Videography For Dummies

Tim Cook on set at Apple Park. Image courtesy of Apple.

I wasn’t going to say anything about the “Shot on iPhone” tag at the end of the Apple event yesterday on this blog. There’s nothing to really write about that isn’t covered by Apple’s own words. I made my snarky Apple Event jokes, like they should have shot it on a MacBook’s 1080p FaceTime camera, but that isn’t a complaint about using iPhones to shoot things, and I didn’t think there was anything to say.

Was I ever wrong!

The most popular post on The Verge, two days after the event, is a post insinuating that that Apple isn’t being genuine when it shared their behind the scenes images and videos of the event. The writer seemed to think they caught Apple:

It’s a neat way to promote the recording quality of iPhone cameras, but it’s not like everyday folks can recreate these kinds of results at home unless they happen to own a shedload of ludicrously expensive equipment. The gear shown in the “Scary Fast” behind-the-scenes footage is fairly standard for big studio productions, but Apple’s implication with these so-called “shot on iPhone” promotions is that anyone can do it if only they buy the newest iPhone.

If Apple said that the video was shot on an Alexa Mini at the end of the video, or a Sony FX-3, would the writer’s criticism be the same? I’d hazard to say no, it wouldn’t be. That the iPhone can be inserted into the same production workflow Apple would otherwise use for this event is absolutely a normal thing to laud.

Sure, there’s more to post production that I would love to find out about from Apple, but it’s the same as any of their other polished Apple Event videos. They didn’t deepfake Tim Cook and say the iPhone 15 Pro shot that.

People think lights and crews are cheating? Because there’s VFX in places, editing, color-timing? Of course there is? This is a commercial video. It’s not a benchmark of what you, a total novice, can shoot in your backyard. It’s a camera in lieu of another camera. It is not replacing the entire production pipeline of shooting video.

As my friend Todd Vaziri said:

Some people see “Shot on iPhone” and people think it’s just some bumblefuck named Frank standing there all by himself holding the iPhone with his hand and shouting “action!”

In a way this seems so bizarrely evident, that it needs no explanation.

For the sake of well-meaning people, that may have missed the iPhone 15 Pro’s log support, and external video recording, check out what Stu Maschwitz had to say about it after the iPhone 15 Pro was released:

His video completely explains log, and what it’s used for. I assume people check out his stuff? I don’t know why I need to repeat it, which is why I don’t write about it. You follow Stu, right?

The ability to record to external media is why they can shoot for a significant amount of time, because media is huge. You don’t shoot your home movies that way. That’s not for the bad videos of concerts you upload to Instagram. It is, however, not a trick Apple has pulled on you.

Just to be extremely clear: The iPhone footage is still going to have the sensor and lens properties of an iPhone, so if someone wants a certain look, they might want to consider other options that have a flexible array of lenses. Again, not a trick, it’s literally all right there in your hands. That if you needed to “run and gun” in low light without the ability to set up lights, you’d want something with better low light sensitivity. If you wanted dreamy out of focus backgrounds, you’d want a big sensor and big glass. The iPhone won’t replace IMAX, etc.

That’s not up to Apple to make the iPhone 15 Pro serve every situation and every need. Confusing Apple shooting this event on the iPhone with theoretical scenarios not depicted in the video is unhelpful.

This whole kerfuffle is similar to something from only a couple months ago, where people got all worked up about The Creator being shot on the Sony FX-3. The camera, in and of itself, didn’t shoot that movie. The workflows enabled by having a smaller camera, were complemented by the nimble, resourceful team shooting the project. If someone ran out and bought a FX-3 they wouldn’t have The Creator any more than running out and buying an iPhone 15 Pro means you’re going to make an Apple video presentation by yourself.

It should, however, encourage people to think resourcefully about tools at their disposal, and the iPhone 15 Pro is another tool to consider, and potentially reject, based on your specific production needs, along with all other cameras. This is why people do camera tests, for crying out loud.

If you’re not someone creatively inclined to care about any of this, then I invite you to stop arguing on the internet about it like it’s an abstract, unknowable concept, or root for various sides like sports teams.

2023-11-01 12:00:00

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