Before Instagram, Hipstamatic was one of the first apps to strike it big on the idea of applying film-style filters to iPhone photos. Instagram has since taken over the world and expanded into video, but now Hipstamatic is back with a new app that aims to do the same thing for moving pictures. It's called Cinamatic, and it's a departure from both its ostensible competitors and Hipstamatic itself.
No hint of Hipstamatic's retro design
Cinamatic is a simple, minimalist app. When capturing video, the top part of the iPhone screen is taken up by a square preview from the camera, and the rest is occupied by a red record button on a white background — the overall effect is like an Instagram photo resting atop the Japanese flag.
The app uses the now-standard recording interface that Vine introduced: hold down the record button to capture between three and 15 seconds of footage, release to cut, repeat. Once you're done taking video, Cinamatic uses the regular iOS 7 design language without a hint of the Hipstamatic app's literal throwbacks to retro cameras.
Cinamatic has no social element of its own, not even ties to Hipstamatic's Oggl network. Instead, the app is designed to help you create good-looking videos before uploading them to Instagram, Vine, or Facebook — it supplements these services rather than competing with them. (I couldn't log in to Vine, as I've only ever done so with a Twitter account and Cinamatic doesn't give that option.) As such, its value rests on the quality of its processing; like Hipstamatic, Cinamatic costs $1.99 upfront with five filters, and sells various others through in-app purchases. These all go for 99 cents each, with a $1 discount when you buy a bundle.
Cinamatic's filters are more complex than Instagram's, but are they better?
To be sure, Cinamatic's filters are more complex than Instagram's, but whether they're better is a matter of taste. Where Instagram uses subtle color gradation to give your footage a boost, Cinamatic features glitzy effects and textures that are impossible to ignore. The "Darwin" filter slows the framerate down and makes the video look like it's playing on a burnt-out projector, for example, whereas "Marc" overlays scattered vector graphics and the name of your current location. Other filters play with transitions between bursts of video, shifting focus, skipping frames, and mirroring footage to make your finished clip look something like the haunted videotape in Ring.
Although Cinamatic videos will stand out in anyone's Instagram feed, there's a risk that the filters' directed, elaborate nature may get repetitive over time. Hipstamatic worked because the company built up a large library of virtual films and lenses that were fun to switch between, but Cinamatic doesn't have the same tactile appeal or deep customization. And it's debatable whether video filters are as necessary as those for photos — moving images are much more forgiving of tiny phone cameras than still pictures. Still, the app is impressive on a technical level, and Hipstamatic has form when it comes to innovating with filters.
Cinamatic is available now for iPhone.