The following article was written by FiLMiC CTO Christopher Cohen.
At the 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced that the AVFoundation framework would receive an interesting update for iOS 13: Multicam. The new AVCapture API made it possible to capture photos and video simultaneously from multiple cameras at the same time. For us, this was an exciting moment. We had long speculated what a multicam workflow would look like. Naturally, it didn’t take much internal deliberation before we committed to explore this opportunity further.
Before the iPhone 11 was even announced, work began on a specification that we would eventually call “Project Gemini.”
At FiLMiC, our philosophy of R&D is somewhat flexible. Generally speaking, we do not front-load a research spike with product and marketing directives until the technology in question has been developed to a testable state. Once a functional prototype has been created, we subject it to the rigors of user experience flow testing. At this point, changes are made and the feature (or product) is defined in more detail.
However, to justify the vetting of this and any other technology, some basic assumptions must be made. We wanted our multicam offering to focus on high-fidelity video acquisition: the core objective being the ability to record two discrete files (from two camera modules) simultaneously. This functionality would have nestled comfortably with the other features in FiLMiC Pro. Therefore, Project Gemini was initially conceived as a possible extension of the FiLMiC Pro feature set.
After the iPhone 11 Pro launch event, we earnestly began to accelerate the development of Gemini. However, after some real-world testing, it became clear that our initial conceit (discrete capture) did not fully align with the wants and needs of our users. The feedback from the field was unambiguous: we needed to revise the exposure & focus point-of-interest system, optimize the orientation management, enhance the interactions governing the existing composite mode (“Picture in Picture”), and add a new composite mode (Split Screen).
This was a challenging realization.
The new requirements for Project Gemini were now quite disparate from the core UX of FiLMiC Pro. To shoehorn this featureset into Pro would compromise both the single and multi-cam workflows. These applications were, in hindsight, clearly on different evolutionary branches of the video camera tree of life.
In order to reconcile a maturing view of the multicam UX with our commitment to make this featureset widely available, we decided to release Gemini as a stand-alone product. DoubleTake was transparently born out of a desire to deliver an optimal multicam experience to our users in a timely manner.
From the outset, we had every intention to add multicam functionality to Pro. However, after witnessing DoubleTake’s dynamic usage in the field, it is our position now that the unique UX requirements of multicam necessitate that we remain committed to a bifurcated approach. Unencumbered by video acquisition orthodoxy, DoubleTake is clearly becoming something greater than its initial proposition. Almost immediately upon its release, we began to see a starburst of iconoclastic creations ranging from multi-angle hyperlapses to vlogging and environmental commentary such as the following example from Italian mobile journalist, Nico Piro:
Riding to an assignment in #Rome #Italy under #COVID19 #lockdown— Nico Piro (@_Nico_Piro_) March 31, 2020
Areas once crowded, now look like a ghost town#Journalism #mojo #stayhome #shot with #doubletake @FiLMiCPro @mojoitaly @philipbromwell @WytseVellinga @MarcSettle @gofilmit @Rob_Layton pic.twitter.com/azGhaETdug
For the time being, we believe that DoubleTake and FiLMiC Pro should be allowed to evolve as different products: each optimized for their respective goals.
An Evolving Product Philosophy
The last 18 months have, in many ways, been transformative for our company. We have been confronted with the problems and opportunities that arrive (usually in tandem) with rapid growth. Along the way, we have had to reevaluate our philosophy of product development.
There is a pervasive myth that the rules of mobile software development are somehow different from other platforms. However, the fundamentals of this business remain the same regardless of where/how the product is consumed. To provide continual value to the customer, a software developer must 1) provide responsive technical support for their products, 2) issue timely updates & maintenance, and 3) meet (and even anticipate) the customer’s needs.
To better achieve these goals, a product must be focused. Does FiLMiC want to create one app that does many things, albeit poorly? We certainly could do that, but that is not who we want to be. We are not in the business of making Swiss Army Knives.
Rather than endlessly pouring disparate features into a single, monolithic video application, we have decided to shift our focus from product to portfolio. We envision a suite of specialized tools that offer functionality unimpeded by a UI attempting to balance discordant priorities.
So, what does this look like?
FiLMiC Pro will remain – unapologetically – a professional cinema camera. We continue to invest in an application already known for coupling ground-breaking innovations with an accessible user experience. Behind the scenes, much is happening with the FiLMiC Pro platform.
Firstlight remains dedicated to the prospect of pure photography. However, it is important to note the secondary purpose of that product. Firstlight is decidedly more than a photo app. It’s a sandbox: a platform for experimentation. The ground-breaking innovations in UX, image processing, exposure management, and shader-based visualizations will radiate across our entire product portfolio. One notable example is Cubiform — our recently patented image processing technology; Firstlight leverages this pipeline to create high-fidelity film simulations that are run-time mutable.
And then there’s DoubleTake. As I explained earlier, DoubleTake is Multicam — we will continue to innovate and expand this experience within the FiLMiC ecosphere. The road ahead is long and very exciting.
This philosophy of specialization & excellence has other implications that we are not ready to reveal just yet. Suffice it to say that the future of mobile content creation is still an undiscovered country, but FiLMiC will be there to carve a path through the wilderness.