Filmic Pro, one of the most popular video camera apps for iPhone and iPad, is in jeopardy after parent company Bending Spoons laid off its entire staff over the weekend. The future of the app, known for bringing advanced controls and capabilities to mobile video creators, is now unclear.
Filmic Pro first launched in 2011 and quickly earned praise for features like manual exposure, focus, white balance, support for external mics, compatibility with video gear and more. This allowed mobile filmmakers to exert fine-grained control over their video captures that the native iPhone camera does not provide.
The company behind the app, Filmic, was acquired by iOS developer Bending Spoons in 2019. Bending Spoons is best known for developing top-ranking iOS apps like Splice video editor and keyboard app SwiftKey.
Under Bending Spoons, Filmic Pro continued to advance with additions like a new stabilization algorithm, waveform monitors, and an accompanying companion app called Filmic Remote for remotely controlling recording. Just this August, version 16 of Filmic Pro brought improved export speeds, support for 4K 120fps slow motion on iPhone 13 models, and more pro-grade capabilities.
Mass Layoffs and Uncertain Future
However, over this past weekend reports began surfacing that Bending Spoons has laid off the entire staff behind Filmic Pro, numbering around 10-15 employees.
Exact details are unknown, but it appears the company may be looking to take the app in a different direction going forward according to the lone public statement:
“We can confirm that the employment of part of the staff has ended. This is happening in the context of a larger reorganization whose goals and details will be communicated more extensively in the upcoming weeks and months.”
Without its original development team still involved, where Filmic Pro goes next is a mystery. And the lack of clarity prompted wide speculation, like whether Bending Spoons intends to discontinue active work on the app entirely.
Response from Founders
In the wake of the news breaking, Filmic’s founders Neil and Tinatook to Twitter urging users not to “freak out” and confirming they hope to still remain involved with Filmic’s future:
However some level of internal reorganization at Bending Spoons involving Filmic is clearly underway. And it’s severity – laying off the entire staff – hints at the possibility of the parent company moving in a very different direction.
Impact on Filmmaking Community
Reaction from the mobile filmmaking community has been one of shock, outrage, and uncertainty over what happens next.
As one of the earliest and most fully-featured pro video camera apps tailor-made for iPhone and iPad, Filmic has amassed a loyal user base of over 200,000 customers. For many it has long been an indispensable tool for recording professional-grade footage without needing dedicated video gear.
Losing an app of this caliber could be a massive blow, with one commenter analogizing:
“This would be like Adobe deciding to kill Premiere Pro and fire all the engineers.”
Beyond just the loss of features, years of familiarity with Filmic’s interface has led to extensive muscle memory for those operating the camera. Adjusting to a wholly redesigned app could hamper workflows even if core functionality remains.
And for mobile journalists and indie filmmakers relying on Filmic to capture critical footage in the field, the uncertainty casts everything into doubt:
“As someone halfway through shooting a documentary fully using the app, this really throws me. Do I need to totally change course?”
What’s Next for Filmic Pro?
As it stands, the Filmic Pro app remains available and functional for download across iOS and Android devices.
Without a concrete statement of plans from Bending Spoons, the community is left guessing as to what happens next. Possibilities include:
- Active development stops – Worst case is Bending Spoons ceases any major updates, and the app slowly enters maintenance mode without new features before eventually being removed. This would leave a huge gap for pro video capture on iPhone.
- Core features preserved – Bending Spoons could mostly retain existing functionality but halt new feature expansion, essentially keeping the app static going forward. Not ideal long-term but preserves access to key capabilities.
- Rebuilt from scratch – A full revamp and rewrite of the app could be in the works to take it a different direction. But risks alienating established users familiar with the workflow.
- Founders regain control – Neil and Tina have hinted they hope to remain involved, possibly negotiating to spin the app back out into an independent entity again. This might restore confidence but funding and resources would be big unknowns.
Any of these outcomes or others remain speculation for now. Bending Spoons has said more details on formal plans are coming within weeks or months.
But the mobile filmmaking community awaits anxiously, with livelihoods for content creators potentially swaying in the balance of what Filmic Pro’s ownership decides to do next with the app many have come to depend on.
Community Petitions for Access and Answers
Update Dec 5th, 2023: As uncertainty continues swirling around the future of Filmic Pro, users have started petitioning Bending Spoons leadership for access to the app and transparency around decision making.
A Change.org petition launched over the weekend has already garnered close to 2,000 signatures. It calls for Bending Spoons CEO Luca Ferrari to preserve access for filmmakers who rely on Filmic or sell the app back to its original founders.
Criticisms of Bending Spoons’ handling of the situation also highlight:
- No advance notice given before laying off the entire staff
- No communication with the Filmic community thus far
- Jeopardizing in-progress projects mid-production
Further inflaming tensions is Bending Spoons’ $210 million funding round raised last April. For a company now valued over $3 billion to essentially gut an app like Filmic Pro with no warning prompted backlash:
“They Raises $340 million in funding and this is what they do to the apps and teams they acquire?”
In addition to the petition, people are reaching out over social media and company contact forms asking for Bending Spoons to address the Filmic community directly regarding their concerns. Thus far Bending Spoons remains silent since releasing its vague statement over the weekend about “reorganization” plans.
How Bending Spoons navigates this crisis around one of its flagship apps could impact broader confidence in the company’s commitment to supporting acquired tools going forward. We’ll continue monitoring the situation closely and provide updates as they develop.
Is This the End of Specialized Mobile Video Apps?
Update Dec 7th, 2023: As shockwaves spread across the mobile filmmaking world following Bending Spoons’ abrupt layoff of Filmic Pro’s entire staff, some observers raise questions around the viability of specialized video camera apps given the increasing video capture capabilities built natively into smartphones.
The iPhone camera has advanced tremendously over the years, incorporating things like multiple lenses, “Cinematic Mode”, ProRes support, and improved HDR capabilities. The average consumer no longer needs to seek out third-party alternatives just to get decent footage.
As Apple execs have publicly declared, they “don’t need any help when it comes to cinematography” at this point.
So in the face of ever-improving stock camera apps, is the niche served by advanced tools like Fiilmic Pro shrinking to the point supporting their ongoing development makes less business sense?
It depends who you ask. For many mobile filmmakers, Apple’s baked-in camera options remain too limiting:
“iOS camera is still way behind dedicated video apps for exposure control, focus, audio monitoring etc. This isn’t just about novelty features.”
But some analysts argue the addressable target audience for something as advanced as Filmic is small, and may be eclipsed entirely one day:
“This is the direction things are going. As Apple builds in more features natively, the ceiling will keep getting lower and lower regarding how many people actually need a 3rd party app.”
Bending Spoons’ decision could lend credence to this notion if development indeed stalls out, signaling the niche is no longer vibrant enough to warrant investing engineering resources.
That said, among video professionals Filmic remains unmatched as an indispensable mobile tool, even if the average user is satisfied with their iPhone’s built-in options:
“Anyone claiming mobile camera tech has caught up to dedicated apps clearly isn’t using pro-level features on shoots day-to-day. There’s still a huge gap there.”
So while further iPhone advancements could nibble away at the edges and shrink the target demographic, for serious filmmakers and content creators this likely isn’t signaling the complete end of specialized video camera apps just yet. But their futures certainly feel much less certain following this week’s events.
We’ll have to see if direct iPhone capabilities plateau or meet the needs of power users over time, or if alternate apps arise to meet demand. Either way, the mobile video landscape is shifting in ways that may leave stalwarts like Filmic challenged to stay relevant.
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