Has iPhone Video Footage Actually Been Used In A Box Office Hit?

In May 2012, Marvel will release the comic superhero movie The Avengers. Some apple fans are suggesting that footage actually in the movie was shot on an Apple Iphone. The Avengers cinematographer Seamus McGarvey was quoted saying,

"The beauty of photography or cinema is that you make every choice based on the content at hand. On The Avengers, I did a couple of shots on the iPhone and they are in the movie. In fact, they are in the trailer! I understand that sometimes there is no choice and you have to go for the cheapest option, but if you are limited for choice, you can still make poignant decisions that will effect the look of the film."

It's pretty crazy to think footage from the older iPhone 4 (which only shoots 720) could ever be good enough to mix in with real footage taken on pro cinema cameras. With the amount of preplanning and the huge budgets allowed on these films, would they not just reproduce the scene again and capture it from all angles? I just can't imagine something happened spontaneously where the cinematographer's footage from his phone was the best possible footage. What do you guys think? Can anyone identify the footage in the trailer below?

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Jimmy Byrd's picture

Seems like some of the street footage could be from an iPhone.

When I saw the 4s vs 5D2 comparison I wondered when the first TV show would get filmed on an iPhone

If any of that trailer is shot on a mobile phone I can't spot it

Euan's picture

Im not sure the street stuff would work on the iphone alone because it has been slowed down so much and still looks so sharp... my guess would be the part with Thor and his hammer... 

Patrick Hall's picture

I thought this was the scene as well but it made me think, why not just take that shot real quick since there is nothing to it?  Seems hard to believe that they were like "we need a shot of Thor looking mysterious" and the main guy responsible for that shot only captured it on his iphone.  

I came to post this scene as a possibility also.

The other option I thought may have been an iPhone was :37-:38 when the comic pages are flipping. Of course we could just be victims of epic trolling.

:47 looks very possible.  No need for DOF and it looks slightly artifacted to me.  Blacks also aren't super rich, but that probably has more to do with the backlighting.

Max Di Capua's picture

Could also be the background used for this shot. Blacks are quite flat and there's clear compression in the solid black buildings.

It's hard to tell based on that horribly compressed youtube version, but my guess is that it is two of the extreme low angle shots, the first one being Sam Jackson exiting from the helicopter, and the other one of the guy with the hammer since there seems to be a very noticable drop in image quality, even in the 720p version.

And thinking about it, it sort of makes sense. You'd probably have to go Gregg Toaland and dig a hole in the ground to get such a low shot with an Alexa. They could at least have used something like a 5D MK II, which is something close to 1K in effective resolution (that's at the same level that VFX shots used to be scanned in the days of Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump).

However, as far as I'm concerned, it looks like image quality is definitely the smallest problem with that film …

1:24? The low angle explosion-thingy, cuts away just before the debris hits the camera (which would probably shake that poor iphone to death). I could imagine someone wanting to have a camera close to a special effects explosion, and it looks to be in a tight spot too (so that other cameras shooting the same thing won't see it)

Seems pretty possible to me.

The lens perspective on that shot doesn't say iPhone to me.  There should be more distortion in the top right corner since the lens is pretty wide angle (Of course they could retouch this in post).  The 4S is supposed to be 24mm, I don't know what the original 4 came in at, but my 4th gen ipod touch definitely has corner distortion.  1:24 feels more like 50mm on a crop frame sensor/ 35mm on a full frame.

True there, they might have used one of those little lenses you can put on an iphone.. Ah well, I don't know, educated guesswork is the most I can make of it!

That would be awesome if they used a separate lens!! I hadn't even thought of that! We will have to wait for the bonus features to find out.

I think it is the very beginning where it says "The following preview has been approved for appropraiate audiences"

I'm with Chris on this one!
1:24: flames and debris flying around left and right. not much details required (relatively speaking) since there are no characters... and if it hit's the camera (even though protected behind (whatever plexi thing they used) some glass), it's "just" an iphone...

:47 This shot of Thor most certainly could have been an iPhone shot.. the tone and quality looks like my iPhone shots.. also the lens flare has all the little dots coming through just like an iPhone lens would do. the trees in the bottom right conner look in focus and the image sharpness of Thor is quite bad. If I could only pick one shot this would be it.. but  Seamus McGarvey did say, "...I did a couple of shots on the iPhone and they are in the movie. In fact, they are in the trailer!"so the other shots you guys are talking about could be in the trailer as well....

but out of the whole movie.. they really wanted to use all his iPhone shots in the trailer?? I agree with Patrick, why not reshoot that Thor shot.. its just Thor, camera, and sun... 

Well thats what i think.. pretty cool if that is an iPhone shot! who would have ever thought a movie like this would have a cell phone camera's shot make it to the big screen? haha! 

- joshua gray

I agree. Thats the shot I was going to say. 

def :47....

This is like a few weeks ago when I worked on the upcoming NBC drama "The Firm." The director shot one of the characters running with a GoPro HD. The rest of the show is shot on the Arri Alexa. It'll be interesting to see how that shot fits in with the Alexa footage if it makes it into the final cut.

I agree the :45-47 and the 1:24 marks look like iPhone shots.

LOL at this thread. People actually speaking scientifically about it. You wont know unless you ask the people that shot it. Its their job to be so good you can't tell, and thus you can't.

I'm sure a lot of the people on here are industry professionals like me - if that was the case wouldn't we be shooting everything on iPhone's? Learn the 'science' about lenses, compression, resolution, color space and then post again, hopefully saying something smart this time.

I doubt any other shot other than the explosion/debree shot was done with the iPhone, but with enough light, and the right colorist, you can do anything you want, and get away with it

j.j.'s picture

I would say it's the opening scenes, flying over the city. DOF wouldn't be a factor since it's a wide angle landscape shot, and I would imagine that flight time for cinematic purposes would be very expensive and so you'd want to get that "shot" within s close to a few takes as possible.

I think that since there are so many different opinions is a testament to the saying . "The best camera is the one with you".

Honestly, show me on a cinema screen and maybe I'll give you a definite answer...   Any footage can look good shown tiny...

I am a photographer, not a filmmaker... but at the end of the trailer it says that the movie is in 3D. If so, shouldn't it have been shot in 3D (with special purpose cameras), which none of the iPhone versions does (unless you stick 2 iPhone-s together) ?

MicahJ's picture

most 3d movies are not 100% in 3D take Tron when he was in the real world it was 2D and even some of the of the footage when he was in the grid was 2d

Same goes for Alice in Wonderland

Stefan St.'s picture

For me it is just a good marketing trick...   ...given the length of some cuts I would suggest that post can get rid of any signs that an Iphone was used and that the watcher cannot see the difference. But I am a photographer. Given that fact: Using some super simple tricks (like using a tripod) makes pictures from a P&S looking like most of the peoples DSLR pictures.
Another question which comes to my mind: Aren't movies shot in 1080?