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A Major Breakthrough in Portable Video Production

Three companies have come together to create something extraordinary: a complete mobile video production system that weighs a little over one pound.

Apple, Blackmagic Design and Filmic have created the first truly miniature production system for professional video shooting, editing and color grading. It all works on Apple’s new iPad Pro, powered by it’s super powerful M2 Silicon processor.

This is a major breakthrough because the system’s capabilities — from its high-quality ProRes XQ video format to color grading — requires a huge amount of computer processing power. Only a few years ago, most computers couldn’t handle large video files without serious graphics processing.

Apple, Blackmagic Design and Filmic each contributed their specialty to different parts of this combined technical breakthrough.

Most images out of an iOS camera are highly processed, using software to predict noise reduction and color correction. This automatic processing is designed to make it easier and faster to create social media posts and take better still images. This processing is baked into the video frames, which is a nuisance for professional video production.

Filmic Pro 2

Filmic engineers worked with Apple to get the cleanest signal possible with the least amount of processing using a group of manual exposure tools. As a result, Filmic Pro has become the go-to app with iOS devices for low light or professional video shooting situations requiring manual control.

Filmic Pro now fully supports Apple ProRes XQ — one of the highest bit rates — on the iPad M2. This is a major technical achievement. Only few years ago, even an ARRI Alexa couldn’t record XQ. Now it can be done on an iPad Pro using Filmic Pro.

Apple’s iPad Pro allows users to shoot directly to ProRes XQ with the inboard camera and then edit and color grade on a very bright Liquid Retina XDR 12.9-inch screen. The screen is made up of mini LEDS that are 120 times smaller than in previous generations. Custom‑size optical films and diffusers mix the light more efficiently and fit into a display that’s 6.4 mm thick.

The display also has 1000 nits of full‑screen brightness and 1600 nits of peak brightness along with display technologies like P3 wide color, True Tone and ProMotion. It can also be used in Reference Mode for a more color-accurate workflow.

This brings in the third company, Blackmagic Design, maker of DaVinci Resolve, a very popular post-production app now available for the iPad Pro with Apple Silicon. This application opens new doors to portable post, allowing both editing and color grading on the iPad Pro.

Earlier versions of Resolve pushed aging computers to the max, straining them to work efficiently when using noise reduction, color management and plug-ins.

With Apple’s new chip, there is no discrete system or graphics memory. All the processes are now unified within the same chip. The entire memory is available for GPU tasks. Apple’s ARM architecture is very efficient and designed for long battery life in mobile devices.

Another important element of Apple’s tablet upgrade is the Liquid Retina XDR display, which renders accurate colors for critical field work. It can be made to emulate other types of displays, such as a HD Rec.709 or Rec.2020. It allows editors to show how images will look under the same viewing conditions as the final export.

The iPad Pro equipped with Filmic Pro and DaVinci Resolve is a system designed more for short form work than 90-minute feature films. It’s ideal for corporate presentations, commercials and social media videos. The iPad Pro’s internal storage is maxed out at 2TB, which is fine for smaller projects but not nearly enough for long-form features.

This iPad Pro configuration is excellent for use as an on-set collaboration tool. A popular use is to show a quick color-accurate grade of a video project to a client or director on the set just after a shoot. It is much better at this than using a laptop.

Also, an Apple Pencil can easily be used to edit with Resolve on the touch-screen system. Even the free version of Resolve offers basic editing and project grading in the field and remote delivery.

An editor can easily finish and send the full-resolution or proxy video project to an online platform like Dropbox or the Blackmagic Cloud Store system. Working this way means a project being done on a traditional desktop can be immediately available on the iPad Pro. Any changes done remotely on the iPad show up immediately on the main computer.

The extensive video production and post capability on a portable device like the iPad Pro is revolutionary. But it not yet a full replacement for larger computers and not designed to be. It was designed to integrate into any workflow to offer greater flexibility and portability, which it does quite well.

Writer at Broadcast Beat
Frank Beacham is a New York-based writer, director and producer who works in print, radio, television, film and theatre.

Beacham has served as a staff reporter and editor for United Press International, the Miami Herald, Gannett Newspapers and Post-Newsweek. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, the Village Voice and The Oxford American.

Beacham’s books, Whitewash: A Southern Journey through Music, Mayhem & Murder and The Whole World Was Watching; My Life Under the Media
Microscope are currently in publication. Two of his stories are currently being developed for television.

In 1985, Beacham teamed with Orson Welles over a six month period to develop a one-man television special. Orson Welles Solo was canceled after Mr. Welles died on the day principal photography was to begin.

In 1999, Frank Beacham was executive producer of Tim Robbins’ Touchstone feature film, Cradle Will Rock. His play, Maverick, about video with Orson Welles, was staged off-Broadway in New York City in 2019.
Frank Beacham
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