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iPhone 11's new multicam app lets you shoot video with two cameras at once

Filmic's DoubleTake is free, and feels like the start of something new. Here's a first test.

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DoubleTake by Filmic can record from two of four cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro simultaneously. It's crazy.

Nic Henry/CNET

Your phone is studded with cameras. You're probably only using one at a time, though. That could change in the near future: imagine shooting video with two, or even someday three or four simultaneously. I've gotten a brief taste of what that weird phone future will feel like.

I spent some of the weekend trying out two-camera simultaneous recording on the iPhone 11 Pro, using Filmic's new free app, DoubleTake. It seems like a legitimately useful thing to have. The multicamera feature should work for anyone with an iPhone XS, XS Max, or last year's iPhone 11 models.

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One of Apple's more mic-dropping demos at its iPhone 11 unveiling last September was Filmic's promise of simultaneous two-camera video recording. The demo last year promised an ability to switch between cameras on the fly and provide multicamera feeds into video editing software that felt like a slice of a new video future. I remember sitting in the audience at the Steve Jobs Theater and being pretty wowed.

Filmic's new standalone app launching this week, DoubleTake, is a taste of those possibilities, but it's not the entire package yet. Filmic sees this free app as a test drive (a beta of sorts) that will help inform how the company incorporates multicamera simultaneous recording in its paid Filmic Pro app later this year.

The DoubleTake app can record two 1080p recordings at once at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. The video recordings can't be digitally zoomed, and the extra features are pretty pared down. But the recordings can be simultaneously stored separately, or combined in a split view or picture-in-picture recording. Think a Twitch-like narration of an experiential tour somewhere seen through the rear camera as you talk to the front camera, or a two-person interview set up talking to rear and front cameras at once.

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Picture-in-picture: Instant narration while shooting -- and the PiP can be shifted around on the fly.

Nic Henry/CNET

I started thinking of spontaneous, self-filmed improvised scenes between two people on one camera. Or, capturing a walk-through immersive experience by shooting the rear camera in ultrawide, while I narrate and react through the front-facing camera.

It also seems like a key tool for instant journalism: That ability to create a two-person interview on the fly with a single phone in my pocket is groundbreaking. Similarly, I wonder about how it could enable one phone to do the work of what would have needed two cameras before. 

CNET Senior Video Producer Nic Henry, who shot a test video using the app, agrees: "I think the biggest thing is thinking up a reason to use this app. But I think that's more of an opportunity than a problem. My mind's already been racing to trying to think of different ways to use this thing."

It's not always easy to nail the angles: the iPhone 11 Pro's camera placement means I've got to make sure my head is framed correctly, while I also have to get close enough to my subject on the other side. Another interesting tactic is two rear camera recording, so I could switch between ultrawide and telephoto in a future edit, for instance.

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Two shots, done at once, here in splitscreen, but they can also be saved separately at the same time.

Nic Henry/CNET

The multicam recording uses the internal iPhone microphones to listen in on the appropriate subject, but Filmic's future support could extend to include plug-in dual microphones. The capabilities of an app like this started making me wish for all sorts of things: a good stand to set up an instant interview-recording studio, and a way for digital zoom to somehow intelligently frame subjects better for easier multicam use in the future.

Other apps have explored incorporating picture-in-picture and split-screen recording features, but Filmic's more flexible approach (and free app) make this a great one to try. iOS 13 enables this type of multicam recording on Apple devices with an A12 chip or later, so this won't be the last app we see that tries this out.

Filmic's team is pushing to make sure two camera simultaneous recording works great for now, but three or four (or more) cameras at once could be next on deck -- with a future iPhone, perhaps. Filmic also admits interest in AR: Apple's ARKit 3 toolkit can use front and rear cameras at once, too. Incorporating AR into future film editing could be an intriguing possibility for extra computational photography tricks. With phone processors making yearly leaps, it also seems like it would only be a matter of time before this capability comes to Android phones. Filmic says Android support for multicamera recording isn't currently on the roadmap due to Android fragmentation, among other things, although that could change down the road.

I have a feeling that, come next CES (or the next iPhone event), I'll be using apps like DoubleTake in my daily mix. It could also very well be an indicator that future iPhones and apps will start enabling more simultaneous shooting, for filmmaking and for lots of other possibilities.

(Updated January 28 at 11:52am ET with comment from Filmic on possibilities for Android support.)