I did a video on Luminancer several months ago in my series on how to create light trails on your spinning footage, but they recently came out with an update so I wanted to do another video on what’s changed and what hasn’t.
First up, what is Luminancer? Luminancer is an app that is currently only available on iOS, though they promise there’s an Android version coming out soon. What Luminancer does is add special effects to video footage as you’re taking it to add trails to light sources. While there are a lot of applications for this software, it’s found a special home among flow artists because it enables us to show off to people the shapes we create when we spin our props.
Normally we kind of visualize these things in our heads and occasionally are able to spin our props fast enough with either glow or fire for our audience to get a reasonable idea of the shapes we’re intending to make. Footage that features trails closes that gap and Luminancer is the only app for iOS I’m aware of that can add this effect. You would record all video inside the app and then either preview it or save it to your camera roll.
The old version of Luminancer was available for several years and while it allowed people to take footage with trails on their phones, it also had several major shortcomings.
First, it would record in no higher than 320 resolution. Yes, it had worse than VGA resolution.
Second, it was incredibly buggy. You could only record from one orientation of your phone or the video would appear upside-down. Worse, it was incredibly easy to screw up video recording with it. A text or low battery message would push through and you’d lose the entire video you’d just tried to record. Plus which, it would never warn you if you were low on memory. Rather than exporting only part of your video, it would export nothing at all.
Finally, it ate up a lot of battery power. I’m not sure whether it was because it was recording video or because of the effects it was overlaying on top of it, but it was super easy to drain your battery with this program.
Two weeks ago, the developers pushed out an update for the app that’s cleared up some of these issues. Here are the improvements:
First, the overall interface has been updated and streamlined. It no longer looks like someone designed the interface on an old copy of Macromedia Director.
Second, the resolution has seen a serious upgrade. You can now record in 1080 at full HD resolution.
Third, some of the bugs have been cleared up. Yes, just some. Let’s go over which ones.
The biggest improvement is definitely that the program now orients the video according to the phone’s internal tilt sensor. That means that if the video is recorded with the volume buttons either up or down, the orientation of the video will still come out right.
Next, push notifications no longer kill the video recording. This was something that without a doubt was my biggest source of frustration with this program. I used to put my phone in airplane mode and plug it into a battery before recording and it still sometimes would glitch out. I trust the program much more now.
Not all the bugs have been fixed, however, issues with exporting when your memory is nearly full still exist. I really wish they’d export however much video there was for the memory you have available rather than scuttling the entire video.
Also, the battery issues are still there and they’re much worse. Last night as I was taking footage with the program I burned through 40% of my battery in about 20 minutes. That’s kind of absurd and it’s a very strong incentive to use it for only short projects.
There’s been one other interesting thing I’ve noticed about this update and that’s that there are now gaps in the trails it produces. See, all cameras take video at a certain number of frames per second and have gaps in between those frames. This is especially noticeable when you try and add trails to footage in post using a plugin for either Final Cut or Premiere--the trails you produce have small gaps in them.
The old version of Luminancer would somehow blur between these gaps to create the illusion of continuity and it was something I always appreciated about it, despite it resulting in very low-fi footage. With the new update, the blurs between gaps are gone, so the footage winds up looking almost exactly as though you ran it through a post production filter.
Of course, the effect is put on the video as you’re recording it, so unlike editing it in post there’s no way that you can dial in changes to the effect after you’ve taken the footage.
So overall, I’m a fan on the updates the Luminancer team has done with this version of the software, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. It’s actually usable now rather than a novelty curiosity that I pray doesn’t glitch out as I’m using it. If you’re on iOS, it’s definitely worth a download. If you’re on Android, hopefully they have a version out for you soon. Luminancer is available in the iTunes store for $1.99.