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Shot on iPhone 15 Pro Max – REALLY!

And still the story rumbles on

Shot on iPhone 15 Pro Max

It wasn’t even an iPhone event! Scary Fast was a pure Mac event, yet somehow the iPhone has become the star of the show.

I watched the event live through to the final pan-up as Tim Cook said his farewells and that is where the bomb was dropped – shot on iPhone. It was 12.30 am in the UK and I was just about to get up and go to bed. Initially, I thought I’d misread it – had I really just been watching a Hollywood-quality mini-movie shot on the phone that I’m lucky enough to have as part of my everyday carry?

When I woke up a few hours later, Twitter was buzzing about the fact we had just witnessed the almost impossible. My feed was full of ‘WTF’ kind of comments. Some folks were in awe, some were sceptical and others, myself included just stunned.

I’d always thought Apple should highlight just how good their cameras were by including some kind of footage in an event – of course, Apple being Apple they decided to go the whole 9 yards and shoot the whole damned thing on it!

Nothing like proving your point I guess!

iPhone 15 Pro – changing the rules

Oddly, I guess we can thank the EU for all this chatter about the shot on iPhone controversy. Had it not been for their intervention and insisting on USB-C coming to phones and tablets, then I dare say Apple would have carried on peddling out iPhones with that bloody awful lightning connector on them.

Until we got the quick USB-C connector on iPhones their camera was always going to effectively have one hand tied behind its back. It was all well and good being able to shoot in ProRes – it’s just you couldn’t ever get a file of more than a minute or two from the phone, so crippled was it by awful connectivity.

Having bought the 15 Pro Max I can honestly say that everything you’ve heard about the video, cameras & connector are true. It is by far the best phone I have ever owned, but getting those great results is not quite as easy as you may think.

If using your iPhone in a similar way to the way that Apple did in their last event is of interest to you – then hopefully today’s story will help you. Later on, I’ll let you into some of the tweaks and features that I’ve found that I think are getting me nearer to iPhone video nirvana – but first, let me just weigh in with my thoughts as to whether Apple was somehow ingenious with labelling the event as shot on iPhone.

Shot on iPhone

You must have heard the term lights, camera, action – it’s a phrase that kind of speaks for itself.

Before ever reaching for a camera your lighting has to be good – that’s a given. So for those people who seem to think that for the event strap-line to have been upheld, it should have been shot with some guy’s hand holding an iPhone, I simply say…REALLY!

Like all Apple events, this event demands that a full crew be on hand – if you’ve seen some of the BTS shots, then you’ll have seen the 50 or 60 crew, the dollies, rigs and the numerous SkyPanels – the ones I saw on set cost around $6000 each. But you know what, I don’t have a problem with that in the slightest.

When I watch an Apple Original series on Apple TV I expect to see top-quality lighting and production. The same goes for when I sit down to watch one of their events. We don’t get to see behind the lens that often, but I can tell you that even for my videos, the amount of kit you have around you is ridiculous.

But the point that these doubters are overlooking is that at the very centre of all that rigging – that would’ve been there anyway was an iPhone. They’ve used all the same gear but swapped out the glass – the camera at the heart of it all was an iPhone. They didn’t dupe us – there were no third-party lenses attached or ND filters – it was a straight iPhone 15 Pro Max – exactly the same as the ones you and I have in our pockets.

Game changing

When you look back with hindsight and pixel peep there are a few very minor pointers that give the game away that the event wasn’t shot on one of their normal go-to Arri cinema cameras – number one of which was there was no or little depth of field.

The main 24mm lens they shot this on is fixed at ƒ1.8 and offers very little blur or depth of field – but equally, this is a £1000 iPhone which is now trading punches with DSLR cameras.

I don’t pretend to know that much about cinematography or cameras – I’ve only recently found a passion for it and I’m loving finding out about it. So with all the brouhaha that’s been created over what Apple managed to achieve with an iPhone, it’s been like an open sesame for me – there has been so much information out there for me to suck up – and I’ll be sharing what I’ve picked up so far with you in a bit.

But knowing as little as I do about photography I listen and learn from the best. For me to go and buy a £5000 camera would just be an act of stupidity – as we saw at the Apple event, it’s the skill of the people working the camera that makes it look the way it did. And if those same experts are saying this is possibly the camera of the year – I’m willing to listen.

Easy does it

Well actually it’s proving far from easy to get the look I want – and I’m writing this partly to help you along the way and also throwing it out there if you have any ideas that may help.

I started off using the native Apple camera app that ships with the iPhone but realised it is pretty limited. That said, it’s a decent starting point and because there are so few functions you can meddle with the results were not too bad.

But as of writing this Apple still hasn’t released an official log – REC 709 colour correction LUT which is a little surprising. I think Logic has an Apple correction profile, but Premiere certainly doesn’t – I’d have thought it would’ve been an obvious thing for Apple to make available.

If you’ve seen log footage then you’ll know it’s flat & grey looking and the first thing you have to do is bring it back to a workable colour space – with REC 709 seemingly being the most widely recognised workspace.

You see how much that event has screwed with my mind. I have a perfectly good Canon 90D which gives me great results, but I kinda know that locked within the iPhone there could be even better results. I’ve seen the event, so I know it’s achievable!

I’m a tenacious sod and I just don’t want to be beaten…

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…

Time for some Blackmagic

Recently I heard that many iPhone 15 Pro Max users were switching to the free Blackmagic app.

Having popped it on my phone I’m still having problems – but I am making progress. This app is very similar to how FilmicPro used to look and gives you back full control of the camera.

It firstly shows you what camera you’re using – with the 24mm lens being the best one you want to choose. You then get to select your FPS and it’s ever so granular – 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 and 30 FPS all possible choices – I’ve left it at 24 FPS as that is how I shoot on the Canon.

You can set the shutter to angle or speed – so for me that would be 48 although I currently have it set to 180 degrees as that is the angle that our eyes view at. You’ll see that the lens is a ƒ1.8 lens – although that is fixed and you can’t alter it.

The last couple of settings that the Blackmagic app gives you are the ISO settings and the white balance. I wish I had more knowledge than I do – but if you are starting on this journey here’s what I’ve found so far.

Go lightly

As with most incremental changes it pays handsomely to go easy. There’s an auto setting for white balance which goes hand in glove with the tint setting. I’ve tried manually altering the white balance but I think it’s probably safer for the time being I leave it in auto.

There is a peak meter on the screen, and I’ve been trying to understand where the peaks should sit – so if you can throw any light (bad pun – I’m sorry) on that, I’d appreciate it.

It seems that the iPhone shutter is very sensitive to light. In the studio, I have my key light at 100% normally and the Canon gives great results – but the iPhone is always heavily overexposed. I’ve dimmed the key light back to about 30% and that has helped.

My face still seems either ever so blown out or red and for now, I have no answers. Sure when it’s blown out I know there was too much light but why it has such a magenta cast I don’t know – I promise you though I will get to the bottom of it.

My revelation today was that I found out you can load LUTS into the Blackmagic app – I did tell you I was learning as I was going along. And having spent a good few quid on buying lots and film emulation packs I then found that the best REC 709 one I’ve found is pre-loaded and free with this app!

I had been shooting in log on screen which makes it super hard or impossible to tell what you are capturing. But if you go to Settings > LUTS > display LUT suddenly you are seeing on screen what you should get as the result! It felt like a eureka moment earlier today. I have also exported that LUT to my Mac so I can load it up when I’m editing. There is an option to record the LUT to the clip, but I’m guessing that’s not the best of ideas. The very idea of shooting in log is to have as much flexibility as possible in the edit.

I won’t be beaten

Yes – I have a Canon, I love it and gives amazing results – but the trouble is that I know there are great results somewhere deep within this iPhone 15 Pro Max.

I’ve seen how good they can be and I will teach myself to unlock the good stuff. When I finally crack it, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Damn that Scary Fast event – apart from costing me an iMac it has got me wanting to learn more – and fast. One thing this has confirmed though is that as much as the event was shot on iPhone – the team that shot and edited were super-talented!

Watch this space…shot on iPhone will be a tag on one of my videos soon enough!

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