With the recent release of the iPhone 13 came the usual hype about its camera capabilities. For years, Apple has been marketing itself as offering the regular person the tools to shoot photos and videos like a pro. While the iPhone costs a fraction of a professional camera, does using it in place of a professional camera really mean that your production costs go down?
What’s in the iPhone camera?
The latest iPhones have three camera lenses; wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto. Wide is ideal for regular use, and the ultra-wide lens offers you more space and components to fit into one picture. A telephoto lens is ideal when you want to focus on a close-up of an object. With three lenses available in one device, there is no longer a need to lug around heavy lenses and swap them back and forth.
The iPhone 13 also features cinematic mode, a technique that involves shifting focus from one subject to another to guide the audience’s attention in their movies and sensor-shift optical image stabilisation to offset shakiness and camera blur, time-lapse, and night modes to support shooting in low-light conditions.
Films shot on the iPhone
The tech specs sound impressive enough but Apple has gone a step further by asking professional filmmakers to test the camera’s capabilities. To commemorate this year’s Chinese New Year, Apple collaborated with acclaimed director Lulu Wang, to shoot a short movie, Nian, using only the iPhone Max 12 Pro.
Full Bloom highlights the features of stop motion, where a series of photos are taken in different positions and subsequently strung together to make an animation. The slo-mo feature will slow down your film and give moving objects a ‘dreamlike’ quality.
You need more than an iPhone
The truth is you need more than just an iPhone. In Nian, Wang still used a gimbal to prevent the camera from shaking even though the iPhone comes with a stabiliser feature. The Full Bloom filmmakers conceptualised how to capture the flowers blooming over eight hours by putting them in water and light to allow them to grow overnight, then edited to create a cohesive video.
When using an iPhone, the basics of filmmaking still apply. You have to make a storyboard consisting of each frame to guide you on the shoot. This still requires a professional who has the expertise to do so. Afterwards, you have to think about props, wardrobe and styling, set design, lighting and sound.
What did you pay for that video?
A lower budget doesn’t mean lower quality. When it comes to videos, the final cut doesn’t always reveal the true cost. Check out these videos by Jaguar and Microsoft.
Both are established companies with big marketing budgets. But if you made a guess on which was more expensive, you’d probably pick the Jaguar commercial. Hiring A-list Hollywood stars to go on a wild chase using flashy cars and helicopters surely comes with a much heftier price tag… Right? Wrong! As it turns out, both videos had the same budget of US$8 million.
Microsoft vs Jaguar
When you look at the Jaguar commercial, it’s straightforward. It was storyboarded and filmed the way you saw it — three A-list actors being villains using Jaguar cars and other modes of transport. The commercial appeal is apparent.
Meanwhile, the Microsoft video has lots of different moving footage stitched together to show the various advantages of technology from video conferencing to robotics and AI. Much more thought and precision editing was required to achieve that final snappy look. With so many different cuts and moving parts, it’s likely that any little bit of feedback would have resulted in multiple revisions and edits that increased the production cost.
It just goes to show what truly defines powerful storytelling — not just action-packed flashy aesthetics or star power but making your story stick in the minds of your audience.
The technicalities matter too:
The first stage of any video production is conceptualisation. We like to joke that this thinking process itself is sometimes worth $19,000 alone. And that’s because it’s the seed, and arguably the most crucial step in making a good video.
During this stage, there are many components that you should consider, including equipment, props, crew, talent, and location permits. Also, how many people will be involved? From the director to lighting crew, to sound technicians and on-screen talent — the more people involved, the higher your budget.
After you get all your video assets, the post-production process kicks in. The editor will take the footage and lay it out accordingly, before handing it over to a motion graphics artist. Licensing requirements apply not just to the design software needed (such as Adobe Creative Cloud) but also to the music used in your video. The same goes for images or footage. It’s either you capture it yourself for B-roll needs, or you license stock images from sites such as Getty.
As you can see, it all adds up and the end results can be wildly different.
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