Zack Snyder’s epic tale “300,” about the battle of Thermopylae is famous for one specific scene, which became an instant classic, thanks to Snyder’s smash edits and slow-motion action.
Well, the crew over at Corridor Digital wanted to know if they could recreate Snyder’s camera movement and get a similar result, only with the iPhone. Thanks to some nifty computer-aided design and 3D Printing, as well as a few pinatas, they did just that. And the results are glorious.
The referenced scene comes from the pivotal battle, as 300 Spartans and 5000 Greeks hold off tens of thousands of Persia’s finest troops. King Leonidas is at the tip of the Spartan spear and appears to rip through the assaulting Immortals sent by god-king Xerses to crush them.
The scene, with its slow-motion action and zooming smash cuts, was accomplished by Snyder by shooting the scene with a three-camera rig, with each camera set to a focal length. One set to wide, then a medium shot, and finally a zoom-in shot for close-ups.
The cameras would then capture the action in a single take, enabling Snyder to switch between all three focal lengths in post, hiding the smash cuts in motion blur as the image zoomed forward. It was a brilliant piece of cinematography and editing.
Wren, over at Corridor Digital, wondered if the same could be accomplished with an iPhone 13 Pro. Since Apple’s flagship mobile device has three cameras, each with a different focal length, could he manage to recreate the scene, and record from all three cameras in the iPhone simultaneously?
Well, sort of. Wren found a cool app known as Multi-Cam Pro, which was able to record from all three iPhone cameras at once. The downside, however, was that MultiCam Pro doesn’t shoot in slow motion and can only capture in 1080p.
So he’d have to shoot on three different iPhones, much like Snyder did with his camera rig. Consequently, this presented the problem of parallax.
With three cameras side by side, even the slightest bit of distance between each camera would represent several degrees of parallax, which would cause a massive problem later in post as one attempts to align the images with different focal lengths together. This meant that Wren would have to align all three iPhones as close as possible. Maybe even stack them.
So Wren went back to the drawing board. With the help of another Corridor Crew and some computer-aided design and some 3D printing, he had a unique camera rig that could utilize the iPhone’s Magsafe charger to mount the phones in the best configuration to minimize the parallax.
After a quick test, a few redesigns to account for design issues, and being able to hit the on-screen record button on all three, Wren had his three-camera rig. This is where the pinatas, filled with all kinds of paint and powder, came in.
Now you can’t hire Gerard Butler and hundreds of extras in Spartan get up, just to recreate a simple shot on iPhones. So he did the next best thing. He got his friend “D” of Cerebus Arms to expertly wield a sword, to cut through the Pinatas like they were advancing Immortals.
Wren would then follow the action on a one-wheel, shooting with the three-camera rig in slow motion. Once he had the footage, he could then put them all together in post, hide the smash cuts in the motion blur, and just maybe have the same, epic scene.
Even then, however, Wren was faced with alignment issues. No matter how close he could get the iPhones, there was still a slight alignment issue that required him to manually fix hundreds of keyframes to compensate. Consequently, post for this simple shot was laborious.
But the results, well, they speak for themselves. It just goes to show that with some imagination, and a 3D printer, even shooting on an iPhone can yield something truly cinematic.
[source: Corridor Crew]
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