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How we created the opening shot of our iPhone 11 Pro review

It involves spray paint, fishing wire, motorized rigs, and a little post-production magic.

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The few times a year when we review flagship phones like the newest iPhone, Galaxy Note, or Google Pixel, The Verge’s video team aims to open these video reviews with a “hero” shot, which is a sequence that reveals the product in a really creative and beautiful way. It’s a chance to out-do ourselves by pushing our creative boundaries and showing off our passions. We’re always trying to one-up what we’ve done before. For the iPhone 11 Pro review, the one to beat was the opening shot of our Galaxy Fold review.

This time around, we wanted to try something slightly more ambitious than usual, so we’ve documented all the steps that it took for the final shot to come together. Here’s the rundown on how that eye-popping opening shot above was created, which involved spray paint, fishing wire, motorized rigs, and a little post-production magic.

We started by pre-visualizing the setup in Cinema 4D by mocking up a table, a lightbox (with a 3D area light), floaty objects, and an iPhone 11 Pro model.

Once we had a pre-visualization, we moved on to re-creating it in our studio. First, we spray-painted the floating objects. (Fortunately, Verge video director Becca Farsace had already done this in advance!)

Then, using fishing wire, we spaced out the objects above a lightbox in our studio, leaving a placeholder where the iPhone 11 Pro would ultimately be placed. (More on that later.)

We decided it’d be more practical to do the rotation in post, but we wanted to get a parallax effect, so we set up a camera on an automated dolly. We used a fairly wide lens and shot at a higher frame rate since we knew we’d need extra room on all edges of the frame and might need to re-time the footage.

We then let the whole setup sit untouched for about two hours while we worked on other parts of the review. When you shoot objects you want to be frozen in the air, and they’re hanging from fishing line, they have to be absolutely motionless or the effect can be ruined. We then shot the camera push about five or six times until we were sure we got it.

Then, we moved the camera to the final position and started cutting the objects down one at a time, being extremely careful with the order in which they fell based on their position and weight so they wouldn’t interact too much.

Next, we brought the footage into After Effects where, after a bit of rotoscoping and comping, we matched up the timing of all the falling objects.

After that felt good, we moved on to getting the actual phone in the sequence. We agreed earlier that filming the phone at the same time would have been a nightmare, so we filmed it separately in a completely different studio.

We replicated the lighting setup from the previous shot — except, this time, everything was on its side. We filmed a few 360-degree rotations of the phone so that we could match the lighting of the earlier shot. We then brought that footage in and stabilized it so the phone was locked in place and had the light rotating around it.

We then masked out the phone, which basically means removing everything else from the frame (the table, motorized head, cables, etc). Then, we combined the phone with the falling objects into one sequence, made all of the final tweaks (then made some more final tweaks), added the title, (one last final tweak), and boom:

Magic.

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