Outside of going to film school, how can we quickly and easily elevate the production value of videos shot on our smartphones? After all, whether it’s a special moment with the family, or a document of a fun weekend; our videos deserve to be treated with care and attention. We want to watch them again, not delete them without a second thought. The new LG V30 is a videographer’s dream phone. The camera is optimized for video use, with a collection of tools influenced by modern filmmaking that turn a very ordinary video into something more visually exciting, helping tell your story.

Do they work, and are they really simple enough for everyone to use? What’s more, has LG used a light touch, or gone all-out with heavy-handed effects that may do more harm than good. We found out after filming the morning of the V30’s announcement on an LG V30.

Has LG used a light touch, or gone all-out with heavy-handed effects?

The first thing you need to know is that no matter how good the V30 is — and it’s very good — if you don’t put thought and effort into creating a visual story, the end result will still be ordinary. But the V30’s tools are compelling, making you want to experiment, practice, and crucially, learn how to improve. The few hours we had to shoot video with the V30 wasn’t enough. We could have carried on doing so throughout the day, such was the creative drive to have fun with the camera.

LG’s triumph is the Cine Video mode. At first it looks and sounds like a collection of filters, which we’ve seen many times before. However, LG’s Cine Effects go way beyond slapping a Juno filter over a 10-second clip in Instagram, then hoping for the best. The difference is Cine Effects maintain color accuracy, have a wider dynamic range for a smooth transition between light and dark scenes, and more vivid colors. All this adds up to a vastly improved image quality. Any fears of LG’s Cine Video mode being heavy handed are dispelled. It’s easy to dial-down the effect. Used with care, the V30 will make you a Christopher Nolan-like auteur, and not a bombastic Michael Bay. This, by the way, is very good news indeed.

moto x4 hands on review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s not just the Cine Effects that make the V30’s camera so good. The 16-megapixel main camera is a strong performer, with an industry-first f/1.6 aperture and a glass lens. This has 4-percent more light transmittance than plastic lenses, which doesn’t sound a lot, but makes a large difference. LG says the dynamic range is 11 stops, rather than 9.5 ISO stops with a plastic lens. More light means better low-light photos and video.

Let’s get filming. There are 15 Cine Effects, all of which are based on styles popular in movie-making. For example, Thriller gives a moody deep blue, nighttime look, and Romantic Comedy adds a dreamy “golden hour” style. Each theme can be adjusted for strength, and a vignette effect added, again with varying strength. To get the right cinematic look for its Cine Effects, LG worked with post-production film experts and colorists, who were able to make the final, crucial  adjustments to the palette. The themes are based on mood, situation, and feeling; not a simple style choice, and the final product is often startling.

The morning sun was blazing in Berlin as we approached the V30’s launch event, and passing along a tree-lined street with the canal off to one side, gave the perfect opportunity to try Romantic Comedy. The look is almost autumnal, with golden brown skies, a haze in the air, and some beautiful lens flare from the sun. The thing is, the V30 and Cine Effect completely changed the atmosphere and feel of the scene. It didn’t look like that in real life. It was a regular street in a bustling city. Thriller mode added another dimension to Berlin’s subway, at once making already dimly lit, graffitied passages more foreboding; but when faced with some bright street art, the colors popped off the screen. A subway station suddenly became an almost hyper-real environment, where anything could happen next.

We recorded without an external microphone, which is likely how most people will use the V30, and the audio has some great moments — the quad microphone setup separates audio into stereo channels very well; but isn’t so good at focusing on its subject. In a noisy room, it recorded everyone speaking around us at the same volume, making the primary voices much less clear.

moto x4 hands on review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Point Zoom is another video feature that has some interesting uses. Activate it, tap an area on the screen, and the phone will track that spot when zooming in and out. An easy to use slide bar is used for zooming, and the speed can be varied. This, along with the auto tracking, gives a really professional look. However, zoom in really close and quality drops drastically.

Anyone with time and talent could really exploit the V30’s ability.

Shooting our short movie was fun. Swapping Cine Effect themes to see how it altered a scene’s look was addictive and genuinely enjoyable, because it really did change the mood of the scene, and as it dynamically adjusts as you move around, you’re rarely left feeling you choose the wrong setting. The V30’s 6-inch,18:9 aspect ratio screen helps here too; because the live video view isn’t covered in distracting settings, theme adjustments, or other buttons. They’re off to the side, so you can see what’s going on, without the need to dig into menus or hide buttons away.

It’s good news on the battery side too. The 3,300mAh battery, combined with the power efficient Snapdragon 835 processor and OLED screen, didn’t drain away in moments. We shot 44 short videos over a few hours, often leaving the camera paused while changing locations, and there was still 76 percent battery life remaining.

While our own video efforts here won’t be eligible for any Oscars, it’s clear that anyone with time and talent could really exploit the V30’s ability, and produce some amazing movies. Not just “home movies” for showing to friends, but pro-quality, engaging, exciting, and enjoyable movies of which they can be proud. The best thing is, the V30 makes the filming process just as enjoyable as watching and re-watching the end result.

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