This week’s Scary Fast Apple event was significant in mostly expected ways. Apple debuted its new M3 series of chips, launched super-powered new MacBook Pro notebooks, and updated the iMac for the first time since 2021. However, Apple also did something unprecedented: it shot the entire event on the iPhone 15 Pro Max smartphone.
Alongside putting a little message at the end of its event, Apple also shared behind-the-scenes media showing how the event was filmed and produced using iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Some publications, including The Verge, have opted to focus on the fact that Apple shot the event with large, professional lights, gimbals, dollies, cranes, and drones.
Sure, Apple employed professional production equipment, as is to be expected. However, focusing on that part of the story misses the point.
It’s not that Apple uses professional studio equipment as part of its professional video productions, but that Apple swapped in an iPhone 15 Pro Max in place of an extremely expensive and extensive cinema camera system and, quite frankly, practically nobody would have noticed had Apple not brought attention to it themselves as part of its overall iPhone 15 Pro marketing efforts.
Apple did all of this in part to point to its Scary Fast event and say, “Look, we did all of that with an iPhone 15 Pro Max!”
It’s true that Apple also used a lot of expensive lighting and rigging equipment, but what is also true is that it is remarkably impressive that a smartphone can convincingly tag in for a full-fledged cinema camera. Not only can an iPhone 15 Pro be the camera of choice for a professional-grade production but it can do so without sounding any alarm bells.
This video performance also has real-world implications for fledgling visual artists who may not be able to afford the same level of production gear that Apple has but cannot buy an expensive cinema camera.
Not that an iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max is cheap, but in the realm of cinema equipment, a camera that starts at $999 is an insane bargain. Users must also attach a suitably quick external SSD over USB-C to take full advantage of the iPhone 15 Pro’s video performance, including its new 4K/60p ProRes recording, which is an additional cost, but still nowhere close to the bill that would be racked up with a standalone camera and set of lenses.
Users should also use a dedicated camera app, like Blackmagic Design’s new Camera app for iOS, which Apple used to shoot its “Scary Fast” event. The app is free.
Does the fact that Apple used costly lights and gear undercut the achievement that a major commercial event was shot exclusively on iPhone undercut the achievement? I don’t think so, but I also believe that what matters most is not necessarily the event’s creation.
What is seemingly being lost in the shuffle and completely missed by some of Apple’s critics is that while someone may need expensive gear to replicate Apple’s Scary Fast event production perfectly, a creator could use an iPhone 15 Pro smartphone, an external drive, and a free app to capture footage that is high-quality enough to stand up against footage shot with extremely costly, professional-grade equipment that many people cannot afford.
That people watched Apple’s event and didn’t think anything was noticeably different means something. Anyone with an idea, talent, and the latest iPhone can capture cinema-equality video that rivals that, at least in some situations, are captured by systems that cost 10, 20, or even 50 times more.
Can an iPhone do everything that a cinema camera system can? Of course not. But video makers can get very impressive results at an unprecedentedly low cost. The iPhone 15 Pro is not outright replacing cinema cameras across the board but the smartphone is reducing the barrier to entry in a way that no device has before.
Someone with brilliant ideas does not need to wait until they have $25,000 or more burning a hole in their pocket to start creating meaningful, authentic work that can hold its own in a space that has long been reserved for the relatively wealthy.
The more people who have access to the tools they need to create, the more art we get. Democratizing access to high-end filmmaking tools significantly diversifies the stories that can be told. I cannot help but wonder just how many stories have been lost to time because the creator lacked the means to make something.
Make no mistake, creating high-quality video productions is much more complicated than simply powering up an iPhone 15 Pro and tapping “record.” But the quality achievable on the phone has opened a door that has long been closed to many people. This newfound accessibility should be celebrated more than Apple’s large video lights and pricey dollies should be mocked.
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