Filming the Underwater Apple TV Screensavers

Roger Munns Blog

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In 2019 I had one of my most interesting and challenging natural history projects. To film a new set of ‘Under the Sea’ screensavers for the Apple TV. Apple commissioned the BBC’s Natural History Unit to produce a set of these screensavers from diverse underwater ecosystems. Working with the production team from Bristol, myself and Roger Horrocks were the principal cinematographers. As Directors of Photography we were involved from the very start of the project as we honed in on solving the technical, creative and logistical issues that come with attempting to film 2-3 minute long ultra-steady tracking shots underwater. On the land and in the air this has been typically done using Cineflex or Shotover gimbals mounted on helicopters, boats or cars. We filmed the screensavers on Red DSMC2 Helium cameras at resolutions of up to 8K. With the release of the latest Apple TV Operating System, tvOS13, ten of these screensavers are now available.It seems to be a soft launch at the moment and once I have more information I will update this post with some more technical details and behind the scenes images.

Currently Apple have released 10 underwater screensavers (of which I shot 8) – as follows:

  • Barrucada
  • Bumpheads
  • Jacks
  • Kelp
  • Palau Coral
  • Palau Jellies (3)
  • Sea Stars
  • Seals

Details on how to access the screensavers can be found on Apple’s support page. If you don’t have an Apple TV you can watch them online¬†here¬†(There seems to be some issue with chrome so try using another browser if necessary). Here is the report from macrumors on the release of the new screensavers:

Fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV owners who have upgraded to tvOS 13 now have access to a series of under the sea themed screen savers on the device, which are a new addition in the latest update.

The screen savers were created in partnership with the BBC Natural History unit, the team behind “Blue Planet,” showing off the deep ocean around the world with under the sea creatures and scenes that include fish, coral, kelp, jellyfish, and more.

There is no way to download all of the screen savers at once, as the Apple TV only supports Daily, Weekly, or Monthly downloads. You can adjust how often screen savers download by opening up the Settings app on the Apple TV, going to General, and selecting the “Screen Savers” option.

While there’s no way to see all of the screen savers from Apple until they’ve been downloaded over a series of days, 9to5Mac’s Benjamin Mayo maintains a website that showcases all of Apple’s screen saver options.

There are 10 new screen savers in total featuring these ocean creatures and scenes: barracuda, bumpheads, jacks, kelp, Palau coral, three Palau jellyfish options, sea stars, and seals.

Screen savers are high resolution and are somewhere around 950MB in size. Apple has been offering its Aerial screen savers for years and has been adding to its collection with each tvOS update. Last year’s tvOS 12 update brought screen savers created in collaboration with the International Space Station and NASA.

Screen savers come on after a set period of time of idleness on the Apple TV, but pressing the Menu button while on the Home screen of the Apple TV will cause a screen saver to start playing automatically.

A tap on the remote provides information on where a screen saver was filmed, while a swipe left or right will change the screen saver that’s displayed if multiples are downloaded. Apple’s support document on screen savers has further instructions on how they work.


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