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Upgrading iPhone Video and Audio with Filmic Pro and the Fostex AR-4i

Using the iPhone is a very handy and tempting solution for production, especially when you need something fast. iPhone video using the device's standard controls and built-in audio leaves a lot to be desired. With the addition of a video app, and an external audio interface, you can make a huge improvement in the quality of the video you produce with the iPhone.

Fostex AR-4i

The second half of the equation is getting good audio into the iPhone. There are several audio I/O solution for the iPhone and iPad, as well as android devices, but the Fostex AR-4i not only is the audio interface, it also provides a big grip that makes the iPhone much easier to hold and use.

Fostex AR-4i
The iPhone 4 with the Fostex AR-4i grip

The AR-4i is a small device, a mixture of plastic & metal, that the iPhone 4 and 4s slides in to. When the phone hits the dock connector in the hand grip, the AR-4i turns on and boots up. It interfaces with the AR-4i app on the phone and offers you considerable audio control--for a phone.

You can change your inputs: Assigning different mics to different channels, you can have different input attenuation for different inputs (mic/line), 4 different low-cut frequencies, and three limiter settings. There's also a global audio input level adjustment dial on top, and a headphone dial on the bottom so you can make adjustments while recording video in Filmic.

The hardware features three balanced, powered mic inputs. It's not full-on phantom power, but for small mics that rely on "plug-in power" you're covered here. It also comes with two small condenser mics you can arrange as you see fit.

Fostex AR-4i
AR-4i inputs and external controls

There's a cold shoe for a light or shotgun mic, and a heavy metal handle with a 1/4-20 thread to screw in to the bottom of the AR-4i to provide an alternative way to hold it, or as a place for your second hand to steady it.

You can use it horizontally or vertically, depending on your distribution. It also works with the iPod Touch (4th generation).

In actual use, the AR-4i makes shooting with the iPhone a lot easier. The grip is big, the tripod mounts are metal, and the audio is great. The included mics are marginally better than the iPhone's own mic, but you can arrange them in a "Y" for better stereo separation--something you can't get with the iPhone at all.

But where the AR-4i really shines is when you use it with shotgun, wired, or wireless mics. Then you get the audio quality you are used to hearing with professional video productions. You can monitor the audio via headphones, the AR-4i's 4-digit LED on top, as well as Filmic's on-screen audio meter (Filmic Pro 2 offers a stereo meter; Filmic Pro 1 has a mono meter).

Getting crisp, clean audio from a body mic really reinforces the axiom that audio is more than half of the audio/video experience. The video I shot in the clips above clearly shows the difference between the iPhone audio, less than 2 feet away, and the audio the Fostex can deliver to the same iPhone clips.

If you're streaming live, you can interface with an audio mixer, or use wired or wireless handheld microphones to control your audio into the AR-4i.

For recorded video, add the granular control that Filmic can deliver and you've got the 1-2 punch that delivers the best AV you can get using the iPhone or iPod Touch.