iPhone 15 Pro Max for making films? 5 aspiring Bollywood filmmakers share their experiences

Apple CEO Tim Cook while introducing the iPhone 15 Pro Max last year had mentioned that the cameras are meant for professional filmmaking. In fact, Apple did shoot one of its launch events with the iPhone 15 Pro series. Now, five filmmakers took up this challenge and actually filmed five short films using the iPhone 15 Pro Max. These short films are available for free on MAMI YouTube channel and if you happen to watch them then you may start believing that in the right hands, it is not about the megapixels but about the perspective and art of storytelling.

The five filmmakers — Saurav Rai, Archana Atul Phadke, Faraz Ali, Saumyananda Sahi, and Prateek Vats — under the mentorship of industry icons like Vishal Bhardwaj, Vikramaditya Motwane and Rohan Sippy released five short films named ‘Crossing Borders’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Óbur’, ‘A New Life’ and ‘Jal Tu Jalaal Tu’ respectively using the iPhone 15 Pro Max and MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip.

The filmmakers were selected by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) to create short films for the 2024 MAMI Select — Filmed on iPhone initiative.

Vishal Bhardwaj, the iconic director who shot his film Fursat on iPhone 14 Pro — believes that filming with a nontraditional camera can be liberating. “You don’t need to restrain yourself with the shots, depth, or colours you capture… If you go all out with your vision, the results will surprise you,” he said.

“iPhone is a real boon for filmmakers. It gives everybody a chance to shoot great things,” mentioned Vikramaditya Motwane.

While the results of using an iPhone to shoot a film are out there on YouTube for everyone to see, what’s interesting is that each of the five filmmakers had a different take on what they felt when filming on an iPhone.

Using ProRes to get it right

Prateek Vats on filming ‘Jal Tu Jalaal Tu‘ using the iPhone 15 Pro Max mentioned that he shot the film in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which harks back to box television sets from the ’90s. By using the 24 mm Main camera of iPhone 15 Pro Max, he frames character portraits that allow the audience to see them through his eyes. He used the iPhone’s ProRes Log recording capabilities by precisely tuning specific areas in terms of exposure and colour.

The short film he co-directed with Shubham is inspired by Anton Chekhov’s short story The Death of a Government Clerk. Titled Jal Tu Jalal Tu (You Are Water, You Are the All-Powerful), it captures the anxiety of a factory worker who accidentally offends his employer. The film delves into power dynamics and social hierarchies in a blue-collar environment.

Using Cinematic Mode for storytelling

“We shoot on iPhone 15 Pro Max and then send it for colour correction… No fuss, no gimmicks,” said Saurav Rai, the maker of ‘Crossing Borders’. The short film narrates the story of a woman who smuggled goods, like saris and umbrellas, across the Indo-Nepalese border to make ends meet.

“Having used Apple products for a long time… the iPhone 15 Pro Max is made for filmmakers. Cinematic mode keeps his richly developed characters in sharp focus while blurring the foreground or background. “Shooting like this gives you a beautiful depth of field that you can control either in post or on the iPhone itself,” explained Rai.

Getting the right mix of 24 mm to 120 mm shots

Archana Atul Phadke, for her short film named ‘Mirage’, preferred long shots as a notable way of storytelling. The film focuses on a young boy who spends all his time on his iPhone, only to lose it — and himself — in the desert. To juxtapose the vast landscape against the fledgling protagonist, Phadke used the native cameras of iPhone 15 Pro Max to compress and decompress storytelling.

“With the default 24 mm Main camera, I explore wide shots in the beginning. Towards the end, the 120 mm Telephoto camera — which gives amazing depth — makes the boy’s world smaller and smaller,” explained Phadke.

Using Voice Memo App for audio

Filmmaker Faraz Ali’s Óbur (Cloud) is a tragicomedy that follows a teenage boy who loses the memories of his ailing mother. The memories were on his iPhone, which he pawns off to a pharmacist in exchange for his mother’s medical aid.

“Colour can tip the scale towards tragedy or comedy,” he explained. “ProRes video with Log encoding gives my grading artist and I the raw materials we need to find that delicate balance.”

For this film, Ali recorded ambient sounds on iPhone 15 Pro Max using the Voice Memos app and an external mic. On Mac, he also uses Final Draft to work on his scripts, as well as Adobe Photoshop to colour grade stills during pre-production.

Getting the rig right

Saumyananda Sahi’s film ‘A New Life‘ follows a migrant factory worker who leaves behind his pregnant wife in search of better job opportunities. Shot in Kolkata and Bengaluru, it examines tropes of fatherhood and long-distance relationships.

Cinematographer Runal Hattimattur used a small rig cage on a tripod with iPhone 15 Pro Max for the film.

“We’re shooting the video calls in real time, and the iPhone is a part of the performances. That kind of storytelling is only possible here… I can peg exposure or shoot Log like I usually do on an Arri Alexa cinema camera,” he explained.

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