Fun video apps for iPhone

This week's collection of apps include apps that let you film action from before you hit the record button, shoot retro-looking videos with effects you control, and give you pro-like options for shooting more serious movies.

Mogo Video
Retroactively capture the action without having to record every moment of an event. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

It doesn't seem that long ago when we would have to lug around a VHS camera to capture video of family events, vacations, and other memories we could relive later by inserting the VHS tape and hitting the play button on our VCRs. While it was a workable solution for capturing memories in motion, lugging around a video camera everywhere we went wasn't exactly practical.

Fortunately these days, there is no longer the need for fresh VHS tapes or making sure to pack the digital video camera because we have the ability to shoot reasonably good video right on our smartphones. With the iPhone 4's front- and rear-facing cameras, we have even more options for shooting videos, and with hundreds of cool video apps in the App Store, we have tons of interesting (and sometimes strange) options.

This week's collection of apps gives you some options for shooting good-looking videos. The first app lets you film the action from before you hit the record button, the second makes retro-looking videos using effects you control, and the last app gives you some professional options for shooting more-serious movies.

Mogo Video (99 cents) lets you shoot videos on your iPhone, but offers a unique twist. With Mogo Video, you can actually record action that happened before you hit record. As long as the app is on, Mogo is recording, but not saving what you see through your iPhone camera. So, maybe you think your child might take his first steps, for example. With Mogo Video turned on you can point your iPhone at your son, and when he does successfully walk on his own, you can hit the record button to capture what happened a designated number of seconds before you hit record.

Mogo seems like it might come in handy for many things beyond the above example and you get a few options to make it work better for the action at hand. Say you're watching a basketball game, as another example. You can set Mogo Video to record 10 seconds in the past so you can capture the play that leads up to a rip-roaring dunk. No longer will you need to be lucky to capture an amazing moment because the app doesn't limit the amount of time it will record in the past. But, obviously, the app won't be able to record what happened before launching the app. Along with the ability to edit the amount of time, you also can turn the flash on and off on the iPhone 4 and you can switch between the front- and rear-facing cameras.

Overall, Mogo video is an interesting concept that will come in handy in specific action-oriented situations. If you want to catch the big play, or witness a first moment with your kids without having to endlessly record the action, Mogo is a fun and effective way to capture life's exciting moments.

8mm Vintage Camera
Choose from several presets to get the 8mm style you want, but all have that certain grainy feel. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

The 8mm Vintage Camera ($1.99) app lets you make old-timey videos with some cool feature variations and effects. Right when we launched this app we were reminded of popular camera app Hipstamatic, because 8mm Vintage Camera offers a vaguely similar feature set, but is instead used for making stylized videos.

Start your project by flicking the wheel in the bottom right of the screen to choose from five different video effects like the black-and-white 1920s setting or the grainy '70s setting. Then, you can swipe the viewfinder in the upper right to choose from film effects like a shaky border (like old films) or a burning effect that makes the outer edges of the film seem to melt as you shoot. Different lens and film combinations give you several options for how your video will turn out.

Unlike Hipstamatic, 8mm Vintage Camera lets you adjust all your settings on one main screen. In addition to the film and lens choices, you have the option to use the iPhone 4 flash for brighter scenes; there's a button that gives your film a frame jitter effect; and you can switch between the iPhone 4's front- or rear-facing cameras.

When you're finished, you can hit the My Reels button to browse through your shot videos, and touching a specific project gives you options for saving your video to your photo library, sending via e-mail, or uploading directly to YouTube.

Overall, 8mm Vintage Camera is one of the best apps I've found for making old-timey movies in the iTunes App Store, with just enough lens and film variations to give you plenty to experiment with. Anyone who likes old 8mm films should definitely check out this app.

Filmic Pro
Shoot your own professional-looking movies with an advanced tool set of video options. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Filmic Pro ($2.99) gives your iPhone camera a new front-end for shooting higher-quality video, with professional tools for controlling exposure, focal point, and more. As we know, the hardware and HD capabilities behind the iPhone's video camera are impressive on their own--but its built-in controls for shooting video are frustratingly primitive for more-experienced filmmakers, and the iPhone isn't always smart about handling factors like exposure and white balance.

Filmic Pro offers an interface that is clean and simple, and all of its controls run along the bottom of screen, making it perfect for keeping a steady thumb grip on your camera. On the left side of the screen, you have buttons for locking and unlocking focus, exposure, and white balance, and turning on your LED torch. On the top, in the main window, you have two reticles (or optionally one, for run-and-gun scenarios) which you can drag around to set focus, exposure, and white balance wherever you want in the shot. On the right side, you have a record button, clip library, info (a quick-start guide to the interface), and settings, which includes a ton of extras such as controls for resolution, variable frames per second, color bars, and a customizable slate with automatic advancing for each take.

Overall, Filmic Pro is a great value and worthwhile download whether you're a budding cinematographer or a filmmaking vet. This app can vastly increase the quality of your videos, letting you get much more out of your iPhone camera without adding any extra gear.

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.