As an editor in Hollywood, I’ve cut films shot on actual film. Now I have an iPhone X that can shoot 4K footage. It’s insane. Of course, 4K from a phone isn’t anything like 4K from a RED, but it’s way better than the cameras we were using in film school.
All story tellers using the medium of movies have a few core desires: 24 frame footage, depth of field, 4K and an anamorphic frame size.
iPhones can’t do all of that.
The good news? The Moment Anamorphic lens combined with the Moment iPhone app will deliver. You can shoot 4K anamorphic footage at 24 frames while controlling shutter speed, aperture, white balance and focus. DUDE.
When Moment announced their new anamorphic lens, it didn’t take me too long to spring for it. But when I started prep for my first short film with the new setup, I realized there was a small learning curve for post.
My editing tool of choice is Avid Media Composer. I’ve cut three feature length films and who knows how many short films in Avid. Love. It.
The problem with Avid is the fact that they’re focused on the big stuff. You know… the tools needed for films like THE DARK KNIGHT or any other studio film you love. When it comes to natively supporting things like Apple’s HEVC (H.265) codec, Avid Media Composer lags behind, as no real production is using that.
So here is a 100% tested workflow to get your iPhone 4K anamorphic footage onto the timeline the right way.
What this assumes is that you’re using iPhone X/XS, you shot 24 frames, 4K with proper shutter speeds and such. For more info on using the Moment app, read this post. These instructions are also specific to Mac.
Smoot post production being with good media management. Trust me – you do not want to rush this part.
We’ll be ama linking the footage in Avid vs importing it. Why? Importing takes too long and wastes space. Back in the time of DV/HD tapes from the lab, importing was obviously the only option. But now, it’s a little easier.
I recommend you create a separate folder outside of Avid MediaFiles called Avid Original Media. Then create sub-folders for each project you work on.
Within each project folder, you’ll create the following folders to start:
Raw & ProRes.
Then create other folders as needed (see screen shot above). If you follow this same structure for all of your projects, it’s super easy to find things later when you have to move data from one drive to the next, etc.
If you’re familiar with Apple, you know an import dumps all the videos into the main photo library. Open Finder and go to your User Folder > Pictures. Right-click on the Photos Library and choose Show Package Contents. Open Masters and then navigate to the date of the import.
Copy all of the .MOV files into the Raw folder.
We need to convert these files from H.265 (HEVC) to ProRes 4444. Before importing the files into Compressor, I recommend creating your own project setting.
Open Compressor and on the left side locate the ProRes 4444 project and duplicate it. Now you can set this up once, and easily apply to all imported footage.
Click Video on the top right. You can safely leave everything at the default, except check your quality settings towards the bottom. For Cropping & Padding set padding to Preserve Source Aspect Ratio. Then set the resize filter to anti-aliased and the retiming quality to best.
Now add your files from the Raw folder and choose the new project you just created.
The files you end up with are going to be huge. A lot larger than the HEVC quicktime files. The reason? Quicktime H.265 compresses groups of frames to achieve a high compression rate.
Example, if you have footage where someone is standing still and talking, HEVC will detect the unchanging background and group compress the frames, which makes for better data rates. Great for viewing, but bad for editing as it requires your NLE system to perform a lot of calculations.
If you’re new to 4K, there are different types, as you’ll soon see when creating your project in Avid. 4K is a pixel resolution of 4096×2160. This is also an aspect ratio of 1.9:1. Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs are technically 3840×2160 or 16:9 which is the 1.77:1 aspect ratio.
The Moment Anamorphic lens shoots in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Footage comes from the camera at UHD dimensions of 3840×2160. The pixel size then for 2.40:1 will be 5184×2160. I know this might sound like 5K, but it remains at the 2160p which is the height of 4K.
Click a new project and choose Custom under format. Type in 5184×2160 and you’ll see the Aspect Ratio field automatically adjust to 2.40:1.
Back in the day you’d receive tapes from the lab and digitize the footage. Avid would create MXF files (formerly OMF files) to represent each digitized clip. You can still import files into Avid and create MXF media, but the import process takes a LONG time, and it wastes disk space. AMA linking is the way to go, but this depends on an organized method of file storage as discussed above.
Open a bin, right-click inside and choose Input > Source Browser. Navigate to the prores folders and link your footage! You can also simply open Finder and alt-drag the files into the open Avid bin. This automatically AMA links vs importing. If you drag without holding the alt key, it will import vs link.
Once the AMA linking is done, simply close the Source Browser and double-click on a clip to view in the Composer Window. You’ll see that Avid automatically adjusts the 3840×2160 footage to match your project settings of 5180×2160!
When you have a 4K sequence ready for export, simply go to File > Output > Export to File. You’ll need to choose Custom vs Same as Source and then specify the dimensions. If you leave it at Same as Source you’ll get a quicktime file with a green screen instead of your footage.
BOOYAH! That’s it.
Cutting 4K iPhone footage shot with the Moment Anamorphic lens is a ton of fun. And it’s shocking how far technology has come. Now anyone has the tools they need to tell a good story without spending a fortune.