In Regards to Filming an iPad

Filming an iPad app is not a trivial task.  Sure you can record the screen directly, but then you don’t see the interaction of someone’s actual hand with the touchscreen.  Filming a screen though, presents interesting challenges, practically and artistically.

Below I describe the setups used by Capital Games during my Fall 2012 semester and then that used by Bravura during my Spring 2013 semester.  These were both semester long graduate projects and our teams are primarily game developers so we had no fancy studio equipment; just whatever the school had / we had lying around.

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During Capital Games, we filmed our iPad app on top of our coffee table with the camera set on a tripod behind it.  The camera cannot be pointed straight down since the tripod legs would be in the shot; however you can see that the edges of the iPad slant slightly away because of the angle.  Our biggest concern was screen glare and so there is actually a black board help up above the screen.  Otherwise, only the ambient light from the room was used.  As you can see, the quality isn’t bad at all.  However, we did have trouble with white balance.  The hand and the table were very orange if we balanced to the iPad screen so we actually set the balance so that the iPad is a bit bluer.  Sound was recorded directly from the device via the headphone out.  Not bad for a first time.  Mike and I reunited on our Spring project, though, and we decided we would do it better.

Mike found a video about filming the iPad on top of an iMac with a white screen (I’ll put the link in when I find it).  This was an amazing breakthrough because:  (A) the background itself creates an even back-lighting that has the same temperature as the iPad and (B) the iPad’s natural habitat is floating in a clean white void.

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This however creates lighting problems for the hand, which will now be even more dark and orange against two screens.  So at first we tried to light the hand by throwing a projector against a bounce board.  This lit up the hand great; however, it also turned the hand a pale, zombie-white color.  So I started grabbing lamps we had lying around.  Incandescent bulbs throw a nice warm orange, but since we were balancing to blue already, that made everything too orange.  What I really wanted was yellow, but alas, I was making do with what we had.  So I grabbed a bunch of blue / green transparent folders and bags and draped them over the lights (fire-hazard, do not attempt unless you are monitoring the temperature constantly), which got us more or less there.  Our final setup looked like this when we were filming (the camera is not on the tripod … because I’m taking the picture with it):

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The same set up with the room lights on:

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The final result is below.  I still wish we had proper lighting setup to bring out the hand, but pretty good otherwise.

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