'Modern Family' co-creator details episode shot entirely with Apple products

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2015
In a behind-the-scenes look at an upcoming "Modern Family" episode shot completely on iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2, co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan said using the iOS devices didn't dramatically change the production process, and revealed that tomorrow's show is not the first time producers turned to Apple's handset for in-show footage.



According to Levitan, who spoke with BuzzFeed about the special episode, producers wanted to make the episode feel "more authentic" by using iPhones and iPads for the shoot, rather than processing footage from expensive cameras to make it appear as though it came out of Apple's device.

"Shooting on iPhones didn't really change things that much because we shoot on digitally [sic] anyway," Levitan said.

A report last week revealed the upcoming episode would play out on a Mac OS X desktop -- created from scratch by the show's graphics team -- used by Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), who is attempting to find her daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland) while stuck in an airport in Chicago. Throughout the show, Dunphy uses FaceTime and iMessage, among other apps, to remotely connect with her family back home in Los Angeles.

Initially, producers imagined each actor would capture footage using their own device, but the idea was ultimately scrapped. Instead, the show's film crew manned the iPhones, keeping shots in frame and steady, while actors grabbed on to the cameraman's arm to create the illusion that the devices were being used handheld.

Levitan said the upcoming episode is not the first to use footage taken directly from an iPhone.

"There was a scene where Manny (Rico Rodriguez) was dressed as a mascot at a basketball game, so rather than recreating a whole basketball game, I quickly shot my son's basketball game on my iPhone," Levitan explained. "Then we filmed Rico against a green screen, and inserted the shot into the episode."

Apple provided "Modern Family" iPhones, iPads and MacBook Pros for the shoot, as well as a Mac Pro for postproduction work, but did not pay for product placement or sponsorship.

BuzzFeed has a short clip of Levitan discussing filming procedures, as well as behind-the-scenes footage showing actors using the iPhone 6 to record the show. The Apple-centric episode, titled "Connection Lost," will debut Wednesday night on ABC.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    Quote:


     Levitan said the upcoming episode is not the first to use footage taken directly from an iPhone.


     

    I'm willing to bet this is not the only case of this. There's a reason almost every top camera on Flickr is an iPhone.

  • Reply 2 of 19
    1) I wonder which shows that have been shot with an iPhone. I think it was when John Oliver was filling in for Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" last Summer than there was a power outage and so they did part of the show on an iPhone, but that's all I can think of, and even that I am not certain.

    2) Remember when the iPhone first appeared on TV shows (about a year after in launched due to standard filming and distribution times), and usually the actors were holding them upside down, which I assume was on purpose, for reasons I can't really fathom.

    3) So far I haven't read anything that says Apple paid for this sort of novelty that focuses on their products. My guess is it A) made for an interesting and funny idea since families do you "chat" with each other remotely, and B) actually using Apple's equipment will get a lot of free press for the episode which would have been lost if they used Skype and AIM, or simply made up a service like ChatBox or FacePalm, which shows that Apple's mindshare is massive.


    I'm willing to bet this is not the only case of this. There's a reason almost every top camera on Flickr is an iPhone.

    I'd say because it's a very convenient camera, more so than anything. I'm not saying it's a bad camera — far from it — but in terms of great cameras it's going to be very low on the list if we include professional cameras, hence my usage of convenience.

    The question I have isn't why is the iPhone a smartphone camera so high on the list, but why isn't snapshots from Android-based devices higher, even besting iOS-based photos? I think it's because ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????.




    (Text redacted so this doesn't become an Android-bashing thread)
  • Reply 3 of 19
    Megapixels. It's all about them megapixels.
  • Reply 4 of 19
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,416member

    But...still not serious work, because it isn't a serious show, huh? /s

  • Reply 5 of 19
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,428member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post



    2) Remember when the iPhone first appeared on TV shows (about a year after in launched due to standard filming and distribution times), and usually the actors were holding them upside down, which I assume was on purpose, for reasons I can't really fathom.

     

    My guess is that the early iPhones had some sort of idiosyncrasy regarding the display, either some sort of frame synchronization issue or possibly some sort of screen polarization that prevented TV cameras at the time from effectively filming the iPhone screen.

     

    If I wear some polarized sunglasses in my car, I find it hard to read certain LCD elements on my dashboard like the clock. Same issue with many iPods, the LCD screen would go black if I viewed them at a certain angle with some polarized glasses. Could be something like that.

  • Reply 6 of 19
    Megapixels. It's all about them megapixels.

    Imagine if you could use the 41 megapixel sensor of the lumia 1020? I'd take it in a heart beat with Apple's lightening quick ISP, especially if they keep RAW. It really is a fantastic sensor.
  • Reply 7 of 19

    Prepping my photos for Photos and iCloud, it is amazing to see such a marked difference in the photos taken across the iPhone generations, from the first one to the 6 Plus. I used to think that the iPhone 4 photos seemed good enough, but then the 5, 5s and now the 6 Plus, are so much better.

     

    When we go for holidays or have to cover some events, we always carry a Nikon along for better resolution photos, but the iPhones over the years captured almost all the historic memories we have of our kids growing up.

     

    Of course, I guess that it true for any smartphone User. I've used the iPhone almost exclusively over the years so my perspective is limited.

    The phone I had before the iPhone was a Sony Ericsson with an amazing camera that could take pics at a super resolution of 1 Megapixel! 

     

    Honestly, if it wasn't for the iPhone, I would have continued using Sony phones.

  • Reply 8 of 19
    Prepping my photos for Photos and iCloud, it is amazing to see such a marked difference in the photos taken across the iPhone generations, from the first one to the 6 Plus. I used to think that the iPhone 4 photos seemed good enough, but then the 5, 5s and now the 6 Plus, are so much better.

    When we go for holidays or have to cover some events, we always carry a Nikon along for better resolution photos, but the iPhones over the years captured almost all the historic memories we have of our kids growing up.

    Of course, I guess that it true for any smartphone User. I've used the iPhone almost exclusively over the years so my perspective is limited.
    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">The phone I had before the iPhone was a Sony Ericsson with an amazing camera that could take pics at a super resolution of 1 Megapixel! </span>


    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">Honestly, if it wasn't for the iPhone, I would have continued using Sony phones.</span>

    Remember when people used to say that once digital cameras crossed the one megapixel barrier it was game over for traditional film cameras? Well, it took a bit longer, but there definitely has been a passing of the torch.
  • Reply 9 of 19
    Prepping my photos for Photos and iCloud, it is amazing to see such a marked difference in the photos taken across the iPhone generations, from the first one to the 6 Plus. I used to think that the iPhone 4 photos seemed good enough, but then the 5, 5s and now the 6 Plus, are so much better.

    When we go for holidays or have to cover some events, we always carry a Nikon along for better resolution photos, but the iPhones over the years captured almost all the historic memories we have of our kids growing up.

    Of course, I guess that it true for any smartphone User. I've used the iPhone almost exclusively over the years so my perspective is limited.
    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">The phone I had before the iPhone was a Sony Ericsson with an amazing camera that could take pics at a super resolution of 1 Megapixel! </span>


    <span style="line-height:1.4em;">Honestly, if it wasn't for the iPhone, I would have continued using Sony phones.</span>

    Who gets the most credit here for the iPhone camera? Is it Sony for presumably designing and building the camera HW, or is it Apple for creating the SW that make it a better experience than from other smartphone OEMs?
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post





    Who gets the most credit here for the iPhone camera? Is it Sony for presumably designing and building the camera HW, or is it Apple for creating the SW that make it a better experience than from other smartphone OEMs?

     

    I'd say it's Apple for making such a popular and high quality product.

     

    All these model shoots and videos done with mobile products are a bit silly, although I can see how it helps from a marketing sense. Photography has always been about light, not cameras. Granted, it has to be good enough, and many smartphones aren't really. That said, in any situation where the iPhone's focal length, DoF, and light sensitivity are good, then the photos will be about as good as the best cameras in the world (lens quality may challenge though). Throw some good support and lighting into the equation, and it gets even more versatile.

     

    My Nexus 4 had a decidedly mediocre camera, but I still won some magazine photo contests with it, because the lighting was right, the camera is adequate, and I composed the shots thoughtfully.

  • Reply 11 of 19
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,428member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post



    Who gets the most credit here for the iPhone camera? Is it Sony for presumably designing and building the camera HW, or is it Apple for creating the SW that make it a better experience than from other smartphone OEMs?

     

    First, I think Apple gets credit for the camera in the iPhone, regardless of the component manufacturer.

     

    There are multiple camera modules, sensor modules, etc. available to smartphone manufacturers, so the credit goes to the people who selected a high quality components. The camera module is actually a pretty pricey component, so smartphone manufacturers can cheapen out and go for a less pricey and likely less capable part.

     

    Of course, without great hardware, it would be hard to have a decent initial image. Garbage in, garbage out.

     

    The early-phase prototypes of the iPhone don't run the full-blown operating system with all the apps, bells and whistles, all the APIs fully functional. They run a bunch of test programs. That means at a base level, you need to make sure that the hardware is okay, or in Apple's case, provides great quality base images.

     

    Apple's iOS team is also commended for software that the user interacts with, since users don't actually manually adjust the hardware. Personally, I think there are third-party apps that provide more functionality than the iPhone's native Camera app, but again, credit should go to the iOS team for offering developers a strong photo API to interact with the hardware.

     

    Remember, an operating system is a big complicated program that lets other big complicated programs run together in harmony on the same system: music players, video conferencing, camera apps, weather, GPS, audio calls, SMS, gaming, whatever. You can have great hardware and a lousy operating system (Windows ME was a classic example). It's not just about having a good built-in camera app, it's also about providing good support for developers who wish to write their own camera apps.

     

    Sony can take a bow this year for providing a nice part, but if next year Apple selects a different component provider, then Sony sits down and someone else takes a bow. To the consumer, it really doesn't matter whose name is stamped on which part inside the smartphone.

     

    But Apple is the one calling the shots here. That much is clear.

  • Reply 12 of 19
    If you haven't already, go to the iTunes Store and look up Modern Family. The entire 4 minute clip on the behind the scenes shooting of Connection Lost is free to download, and very interesting to watch.
    I've never watched this show, not one time, but for 2.99 an episode, I will buy this one. It's not just because it's done with with Macs, iPads and iPhones, but because of the creative efforts put forth by the Modern Family team to recreate what consumers take for granted. I'm a big fan of how television works behind the scenes, there is a lot of talented work behind it.
  • Reply 13 of 19
    dennyc69 wrote: »
    If you haven't already, go to the iTunes Store and look up Modern Family. The entire 4 minute clip on the behind the scenes shooting of Connection Lost is free to download, and very interesting to watch.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    Quote:

     Remember when people used to say that once digital cameras crossed the one megapixel barrier it was game over for traditional film cameras? 


    Let's be clear here... It was the 12 megapixel barrier—that was the magic number speculated where CCD's could really kill 35mm film (based on the pixel count and resolution calculated from a 35mm equivalent)—not 1 megapixel. Respect to the history of street shooters and 35mm film. 1 megapixel... I wouldn't get out of bed for that. 

  • Reply 15 of 19
    bicubic wrote: »
    Let's be clear here... It was the 12 megapixel barrier—that was the magic number speculated where CCD's could really kill 35mm film (based on the pixel count and resolution calculated from a 35mm equivalent)—not 1 megapixel. Respect to the history of street shooters and 35mm film. 1 megapixel... I wouldn't get out of bed for that. 

    I don't know how old you are, but early digital cameras set 1 MP as a high water mark for some length of time. Remember, we didn't get to where we are now without a lot of painfully slow advances.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    It was a little more jarring than a typical episode due to of how the moved around and zoomed in on the Mac display, but a good episode all around. They really did a great job at recreating Yosemite UI, although there were a few items I noticed to be out of place, like Apple Maps in iCloud's Find My Friends have a link to open up in Google Maps' Street View (image below).

    Compared to other sitcoms [I]Modern Family[/I] is fairly fasting talking with a lot of sophisticated and layered jokes so those that watched it for the first time expecting it to be like [I]The Big Bang Theory[/I] with pauses after punchlines for laugh tracks may not care for it. From a logistics standpoint this seems really tough to do since they had multiple FaceTime chats in place, sometimes seeing the other characters chatting with other in the background.


    [IMG ALT=""]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/55791/width/200/height/400[/IMG]
  • Reply 17 of 19

    How did Claire set her spotlight so typing in 'facebook' or some term she wants to search for automatically jumps to Safari and goes to the respective site? 

  • Reply 18 of 19
    blueeddie wrote: »
    How did Claire set her spotlight so typing in 'facebook' or some term she wants to search for automatically jumps to Safari and goes to the respective site? 

    Disney Magic®!
  • Reply 19 of 19
    blueeddie wrote: »
    How did Claire set her spotlight so typing in 'facebook' or some term she wants to search for automatically jumps to Safari and goes to the respective site? 

    Yes you can do that in multiple ways, although the lack of results population as she typed is not accurate.
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