The first app I launched on my freshly unpacked iPhone 6 was the Camera. Apple showed breathtaking videos at the announcement of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Steady recording while biking, 240 frames per second at 720p, 60 frames per second at 1080p Full HD? Demonstrating these features is easy, but how do they perform in practice? Soon enough, it turned out, that Apple didn’t fool us, the new devices are indeed capable of recording ridiculously good footage. After taking a couple of test shots, I immediately decided that it was time to make some advanced content that shows how much the camera of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is really capable of.
I’ve been wanting to make a video of Budapest for years, since this is one of the most beautiful citites in Europe. I felt that the video functionality of the iPhone 6 was good enough to capture the most gorgeous places of the city, so it was time to make my plans a reality.
Have a seat, put on headphones, turn up the volume a little bit and look at the sights of Budapest in under 4 minutes. Don’t forget to turn on the HD setting!
Initially, we only wanted the video to last 3 minutes, but ultimately we would have had to throw away so much great footage, that we decided to extend our plans by 1 minute. We hope that last 1 minute was suitable and it didn’t make watching it boring.
Perhaps many of you think that we must have used a ton of special equipment. Well, not at all. The 1080p 60 fps shots were all taken by hand with the stock Camera application. We did not use any monopods, nor GlideCams, nor any camera stands. Thanks to the feature called Cinematic Stabilisation, we managed to make footage so steady, that we could even slow them down or speed them up. We didn’t even had to use the stabilization feature in Final Cut X during editing, we only resorted to some software help to reduce the rolling shutter in a few clips. Of course, a steady hand is still valuable, nevertheless, the stabilization of the iPhone 6 helps tremendously.
You can find many amazing buildings in Budapest, we captured most of these from my BMW Z4, while going from one location to another, with the roof removed, simply holding the iPhones in our hands. Viktor, a friend with whom I worked on the video, jokingly noted:
I’ve shot many films in my life with all types of equipment, but so far this is the most expensive and coolest camera slider I have worked with. These will be our $49 000 dolly shots. :) Still, it is incredible that you can take shots this good and steady from a shaking vehicle. Amazing.
Timelapse clips are obviously a must in a video about a city. For this purpose, I bought a tiny Gorillapod for under $40. With this small and flexible stand usually put on the ground or mounted on a traffic sign, we recorded the lights of the city or the rhythm of transport for as long as one full hour at times.
It was only for shooting timelapse clips that we used special equipment, a rail that automatically moves the camera very slowly. This is the only thing that an average user might not want to take with them to shoot a holiday video, but the rest that you can see in the film is doable by anyone. Naturally, it is best if you have some experience and creativity to edit the video.
It was also for the timelapse clips that we used a third party application. The stock Camera application in iOS 8 is perfect for daylight capture, but when shooting at night, we wanted to have longer exposure to blur the lights. The application we used is simply called Timelapse, and it is available in the App Store for $4.99, next to it’s free version.
The best camera?
Many of you might ask, why is it worth making a video like this with an iPhone 6, when DSLR cameras are also capable of shooting video? That is a question worth asking, and although DSLR cameras or professional video cameras have many advantages, during shooting we realized that working with iPhones have many upsides, too.
First of all: The best camera there is, is the one you have with you. And, as a matter of fact, we always have our iPhones with us. Secondly, the screen. Although it is not very comfortable to use a 4.7 or a 5.5 inch screen with one hand, we must admit that during shooting, the big screen does a great favour. It just makes composition and focus adjustment so easy, let alone reviewing shots on site. It was also quite an advantage that we did not have to carry multiple weighty lenses and the DSLR body all day long, we just put the iPhones in our pockets and that was it. In exchange, we had to work with fixed field of view, but there are a few tricks that will help make up for that limitation. If you want to have a wider shot, you can make a timelapse recording, and if you want it narrower, you should use the video mode. For even narrower shots, just take another hundred steps. Finally, let’s not forget about the 240 frame per second capture capability of the iPhone 6, which is not a very common feature among cameras at this point.
iPhone 6 or 6 Plus?
It is a common misbelief that the optical stabilization of the iPhone 6 Plus makes a big difference in video when compared to the iPhone 6, but this is not the case. We shot the Budapest video switching between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and we could not put our fingers on any difference between the two devices during editing. The iPhone 6 is just as good for shooting video as the 6 Plus, since the optical stabilization is not activated while recording video, only when taking still pictures. In fact, even for photography, it only helps a little when shooting in low light conditions. (All the photos in this article were taken with an iPhone 6.) When shooting video, the feature called Cinematic Stabilization is activated, which is built in the iPhone 6 as well. Honestly, we only used the two devices because this way we could record double the footage in the given time, from two different perspectives.
The iPhone 6 Plus had one major advantage in terms of video capture, and that was the battery life. It can record roughly twice as much with one charge as the iPhone 6.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus only have 8-megapixel sensors, but their picture quality is still impeccable. Despite shooting usually in late-afternoon hours, because then the lights are softer and the shadows longer, the image sensors performed extremely well. It may sound surprising, but this is partially due to the fact that they only hold 8 megapixels, since the more pixels there are on a sensor, the more noise there is on the footage, because smaller pixels take less light than bigger ones.
To tell the truth, we were unsure if we will have usable night-time shots at all, but we had a pleasant surprise about the low-light performance of the iPhone 6 image sensor. Next to Cinematic stabilization, the other big feature is the new focus system. Surely, everybody has seen videos recorded with previous phones that shows sluggish changes of focus when switching from closer to a more distant subject. This bad effect is almost completely gone thanks to the new focus system called Focus Pixel.
Here is a little extra werk footage to show how the film was made. By the way, it turned out, the wheel clamp was totally justified. Don’t get confused by the quality of the werk video as we have used a lot of iPhone 5s footage here, which are considerably lower-quality than those captured with the iPhone 6.
Finally, here are a few interesting data about the video. When the idea came to me, that we should shoot a video about Budapest, I thought that a couple days of filming would be sufficient to record all the footage in all the locations. I was wrong. By the time we had finished filming, we were already 14 days into shooting. Being October, the moody weather was not helping, either, several times we went to a location after a whole day of sunny weather just to see the enormous clouds or rain turn up right before sunset.
According to the data retrieved from the M8 processor of the iPhones used to shoot the video, we walked more than 60 kilometres, 4-5 kilometres a day on average. The M8 processor also measures change in elevation, according to it we climbed more than 100 floors.
We recorded 1100 clips. The final 4-minute video was edited from 6 hours of footage, which made our Final Cut X project ultimately 110 GB big. Editing the video took another 80 hours.