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iPhone 15 Pro Max – shooting ProRes log is not easy…but SO worth it!

It’s taken me some time…but I think I have got it about right!

iPhone 15 Pro Max & the Blackmagic app

Shot on iPhone – sounds so easy, right?

Well if you’ve tried and failed to shoot in ProRes log on your iPhone 15 Pro Max I feel your pain – trust me I’ve been there. So in this story, I will try to tell you everything I’ve come across so far that has helped me finally get good results and later on I’ll tell you how to save some money as well!

I bought my iPhone 15 Pro Max on launch weekend and have loved using it ever since. So in theory I have the same phone that Apple used to create that event – but the reality is, it’s not all that easy.

In the name of art

There are plenty of videos out there that explain how to colour correct, colour grade and use Apple’s ProRes log feature – but the problem is they all assume you have some basic background knowledge – but what if you don’t?

I’ve struggled to get the results I wanted out of the camera – but I was determined to get to the bottom of it and I think I’m finally getting somewhere. I’m far from sitting here saying that I’m some genius who has all the answers – but that’s the point…this story is going to try and help you from the ground up how to start to get decent results for yourself with your iPhone 15 Pro Max camera.

I’ll walk you through all the processes – step-by-step on what you’ll need to do too. I’m going to be mimicking the Apple event to some extent – so I’ll be shooting in a controlled environment. So if you’re thinking of buying an iPhone 15 Pro Max to use in a semi-professional way – say to shoot videos for your socials, promos or even to shoot your YouTube videos on but have little or no previous camera knowledge – then this story should help you.

Hopefully, you’re enjoying this story  -  if you wanted to say ‘thank you’, the best way is simply to clap, highlight and get involved in the comments. And my promise to you…If you get in touch I will answer! So clap, highlight and comment away…

Accesories

So first you’ll probably need to order a few bits to get you going. The first of those and I guess the only essential one is an SSD. As you know Apple made a big deal at the September event of saying how the large chunky ProRes files wouldn’t even touch your iPhone as they could now record directly to an external SSD. I bought a 1TB Samsung T7 drive. It perfectly matches the 10 Gb/s transfer speeds of the USB-C 3 port and means you don’t have to go crazy ordering tons of expensive storage on your iPhone – and well know how Apple loves to charge heavily for storage.

You’ll need some sort of sturdy cage – there are loads out there but I happened to choose one from Neewer. It’s got plenty of extra mounting points and cold-shoe mounts for mics as well if that’s the route you want to eventually take.

One other little accessory I’ve found useful that has made a huge difference is the 40 Gb/s L-shaped USB-C mount. Without it I always found the cable was sticking into the cage meaning you have to mount the phone off-centre in the cage.

Those few bits are all you’d need to start recording…I also bought an Anker hub – it just offers me more options. I can plug that into the iPhone 15 first and then the T7 drive into the hub via the 10 Gb/s port on it. I can also plug a mic into it, a monitor – although I have a better solution for that now – hell you can even hook it up to a hardwire ethernet connection if you wanted – this hub just opens up so many opportunities.

Also and hugely importantly of course you can also run power to your 15 Pro Max with this hub so you won’t run out of juice mid-way through a take. Although it’s not the prettiest rig when it’s all loaded up – it gets the job done.

Time to get to work

So with all the hardware in place next it’s time to grab your iPhone 15 and get to work. You’ll have heard by now that the Blackmagic app is free and just brilliant – spoiler alert..it truly is!

The native camera app is ever so limited in functionality – but with the Blackmagic app you can get in the weeds and start to unlock the full potential of what your iPhone 15 Pro Max has to offer – and that is why Apple chose to use this app when they were shooting their event and not their own app.

So with your drive plugged in open the Blackmagic app up. It can be a little daunting at first if you don’t have much knowledge, but I’m going to try and go through all the settings that I’ve found have worked for me.

Let’s go from left to right across the top of the app. First up is the choice of lens and you’ll want to be using the main 24mm lens to get the best results. Next is the FPS setting – I shoot everything in 24 FPS but the app gives you the option to shoot in 25 or 30, 40, 50 or even 60 P if you want.

Next is the shutter speed which you can set to angle or speed. I’ve got it set and locked to 180 degrees as that way I don’t have to worry about swapping shutter speeds if say I was to switch between 24 or 60 FPS – it’s just one less thing to worry about. The f stop on the 24mm lens can’t be altered so you are stuck with it being at f1.8. Now the ISO – this had me stumped for weeks whether I was using the native app or the Blackmagic app.

Exposed – the iPhone 15 Pro Max sensor…

On my Canon 90D when I’m shooting in the studio, under these lights, I either have it set to auto or around 250. As I have already said, I am no authority so I don’t know why that works…all I can tell it does!

I went for that same setting on the 15 Pro Max as a starting point but the results were shocking – my face was blown out and overexposed. The studio in the background looked okay, but not my face.

I tried playing with the ISO reducing it and also sitting further away from the key light but I still couldn’t get the results I wanted. Then I stumbled across the answer – I needed to massively turn down the key light and all the lights. To give you an idea, when I’m shooting with my Canon the light is fully turned up to 100% but to get a decent result on the iPhone it’s cranked down to 30% or 35%. I also reduced the fill & hair lights as well and then with the ISO on the iPhone set to about 160 – suddenly I was getting somewhere.

I use a white card at the start of every recording session but all you need is a bit of white paper – it just gives you a decent reference point. I leave the White Balance in the app locked on Auto and never touch the tint balance. I always have the grids turned on with the centre point and that is pretty much it.

Eureka!

But there was one huge eureka moment that I found – as I keep saying I am no expert just a guy determined to find answers…

I stumbled across display LUTs. I had no idea what they were – I’m used to them in post but not on the camera – and they are such a huge help. In the app go to settings > LUTs and toggle on Display LUT. Suddenly what you see on the iPhone 15 Pro Max screen is pretty much what you’ll see in post when you’re editing. I’m not experienced enough to mentally convert what I’m seeing in log on the screen to the finished project – so the display LUT is a massive win.

I mentioned I was going to save you some money as well…

Well, when I was playing around over the past couple of months trying to find a decent conversion LUT for Apple log – and I’ve spent a decent amount of money buying packs and just couldn’t get the look I was after.

But in the LUTs setting in the app go to LUT selection. At the bottom you’ll see you can export which I did via AirDrop to my Mac – and it’s by far the best result I’ve found – just use the free Blackmagic Apple Log to Rec 709 colour correction LUT – it just works. I record in the Apple ProRes 422 HQ CODEC in 4K of course – and those are the settings I’ve been using.

Lastly – monitoring. Originally I mounted a monitor on top of the cage in one of the cold shoe mounts, but a far better solution was to mirror it back to a Mac and monitor it on there.

Liar, liar!

As for the elephant in the room – the fact Apple had over $100,000 worth of kit and a huge crew around them and then say shot on iPhone.

Some have said that just doesn’t seem fair or right – but I just don’t get it. That same rig and set and the same crew would have been there if they had been shooting on their normal cinema cameras – but in fairness to them all they did was swap the glass – they just popped an iPhone 15 Pro Max into the place where an expensive cinema camera would normally sit.

They didn’t bolt on any third-party lenses or use ND filters so for my money they honestly did shoot on an iPhone. What it proved more than anything to me though, having tried to shoot in ProRes log on the 15 Pro Max was that so much of the skill is the team behind the camera – the camera crew, lighting technicians and colourists in post – these are the unsung heroes.

Worth it?

I’m not gonna lie – it does take some faffing about to get good results – I’ve certainly not found it to be a plug-and-play situation.

The Blackmagic app does help but again you need some patience. I can’t be alone in having found it a struggle to get good results. That Apple event really caught my imagination – I could see what was possible so it threw down the gauntlet.

Obviously, the assembled talent that Apple had hired would know and understand what settings would work as if it were second nature. But we don’t all have access to that knowledge set!

It’s taken me some time to get the best out of the Blackmagic app and the 24mm lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max – but it’s been so worth it. I now trust it so much that I’m actually shooting this week’s main video with it. It Amy not have quite as much depth of field or background blur as the Canon – but I think it wins in other areas. The colour and more importantly the depth of colour and clarity are just amazing.

Long term will I ditch my Canon 90D for the iPhone 15 Pro Max? Who knows – but all I can tell you is that I have finally started to unlock its potential – and that excites me!

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