iPhone X: A Filmmaker’s Perspective

By Nick Clark

 

Last week’s Apple Event provided us with a lot of updates about the company’s plans for the future in retail as well as info on the new Apple TV and Apple Watch. The highlight for many like myself, however, was the news of the iPhone X (read: iPhone 10).

The iPhone X is the beginning of a massive leap forward for the smartphone industry and represents a few amazing opportunities for indie filmmakers.

The first improvement is the ability to record 1080p footage at 240 frames-per-second. Previously, the 240fps function was only available at 720p, so if someone wanted to make a video with slow-mo segments, they’d have to either record it all in 720p or drop the quality during the slow-mo scenes. This makes the ability to shoot 240fps in full HD a much bigger deal than it seems like at first.

On the subject of the camera, the built-in stabilizer from the iPhone 7 plus is being upgrade for the iPhone X: while the 7 plus stabilizes only the wide angle lens, the X will feature a newer version which stabilizes both the wide angle and telephoto lenses. Having the wide angle lens stabilized is great for most shots since, typically, you’ll be relatively close to your subject. Now though, with the telephoto lens’ ability to zoom further without losing quality, stabilizing it will make handheld shooting while zoomed in much easier.

Now comes the big one. The iPhone X boasts some impressive new facial recognition and augmented reality features. The immediate applications for these are Apple’s new FaceID (the successor to TouchID) and some AR games they showed off at their event. These features are impressive but the potential for all those new sensors and all of that new processing power go far beyond gimmicks.

Two of the biggest challenges small-time filmmakers face are finding convincing locations and finding actors. One way around those limitations is to animate the film. I’m sure most of us have seen the amazing things individual animators have done online over the years at one point or another. Unfortunately, we’re not all skilled enough to pull that off–I know I’m not. Now imagine being able to take advantage of a comprehensive motion-capture app that runs on your iPhone. This power to animate characters and capture environments would give a lone filmmaker with nothing but an iPhone and a story to tell the opportunity to fulfill that story. That person could capture movements and facial animations for one, ten, or one hundred characters without even needing to step outside and, perhaps most importantly, without needing to purchase expensive performance capture equipment (the $1319 CAD price tag of the iPhone X pales in comparison, I assure you). I wouldn’t expect the quality to rival that of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes anytime soon, but the opportunities are certainly exciting to think about.

Of course, it will be up to Apple to decide how much access to the iPhone X’s sensors they give to app developers (or if they want to develop their own motion-capture app), but I hope they see the value in pursuing applications like these.

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