Integrated Agency Blog

If You Can Do Something, Should You?

As a promotional stunt, Apple showed how an entire movie can be shot on an iPhone. Although, if you can do something, should you? (Don’t forget to reference the * on these productions, you will see that they cheated, and it’s impossible for you to accomplish the same with just your phone. Although, if you read the fine print, they were honest about it.)

See sample of iPhone shot spot

The Cinematographer’s Perspective

When it comes to creating video and imagery that emphasizes the emotion of an event, being in the right place at the right time is a skill in and of itself, but knowing which lens, temperature, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, frame rate, angle, and filter to capture the widest sets of emotions possible can greatly impact the results. Within professional publishing, it’s key to have the ability to publish many pieces, in many formats, for many types of stakeholders from that one video capture experience. This allows professional video capture teams to elicit and evoke a wide range of responses from many types of viewers by leveraging the work through multiple downline uses within the buying cycle, including different downline formats and multiple channels for that same video capture.

Many consumer and “prosumer” cameras limit and make it difficult to emphasize or adjust the finer points of emotional capture. The lack of flexibility within the settings causes a very inefficient and constraining workflow that ultimately compromises the ability to capture the multifaceted imagery needed or intended from a single shoot. By creating a workflow using appropriate cameras for the capture scenario and right-sized equipment for the job at hand, it will exponentially increase the quality, variety, and quantity of usable content. At the end of the day, professional publishers need equipment, methods, and talents that will provide the ability to capture what was intend with as much flexibility as possible.

Large or active events also require more crew. Since there’s a lot of activity happening all at once, it’s nearly impossible for one operator to capture a diverse amount of footage without staging fake shots and/or missing 90 percent of capturable moments. In order to be efficient, it’s important to have more operators, a qualified art director, and a crew-based production pro on set to help capture those precious moments with authenticity and flexibly. Sometimes the best moments of events all happen within a 10-minute timespan, and it’s important to be prepared for that.

The Editor’s Perspective

High production value standards begin with proper planning, choice of equipment, and experienced crew. During onsite pre-production, scouting the most suitable areas for the best lighting and sound are essential to ensure smooth, well-planned video capture. On set, skilled camera operators know where to find and compose the best shot for dynamic imagery using modern production tools. Shooting with professional cameras (4K or better) helps produce quality footage at the highest resolution with multiple frame rates for slow motion, etc.

The right equipment and the right talented pros, once combined, improve the post-production workflow to enhance and expand the storytelling aspects and possibilities within editing. This also provides the foundation for achieving a cinematic aesthetic. And most importantly, it assures your teams are walking away with enough high-quality points of view to empower sustainable and cost-effective marketing. Today, we must produce image capture for subsequent purposing in all channels and to all targeted stakeholders from that single shoot. When video is captured with the right type of professional equipment, marketers are getting a two for one because they can leverage the footage into subsequent purposing. In addition, high quality still imagery can be extracted from the higher quality video files of professional cameras, thus often eliminating the need for still photography shoots.

The Video Production Manager’s Perspective

When taking in the imagery and capture of a single operator with a fixed lens, the captures seem to be from the same relative angle. Leveraging a single camera with a common and consistent angel forces a single POV, aperture, and field of view. This inevitability will make the audience lose interest in the marketing tactic; the video is designed to create engagement from within.

Additionally, the shadows are harsh on the iPhone’s sensor and there’s extremely limited color space to work with. iPhones can pass on wide shots (if not published in wide screen formats). Consider the importance of close up shots when conveying emotion—they’re essential. Tight shots can’t be consistently performed with proficiently on an iPhone due to its limited capability. Although lenses can be attached to an iPhone, they aren’t a match to the quality of professional lenses, resolution, and color space cameras.

The Animator’s Perspective

Both from a technical and quality standpoint, mobile phone video capture doesn’t compare to or even meet the standards of professional camera video capture. Mobile phone video looks beautiful under the right conditions, such as correct lighting, or played on a mobile device or tablet. But it also has many shortcomings for publishers, especially those that must purpose the video into many formats and channels, even in an ideal situation. Mobile phone video is captured in 8-bit color compared to 12-bit on a professional camera, which means there are fewer colors that the camera can capture, creating banding and other imperfections.

In more technical terms, an 8-bit file works with RGB using 256 levels per channel, while 10-bit jumps up to 1,024 levels per channel. This means a 10-bit image can display up to 1.07 billion colors, while an 8-bit photo can only display 16.7 million. Dynamic range is also limited, meaning that if something is overexposed and blown out, the data is gone and can’t be recovered, nor can areas that are underexposed and look black on screen. A good example is when the sky looks white on a mobile phone video. It will still be white after color and exposure correction, whereas with a pro camera adjustments can be made to bring clouds and the blue sky back into the image.

That said, mobile phone video is saturated, sharpened, and processed before being saved, and the save format is compressed. This compression leaves artifacts and blocky-ness which can be very evident depending on the shot, and more data is lost every time it’s reprocessed. Noise is also an issue with mobile phone video, particularly when cropped creatively and presented on large screen monitors. Darker colors and low light images have a lot of color noise. Mobile phone processing gets rid of some of it in low light video acquisition by softening the image, which makes it appear as lower quality.

Mobile phones have a fixed field of view, and zooming is a “digital zoom” which means most of the pixels captured are interpolated and not the actual image, whereas professional lenses on cameras zoom optically, meaning that each pixel is captured 1-to-1 and a zoomed image will be the same quality as a wide angle image. These are some of the big reasons to use a professional camera over a mobile device, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. Bottom line, there is reason mobile phones aren’t used to capture video on TV and movie sets. Maybe the biggest reason being that the image quality is substandard compared to professional camera video acquisition.

The Creative Director’s Perspective

Video and imagery, like copy, tells the story of the brand that gives it a tone of authenticity and personality. It is extremely important for the user’s experience that all assets, including video and imagery, have a consistent look and feel that make the overall brand cohesive and recognizable and creates brand awareness. For example, when you see a commercial that is highly saturated in red and white with pops of black you instantly know that it’s Target but it’s also recognizable in the music, actor clothing/styling, etc. All aspects of what Target wants their shoppers to think of them is represented and not deviated from, yet every commercial is unique and beautiful.

If our visual aesthetic is to portray hopefulness, inspiration, and uplifting feelings to say to prospective/current students that “you, too can do this and have a bright future.” These feelings are represented by the use of video and imagery that is bright, clean in color/saturation, and candid (with a level of professionalism) that utilize their peers that have successfully completed or are actively pursuing their degrees. This feeling is lost when assets, such as video and imagery, change from asset to asset. If you were to cut professional video footage with lower quality footage (e.g. video from a mobile phone) it will break the visual story being created, breaking the brand and the experience.

For more information about design best practices, see the following:

10 Commandments of UI Design

UX vs. UI: What’s the Difference?


Brian Fabiano


Madison Miller