to do with Beastcam, I probably have to take a detour here to explain it. If you stay with me, you will also learn why my iPhone videos are always so clean in low light.
The case for the separation of ISO and shutter speed
I always set and lock ISO (gain) to a minimum. This is a variable that may not be present in my smartphone imaging equation. Large sensor cameras are of course completely different and this only applies to smartphone cameras. In my opinion, smartphone image sensors are far too small and too noisy to be used with a gain above zero. Sure, the native noise reduction applied at the beginning of the image pipeline sets in, and there's all of the AI and the processing power improvement, and everything gets better. With the iPhone 11 Pro Max, I feel like I can safely climb to around ISO 100, but I avoid climbing higher. But even that is no better than taking a picture with as little noise as possible, if you can help at all.
Regardless of what type of camera I use, I shoot for post-production. It is therefore my priority to collect as much useful image information as possible for Swiss Post. If everything h.264 or h.265 is recorded and 8-bit 4: 2: 0 encoded anyway, I have no tolerance for video noise in the source. Too much increase in ISO (gain) is simply not acceptable with a smartphone. If there is not enough light to record at or near zero gain (minimum ISO) and the slowest shutter speed, I will find more light or will not record at all. If you complain about video noise on smartphones, I strongly recommend that you also apply this special zero tolerance policy, regardless of which app you use.
If the ISO (gain) is kept to a minimum and therefore not included in my equation, I rely on the combination of shutter speed and ND filters in bright light (mostly a variable ND) to get the exposure and the result Control motion blur.
Beastcam primary settings and controls
- Menu (digital slate, optical hardware, stabilization, instructions)
- Camera selection
- Resolution, frame rate and coding bit rate
- Settings menu
- White balance
- Manual focus
- Shutter speed
- Intelligent exposure (combination control for ISO and shutter speed)
- Appears in the UI ISO slider. Regardless of which manual control is selected, the slider is displayed at this position.
- "P" – user preferences
- "VA" – Visual Analytics (Focus Peaking, Zebras, False Color)
The setting of the recording resolution, the aspect ratio, the frame rate and the coding bit rate in Beastcam is done directly by the viewer himself and not via a settings menu. I look at these primary recording settings and it is fantastic if they are immediately accessible to the viewer.
There is a settings menu that contains secondary settings such as: For example, activating the digital slate functionality, activating hardware support for a DOF adapter or anamorphic desqueeze, image stabilization options and viewer instructions. These are things that you will change less often. It is possible that the image stabilization is worth moving directly to the viewer, but everything is arranged very logically.
Beastcam exposure and focus
A split exposure and focus crosshair system is standard in photo and video apps, and Beastcam is no exception. If neither ISO nor shutter speed are locked manually, the position of the circular exposure reticle determines the target area for automatic exposure. In the same way, the position of the square crosshair sets the focus target. Both can be locked by tapping. When locked, they turn blue, as is the case with the square autofocus crosshair above.
If ISO has been set and locked manually, the exposure reticle will continue to set the automatic exposure by only changing the shutter speed. This is very useful when using fixed ND filters that you cannot cut like a variable ND filter. Of course, it is ideal to set a shutter speed at twice the frame rate (i.e. shutter speed of 1/48 second at 24 frames per second), but this is not always possible with a fixed density ND filter. In this scenario, you use the ND filter, which puts you in the correct general range of shutter speed, but uses the exposure reticle to actually determine the best shutter speed for the correct exposure. It may not be exactly twice your frame rate, but it doesn't matter as long as it is slow enough for motion blur and does not cause flickering light sources.
Set it and forget about it with Beastcam
There are two things you don't want to change during a shot. The exposure is one and the white balance is the other. If you want to record professional-looking videos that you can subsequently correct in terms of color, the exposure and white balance should be correct, consistent and locked during the recording.
As I mentioned earlier, ISO, separate from the shutter speed in Beastcam, means that I can easily set it to a minimum for the selected camera (the actual value depends on the camera) and forget it. ISO is becoming one less variable to think about, or make sure it's still where I left it before going on record. The same goes for any basic variable you need to consider.
The second most important variable to set and forget (assuming it's correct) is white balance. This is just my approach. You may want to use auto white balance or set and lock it before any setup or recording you take.
I take the set and forget about it to improve the color correction in the post, and pretty much lock the white balance to the next preset and forget it. You can also set the white balance to a gray card reference. I usually use a daylight preset at around 5200K for most conditions. I switch to a warmer tungsten preset when I take pictures indoors at night and want the tungsten lighting to be properly balanced. Although tungsten light is often said to have a warm tone and not white, I use a color temperature somewhere in between.
I also make an X-Rite Colorchecker Passport video card for a few seconds if the light changes significantly. As long as the white balance is recorded consistently and I take a few shots of the color chart whenever the light or my white balance needs to be adjusted, I have everything I need to correct the color and perfectly adjust the shot later in DaVinci.
Using Beastcam white balance presets is as easy as tapping WB and selecting one of the presets. As long as you have tapped the sun, cloud, lightbulb or fluorescent lamp icon, this preset combination of color temperature and hue will be applied and locked until you change it.
You may want to rely on automatic shot-to-shot white balance and lock it every time before taking a picture, or adjust the white balance using a target. To do this, tap on WB and set AWB. If the color temperature is where you want it, just tap K and it will remain locked at that value until you change it again. I do not recommend this approach because there is no consistency between the shots. Even minor changes in white balance affect the color and require a time-consuming correction to match in the post.
Beastcam Image Analytics
Beastcam offers some very helpful image analysis to help with nail exposure. These can be accessed directly from the viewer by tapping on the VA symbol. The live image analysis includes focus peaking, zebra crossing and false color.
Beastcam video recording quality
Beastcam records in H.265 (HEVC) up to 160 Mbit / s in the native Apple color profile. My previous experience with color correction has shown that the image quality is just as good with the same settings as with FiLMiC Pro.
Beastcam does not offer a flat or log profile. As everyone knows, there is currently no native support for a true custom transform function to be applied in the video pipeline. FiLMiC Pro LogV2 is made possible by a very sophisticated image processing in order to calculate equivalent log-coded values (recorded in 8-bit) without influencing the native white or black point. Beastcam does not currently use this method. However, I have no complaints when it comes to editing color information of the Beastcam video files in the post.
Beastcam Anamorphic Desqueeze
It is worth noting that if you enable anamorphic 1.33x or 1.55x desqueeze with Beastcam, the video will be recorded desqueeze. There is currently no option to just disable the preview and record a 16: 9 video. This is not a big deal, but something you should be aware of is usually to remove the video in the post.
Should you use Beastcam or FiLMiC Pro? Or moment per camera? To be perfectly honest, I think they are all capable of very similar results. What differs is the interaction style with each app and the experience of using it. I am deeply involved in FiLMiC LogV2. I've created a full color workflow that basically spans my entire iPhone video journey from the original SE to the 11 Pro Max to get to the point where I get the kind of pictures out of the iPhone that I am from just hoping that they are possible. In this sense, I have to be honest, I am quite invested.
But here's the point. The question of which app is the best or which app you should use instead of anything else is the wrong question. There are some camera apps that I use regularly for videos and photos that I hardly talk about enough. Beastcam is one of them, and I kept it quiet while testing and waited for the app to start.
So the answer is more about which app works the way you work. The camera system and the image processing pipeline are identical. You change from app to app how you interact with it to achieve your vision. Beastcam is a simple and easy entry point for recording pro videos with your iPhone as FiLMiC Pro. However, there are things I can do with FiLMiC Pro that I can't do with Beastcam.
You can find Beastcam here in the App Store.
Are you recording videos on your iPhone? Which camera app is your favorite? Are you going to try Beastcam? Let us know in the comments.