DoubleTake Unlocks Apple’s Awesome Multicam Mode for the iPhone

Hands on with first iPhone app to shoot with multiple cameras at once

Apple's iPhone 11 Pro is arguable festooned with cameras: Three on the back and one on the front, it’s a lot of lenses. They, along with the formidable image processing capacity of Apple’s bespoke A13 mobile CPU, provide enough photo and video power to satisfy most consumers and a growing number of pros. Tales of auteurs shooting feature-length movies on iPhones are not unheard of.

Shooting video with iPhone
Using Filmic's DoubleTake to shoot a music video.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Yet, for all those lenses, it’s never been possible to shoot with more than one of them at a time. Yes, portrait mode photography takes image information from multiple lenses to algorithmically interpret depth and create a single bokeh effect image but showing iPhone owners real-time image information from two or more iPhone cameras has not been possible—until now.

We’d heard and saw hints of what might be possible last June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which demonstrated a FiLMiC Pro beta app using Apple’s brand new multicam API. Since then, neither FiLMiC nor any other app developer had delivered a finished multicam product.

Doing a DoubleTake

Now, FiLMiC is releasing the cleverly named DoubleTake app. Put simply, it delivers a live feed from the iPhone 11 Pro’s four cameras (12 MP Wide, 12 MP Ultra Wide, 12 MP 2X Optical Zoom, and the front-facing 12 MP TrueDepth) in a quad grid and then lets you select up two of them to shoot with either simultaneously for a split screen, picture in picture (PIP) video or as two separate, audio-synced files that you can use to edit later in your favorite video editing app.

The app supports not just the rear cameras, but the iPhone 11 Pro’s selfie cam, as well, which means you could conduct an interview and have the feed of your face, as you interview, appear in the video in real-time.

In the case of PIP mode, the second camera can be moved around the screen, expanded to fill the screen, or dismissed, all as you shoot. DoubleTake handles the keyframing to ensure that all the moves are smooth and professional.

Video feed from iPhone
This feed from the DoubleTake app shows how you can have select from among your iPhone 11 Pro's four cameras. There's an "A" and a "B" camera.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

DoubleTake can also adeptly handle the switch from landscape to portrait or vertical video mode. In vertical video mode, DoubleTake can stack the two screens, or use PIP. It’ll be fascinating to see how Instagram Stories and, especially the hyper-creative TikiTokers, use DoubleTake for their video projects.

One thing you cannot do is switch modes between, say, PIP and split screen while filming.

Hands On

DoubleTake is a relatively spare app with a collection of icons most recognizable to camera pros and enthusiasts. The camera chooser is, for instance, is a side-view drawing of a DSLR camera lens. The video storage area is an SD card.

DoubleTake
This is the main DoubleTake screen in a split-screen configuration using the selfie camera and the rear-facing wide angle lens..  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

The app opens as a view finder for the 12 MP wide camera. There are those aforementioned icons, a real-time color histogram, the video shooting button, and a camera selector icon, which, unlike the other slightly skeuomorphic illustrations, is a straightforward representation of your shooting configuration selection. The default, a pair of stacked rectangles, is for using two cameras to shoot two discrete video files.

I started by tapping the camera lens for a four-square representation of the live feed from all four lenses. Whichever lens you select first is your “A” roll and the second camera is your “B” roll. “A” will be the dominant feed.

DoubleTake
The two feeds you select switch from black and white to color and you can set either one of them as the primary or "A" roll feed.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

DoubleTake can shoot in either portrait or landscape mode, though you have to make that choice before you start shooting, DoubleTake can’t reorient video during a shoot. Still, portrait mode split screens are a great fit for vertical video platforms like TikTok.

With the cameras selected, I can choose to leave the recording as two separate videos with synced audio.

If DoubleTake has any limitations, the way it handles audio might be its biggest. Whether you shoot two discrete videos, split screen or PIP, DoubleTake uses the “A” camera’s mic. I noticed this when doing a split screen mock interview with my wife. My TrueDepth Camera audio sounded great, but her audio was distant because the camera was relaying on the mic facing me. For interviews, the easiest way around is to make sure your subject is the A camera.

My Tests

I ran some quick tests with DoubleTake, shooting a few travelogue-style videos in Times Square. The PIP format is a great style for this kind of shoot and, as DoubleTake promised, I could reposition or even dismiss my “B” roll video during the shoot. The result on the finished video is smooth and professional looking. The only thing I struggled with was bringing a dismissed PIP back into the frame. Eventually I noticed the somewhat subtle arrow on the left hand side of the screen. One tap and the PIP zipped back into the frame.

You can also give the “B” camera dominance during a shoot by clicking on an expand icon and then clicking the contract to bring the video back to a PIP format. I was able to do all of this while shooting. Impressive.

Shooting video of a band
Filmic showed me how you could use multiple cameras for a video shoot. In this case, they set up an iPhone to simultaneously capture the drummer and the lead singer.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

The cameras default to 1080p at 24 fps, with the option of shooting in 25 fps or 30 fps.

There are some simple image quality controls. I can tap anywhere on the screen to lock the focus and exposure. That’s useful, but DoubleTake doesn’t open access to other shooting modes like slow motion or time-lapse. Plus, the zoom level is fixed at 2X with no option to zoom out or even further (the iPhone 11 Pro can zoom 10x digitally).

A New Way

The experience of simultaneous shooting with two iPhone cameras is both freeing and a little challenging.

During my first experience with DoubleTake, where FiLMiC execs guided my shooting a video of a downtown loft performance by the NYC Jazz band Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers, I set the app to use both the Wide and Ultra-wide cameras in a PIP configuration. This let me simultaneously show the entire band playing in the full screen and a tighter shot in the smaller B frame. But I struggled a bit in keeping track of the framing for both screens and only belated realized that, as I was watching my tighter shot, I was also cutting off the lead singer’s head within the full screen frame. It was clear that using this more powerful and creative shooting style would take some practice.

Where’s the Video

DoubleTake doesn’t automatically store you videos in Apple’s Photos. Instead, they’re all stored within the app. To add them to my iPhone photo library and, give access to may favorite video editing apps, I had to select and then tap the, yes, analog film roll icon, to store them in my local iPhone’s Camera Roll. There’s also the option of sharing DoubleTake videos directly to contacts and on a variety of social platforms.

Recording a jazz band
Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers perform in front of an iPhone running DoubleTake.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

As for video quality, it’s as good as you would expect from the iPhone 11 Pro, which means it’s very good. One issue I did notice is that on the two discrete videos, Adobe Rush CC imported my selfie camera video upside down. Not sure if that's a DoubleTake or Adobe issue.

I’ve done my share of YouTube videos and have even tried shooting with more than one iPhone at once. Between set-up, properly syncing the audio, and then doing some video editing gymnastics in Adobe CC Rush, it’s not easy. If your goal is, for instance, on-screen narration as you travel the globe or walk through a recipe, FiLMiC’s DoubleTake in a great single-iPhone solution for multicam shooting. It’s also an exciting glimpse at a future where the number of cameras on a smartphone is not just about how many different lenses you can carry, but what you can do with at least two of them at once.