Two San Francisco-based filmmakers set out to document some of their favorite American cities from the sky. While the pair was accustomed to working with all sorts of professional cameras ranging from the Panasonic GH4 up to a Red cinema camera, this project would be shot entirely on a much more consumer-focused device: an iPhone 6S.
The film, titled Flying into Dusk, features gorgeous views of the picturesque cityscapes of San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston. Many shots, especially one particularly nice flyover of the Golden Gate Bridge, look like they were pulled right out of a Hollywood production. Of course, while the camera may have been basic, the technique was still advanced.
Shooting at golden hour and into the night, the filmmakers took advantage of the most interesting light, both from the low sun and the lights of the cities themselves. The iPhone was also loaded with the FiLMiC Pro app, which provides full manual exposure control and data rates up to 100 megabits per second, on par with many advanced mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
In writing for Resource Magazine, filmmaker Jaron Shneider said they were impressed with the capabilities of the app and phone. “We have to applaud Apple here, because the quality of the video footage out of these iPhones is downright amazing. We were getting as good or better quality from the iPhone as what we had been shooting on for the past year, the Panasonic GH4.”
The phone was also augmented by the Ikan Fly-X3 handheld gimbal, which provided very smooth shots without the jitteriness so often associated with handheld phone videos. And while shooting on the iPhone certainly kept costs down, the film likely had a larger budget than most iPhone owners have access to, as, you know, honest-to-goodness helicopters were involved.
Still, the end result is simply impressive. Shot in 4K, it rivals the quality of many other aerial videos we’ve seen that were produced with cameras costing much, much more. While the discerning eye will notice a few blown highlights and noisy shadows in some of the night shots, it would be hard for anyone to not be impressed by the fact that the entire thing was shot on a phone. Knowing that a device small enough to fit in a pocket has this much creative capability is nothing short of mind-boggling.