The iPhone 6′s New Camera Could Forever Change Film-making.....
- By Angela Watercutter 09.10.14
Amidst all the hoopla over the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and their motion processors, faster CPUs, and larger screens, it was also announced that Apple’s latest smartphones would have a much better camera. And while that’s great news for those looking to take less-wack selfies at the bar, the new video features that come along with it mean something else: a high-quality camera filmmakers—and those who aspire to be—can keep in their pockets.
Not that they didn’t have that before. iPhones have been used to make shorts and other types of films before—there are even multiple iPhone film festivals—but what the iPhone 6 offers is what Apple’s Phil Schiller called “technology used by high-end DSLRs” during yesterday’s product announcement. Coupled with the ability to grab 1080p high-definition clips at 60 frames per second, take 240-fps slow-motion shots, provide cinematic video stabilization, and offer up to 128 gigabytes of storage, there’s more than enough oomph in the iPhone 6 for a few takes. It’s the kind of power that could, like other developments in filmmaking technology, give rise to a whole new style of moviemaking.
“The iPhone has been here for a while, but in 2015 I think there’s going to be dozens, hundreds, of movies shot on the iPhone 6. I hope, at least, people find it a useful tool,” says Ricky Fosheim, the director of And Uneasy Lies the Mind, a feature film he made entirely on an iPhone 5 for $15,000 and managed to get into this spring’s South By Southwest Film Festival. (It’s out on VOD this month.)
When Fosheim made his movie about a young movie star whose weekend with friends goes terribly awry, he turned many of the iPhone 5′s bugs into features, using the gritty images it shot to create the look he wanted. He estimates the iPhone 6′s images would be too clean to do the same, but sees its features as a new toolkit for those looking to experiment. “Now, every new model of the iPhone that comes out, it’s getting rid of those imperfections,” he says. “It’s adding video stabilization, it’s increasing resolution, it’s making it less grain-y, and hopefully with the new sensor it’s increasing the dynamic range. But you don’t need to go through elaborate training to use this thing, it’s literally just that you can take it out of your pocket and start filming and you can come up with something amazing.”
So how does one go about making a movie with 15 grand and their new iPhone 6? It’s actually not as hard as you might think. Add-on lenses, like the Olloclip 4-in-1, can be picked up for less than $100. (Nicer 35mm lenses might run a little more.) High-quality audio can be captured with an add-on mike. Filmmaking apps like FiLMiC Pro, which gives the iPhone better zoom and control over frame rates and stereo recording support, only sets filmmakers back $5. Altogether, it might not have the power of a Red Epic Dragon but its output is probably on par with the equipment Kevin Smith used to make his $27,575 film Clerks. And those are just guidelines based on Fosheim’s experience with the iPhone 5; the iPhone 6 opens up even more options.
The foundation the iPhone 6 provides to build the next generation of FiLMiC Pro went beyond “our wildest expectations,” says Neill Barham, founder and CEO of the Cinegenix, the platinum app’s creator. (FiLMiC Pro has been downloaded more than a million times.) He also points to the new phone’s enhanced 240-fps high-speed capability and notes that his app should be able to untether that frame-rate from its slo-mo functionality: “[The] 240 frames-per-second capture speed exceeds the fast capture rate of some famous film cameras, bringing unbelievable expressive power a younger and wider audience than ever before. ”
And, of course, amateur aspiring J.J. Abramses can make something pretty slick with the stock features built into the phone and the iMovie app. Everything you used to need for homemade flicks now lives in one device—something that could be revolutionary for aspiring high-school moviemakers, not to mention documentarians looking to get in and out of hot zones inconspicuously.
For those already on the growing iPhone-is-the-new-film-camera bandwagon, new phones are hotly anticipated—so much so that projects are put on hold until new filmmaking equipment is announced, says Ruben Kazantsev, the co-founder of the iPhone Film Festival. “Our submissions normally slow down around this time and [then] months after a new iPhone comes out we get a burst of new submissions,” Kazantsev says. “Most of our winners are waiting to see what the new iPhone will offer and have started planning their next project around the new iPhone.”
The level of quality now available also lends even more legitimacy to the idea of “iPhone movie,” which at first can feel like a gimmicky, we-did-this-just-to-do-this stunt. But Fosheim, who compared the iPhone’s images to those of a Red Epic MX and a Canon 5D Mark III before deciding he liked Apple’s device best, believes the films that will come via iPhone 6 could be high-quality enough that using the device won’t look or feel like a gimmick—it’ll just be made using the latest in camera tech.
“Some of my favorite movies of all time are like Richard Linklater’s Tape and The Celebration—movies that were shot with mini-DV cameras,” Fosheim says. “You can go watch a standard-definition movie shot on mini-DV back in the ’90s and it holds up, because it’s good storytelling. So right now we’re talking about the iPhone 6 and it’s definitely reached that moment where it’s here to stay.”
It may even see more adaptation from established filmmakers. Director Park Chan-wook, who directed 2003′s Oldboy, made a 30-minute short called Night Fishing (below) in 2011 for $133,000 on an iPhone 4, and even then commented to the Associated Press that the device worked “because it is light and small and because anyone can use it.” (Insert Chase Jarvis’ “the best camera is the one that’s with you” quote here.)
Other directors have proven using the phone is a necessity. As money became tight during the filming of 2012′s buzz documentary Searching for Sugar Man, the filmmakers—who had been shooting their film in Super 8—bought a $1 Super 8 iPhone app and shot scenes with that instead. The film went on to win an Oscar.
What does this all mean? Well, hopefully it could suggest that one day that little bit in movie credits that reads “Filmed with Panavision” will be replaced by “Filmed with iPhone 10.” That may be a few years out, but it’s coming. After that? Prepare for filmmaking from your wrist. “Early indications are we will be able to build our FiLMiC Remote app to work on the Apple Watch and control your iPhone running FiLMiC Pro from a distance, which should come in very handy,” Barham says.
In other words, get ready to go pro.