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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Filming process of Apple’s ‘Scary Fast’ event: Big-budget production shot on iPhone 15 Pro Max and edited on iMac

A full-size video crane has also been used with a complex gimbal head but the camera is that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max

Mathures Paul Published 02.11.23, 05:33 AM
‘Scary Fast’, shot by award-winning documentary filmmaker Brian Oakes, unveiled the all-new MacBook Pro with the M3 family of chips and iMac with M3.  

‘Scary Fast’, shot by award-winning documentary filmmaker Brian Oakes, unveiled the all-new MacBook Pro with the M3 family of chips and iMac with M3.   Pictures: Apple

Something unique happened at Apple’s recent ‘Scary Fast’ event where the M3 chip made its debut and so did new MacBook Pros and a new iMac. At the end of the broadcast, there were these words: ‘Shot on iPhone and edited on Mac.’ You read that right: The big-budget production was shot using the latest iPhones. And Apple makes it clear: “All presenters, locations and drone footage shot on iPhone 15 Pro Max.”

The first hero shot is that of Apple CEO Tim Cook walking out of the building in Apple Park in Cupertino. The shot is meant to highlight the low-light performance of the iPhone. Yes, the company has used SkyPanels but that had to be done for a top-notch production meant to be seen globally.

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A full-size video crane has also been used with a complex gimbal head but the camera is that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Apple has used a Beastgrip to hold the phone, so that shots are extremely steady. If you look closely at the back of the crane, there is a battery to ensure the iPhone is always juiced up. There are some antennas too on the rig, which probably helps to transmit to multiple monitors.

Both the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max offer the best quality video in a smartphone, and the new USB-C connector enables pro workflows never before possible on the iPhone. The addition of the USB-C port to the phone is for a reason and that goes far beyond demands made by the European Union.

Tim Cook on set for ‘Scary Fast’ at Apple Park.

Tim Cook on set for ‘Scary Fast’ at Apple Park.

The Pro models can now shoot high quality 4K Apple ProRes videos in Log colour profile for amazing-looking footage. Let’s dive into this. ProRes is a video codec, created by Apple in 2007, that has been adopted by video and cinema professionals. ProRes files capture more data when shooting and the results are far superior than what you would usually get from any phone.

Log in to ProRes Log

Log stands for ‘logarithmic’ and this is a colour profile found on some professional video cameras. When you film in Log, the footage maintains image information in the highlights and shadows, giving editors for more flexibility in post-production. iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are the first smartphones in the world to support the Academy Colour Encoding System (ACES).

The problem is, when you film in ProRes Log, the footage takes up a lot of space. This is where USB-C comes in. If you connect an external drive to the iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max, the footage will be stored to that and not your phone.

With the new phones, creatives can capture ProRes video up to 4K 60fps directly to an external drive allowing for longer recording times and transfer speeds see a huge boost, now up to 20x faster up to 10GBps with a compatible USB 3 cable.

What else did Apple use? Filming the keynote with multiple iPhone 15 Pro Max devices, the team utilised Blackmagic Camera, an iOS exclusive app, and Beastgrip accessories. The production has been edited on the Mac.

“We were able to get the same complex shots with iPhone 15 Pro Max. It’s amazing to see that the quality from a device that is so small and so portable can rival a large $20,000 camera,” said director Brian Oakes, who shot Apple’s ‘Scary Fast’. “There’s cranes, there’s dollies, there’s all the toys that you want as a filmmaker, and everybody’s moving and has their job to do, and it’s just a very exciting and lively environment. “iPhone is great new tool in the palette of filmmakers. Seeing it different is doing injustice to any of the other mediums that people bleed for as filmmakers. Everything is there to be an extension of someone’s vision or personality. The image quality of iPhone definitely democratises the access.”

The camera app is currently the best app for filmmakers. The slate functionality seems to have been used. The app recently got support for Bluetooth accessories, like Nucleus Nano focus system. So you can wirelessly connect and then pull focus from your iPhone smoothly.

“When I first got the footage from iPhone 15 Pro Max, I was immediately pleasantly surprised. The quality of the image on iPhone 15 Pro Max is incredible, and it’s there. And I know because I’ve done it and I’ve seen it, and we’re doing this project with it,” said colourist Stefan Sonnenfeld. “I think what I love about the iPhone is it enables everybody who uses it to have access to incredible amounts of information, and with a really intuitive operating system, so that whether it’s myself or my seven-year-old, anybody can pick it up and pretty much use it right away.”

What does it mean for young filmmakers? Early on, the iPhone made many take to photography seriously. The same is happening again and this time it’s for anybody wanting to make videos. “I think what’s beautiful about this phone is the opportunity for so many people to be able to use it to make the films that they’ve been dreaming of making. You know, it opens it up to up-and-coming filmmakers, people who are just getting started, but it’s also super pro enough that a professional filmmaker on a movie set or a TV show could use it and could make something beautiful. And people wouldn’t even realise that it was shot on a phone,” said Elizabeth Orson, lead editor.

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