Every so often a movie is released that really captures the action in an unusual and innovative way. Often the director and cinematographers have to come up with new technology in order to capture that. But, as with all things tech-related, what was once cutting edge and took up an entire room, eventually becomes possible with the device in your pocket.
In this video, Corridor Crew recreates Zack Snyder’s three-camera rig that was used to film the action scenes in 300, all on three iPhone 13 Pros mounted together.
So first of all, what was so special about the camera set up in the first place? I must admit I have never actually seen the film 300, though after hearing about all the abs on show I am almost tempted. Almost. But I am fascinated by the way they filmed this particular scene.
The scene in question is a pretty generic battle sequence, with lots of sweaty sword-wielding action, yawn. Or it could be easily boring if Snyder hadn’t shot and edited it the way that he did. Instead of just filming the action sequence as it unfolded, he created a complicated rig of three cinema cameras, all filming at the exact same time, using different focal lengths.
The rig comprised of a wide-angle, a medium and a longish length lens, or 21mm, 50mm and 100mm to be precise. The footage is then able to be cut between the three different cameras without missing a single moment. The result is a terrific seamless feel but with this discombobulating effect of the transition between the different focal lengths, enhanced further by slow motion and speeded-up sections.
But now, of course, 16 years later, it’s possible to do all of this with the technology in your pocket. That’s the theory anyway that Corridor Crew decides to test.
The iPhone 13 Pro actually y have 3 separate lenses with 3 different focal lengths already built-in. They come with a 13mm, a 26mm and a 76mm lens. Now, those are considerably wider than the focal lengths chosen by the 300 film crew, so I’m curious if this will even work. Is there enough difference between say the 13mm and the 26mm to really make enough of a transition?
But first, logistics. One method was to physically tape the phones together so that the three cameras were stacked up, however, this wasn’t so practical due to having to then design a holder for the device. In the end, the crew used an app called MultiCam Pro which lets you film on multiple cameras at the same time inside your one device. Clever! Sadly though, there’s no slo-mo option with the app due to only filming in 1080 at 30fps.
So back to creating a holder for all three phones together. To avoid parallax the three lenses need to be stacked up vertically above each other which further complicates the issue. In the end, they create a custom 3D printed holder which looks a little bit like a bathtime rubber ducky. But it appears to work.
The concept is tested using a samurai sword and a piñata. It definitely works, but you’re missing the quality of Snyder’s footage at the longer focal lengths. This was largely down to the limitations with framing due to the holder. The wider two lenses look pretty cool however with the slow-motion and motion blur when edited.
It’s a pretty cool effect all in all, and it just shows you what is possible with a couple of mobile phones and a 3D Printer if you want to get super creative with your video shoots.
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