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How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post


Here are a few easy tips for getting the most out of iPhone footage.

As video editors, we’re not always handed the best footage to work with, especially if we’re working with moguls (non-artists). While it’s always better to shoot great footage on set, sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got. So if you’ve just been handed a bunch of iPhone footage, here are  a few ways to make it better.

1. Stabilize the Footage

How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post: Stabilizer
Image from Chrismith

One of the fastest ways to make your iPhone footage better in post, is to simply apply a basic stabilizer to the footage. This step is surprisingly easy to do. In Premiere and After Effects, all you have to do is apply the warp stabilizer effect and the programs will automatically analyze and stabilize the footage. In FCPX you simply need to select the stabilization button in the Video Inspector.

The stabilizer effect should instantly make your footage more professional. Be on the lookout for weird warping when using stabilizer effects. If you turn up stabilization intensity too much, it might disorienting for your audience.

2. Remove Rolling Shutter

A visible rolling shutter screams amateur. Most modern video editing softwares have built-in rolling shutter repair effects. In Premiere and After Effects, it’s simply labeled Rolling Shutter Repair and all you have to do is drag and drop. In FCPX, you can find your rolling shutter repair right under stabilization in the Video Inspector.

3. DeNoiser

How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post: DeNoiser Filter

iPhone footage tends to be incredibly noisy, especially in low light. To help clean up your footage, you should add a quick DeNoiser effect. There are a lot of ways to go about doing this. The cheap way would be to simply use the Remove Grain effect in After Effects. This tutorial from John McRae shows us how it’s done.

There are some other paid options that work better than the Remove Grain Effect. By far the most popular is Neat Video, which retails for $99. The plugin works in Premiere, After Effects, and FCPX, so you’re covered no matter what platform you use.

4. Color Correction

How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post: Color Correction

You will also want to manually color correct your footage. Now, you could take an entire course on color correction at film school, but for the sake of brevity, just think about your iPhone footage in terms of color cast.

If your footage has a blue tint, try bringing down the blues in the curves effect. If it’s orange, try bringing up the blues. You can go into as much detail as you want when color correcting. Just don’t get lost. It can be easy to spend way too much time in the color correction process.

5. Bring Down the Whites

How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post: Guy on Computer

Bad phone footage is often bad because the white parts of the image are blown out. After you’ve color corrected your footage, try bringing down the white parts of the image just a little. My favorite thing to do is simply move the bottom bar of the Levels effect to the left just a little.

Technically this doesn’t do much other than squash your colors, but it will draw less attention to the bright parts of your footage. After all, eyes are drawn to points of brightness and contrast first.

If you have some time, another option would be to do a simple sky replacement technique using the white parts of the image as an inverted luma mask.

6. Bring Up the Blacks (Just a Little)

How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post: Bring Up the Blacks

Instead of having deep blacks, try bringing up your shadows just a little. While it all depends on the look you are going for, you’ll probably notice that your iPhone footage will look more like footage with a high dynamic range when you bring up the blacks.

7. Stylize

How to Make iPhone Footage Look Better in Post: Stylize

The last step is to simply stylize. Don’t overdo it… but if you add some simple color grades to your footage, you can better help sell the images as professional. You could also add a slight vignette or fake neutral density filter if the sky is still too bright.

One popular way to mask bad footage is to simply have all of your footage in black and white. This is what director Randy Moore did in Escape From Tomorrow to mask the fact that his film was shot with different cameras.

(Bonus): Kill the Audio

Unless you happened to plug an external mic into your iPhone while you were shooting, the audio is probably completely terrible. Instead of trying to salvage it, try simply cutting it out completely and adding fake sounds in post. It all depends on what you’re going for, but if your video is supposed to be professional, iPhone audio is not going to cut it.