Yes, I’ve been a busy film geek of late. Not only have we attempted to shoot a short film entirely on the iPhone 4, but I’ve been getting to grips with FCP Studio and learning how to edit the footage; as I am sick of trying to do it in the totally unintuitive and limited iMovie 09 or iMovie app.
It has not been the easiest of times. But as with each of my shoots I have learnt from it.
The main objective was to shoot a spoof commercial / short horror comedy film in 1 day, with mainly found objects / objects I already had, amateur actors, natural light and do it all on the iPhone 4 – and for £50 including food. It did not go to plan.
The End result – was shot in 4 hours, on the iPhone 4, is not edited on it though as that was doing my frickin’ head in, features the usage of one red head light as the weather was not with us on the day, I had to buy makeup and marigolds as props. Total budget – including feeding the crew was about £60.
Firstly, always check your makeup prior to prepping your shoot. I found that the latex and powdered makeup I intended to use for my zombie makeup had gone off, since I bought it after a special FX course that I took. Cue hurried calls and a mad dash by one of the crew to go and pick up some replacement makeup; only to find that it was vastly substandard, but by then we had to crack on and make a go of it. Not ideal. Periodically check your makeup, just like you would any piece of equipment.
Secondly, I must say that if you’re going to attempt to shoot anything meaningful featuring actors, that requires intricate zooms or moving the camera, don’t bother using the iPhone 4 unless you really want to keep retaking your shots to get them right. It’s difficult enough to shoot anything with actors and enabling them to hit their marks without having to ensure that you capture the shot. All it takes is the focus to suddenly become unresponsive or a slight knock to the camera itself or the tripod you’re using and the shot is ruined. This happened often. It’s fine if the shoot is simple or just shooting live action as it happens – after all that it what it was designed for.
I have noticed also that the compressed format of the iPhone 4 AVCHD footage doesn’t hold up well in blocks of colour, especially on blacks of shadows. It often looks blocky or patchy, even when the scene has plenty of light. My main actor brought a Canon 550D and I have heard amazing things about the video capability of this camera. If he had known how to use it and I could have quickly learned, I would have been sorely tempted to ditch the iPhone and do it right. However, the object was to have a fun shoot, using the iPhone 4 and not falling back to any of my other cameras – not even the fully charged Semi Pro DV cam I had upstairs; no matter how tempting it was!
The real point of contention for me has been the edit. iMovie just doesn’t cut it as an editing app, not when you’re shooting multiple viewpoints / angles and intercutting them. A 30 second sequence took me 4 times longer to edit in iMovie and it was far from polished at the rough cut stage compared to the same edit in FCP. That is the point though isn’t it. Although you may want to shoot a fun movie – fun is relative and if you approach it with a Semi Pro sensibility then you must use Semi Pro tools.
But the iPhone 4 footage is still relatively new. Few programmes automatically come with the codecs / settings as standard, so I found that FCP did not have suitable setting for me to use, which would retain the audio on the timeline. That is, until I stumbled across the article “Topic : Iphone4 video to Final Cut pro – giving away a droplet to help you out.” – which came with a link to download a droplet. This droplet converted over 62 clips in an hour – into better quality ProRes 422 LT footage that FCP could understand and could play back the audio. Nice! Thanks Jeff Greenberg!
Anyway, it will be while yet before the finished movie is ready for derision and mockery. But I am in the middle of editing it right now, and must stop procastinating. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.
Not sure if it enables you to record great audio whilst recording video, or if it is just for audio. I do like the line in feature and the fact that you can charge it by USB power to stop it draining the iPhone’s battery. Hmm… I shall await the future release of the new Mikey and wait a while…
So a while back I got hold of an iPhone 4 deliberately to play with its HD filming capabilities; because I was dismayed at the utter lack of filming over the last 15 months of hell in my old job and also wanted to negate any excuses that I might have for the future: such as, I haven’t time to charge my video cameras up; I’ve run out of tape; I haven’t got my camera on me and am unable to capture this marvellous event happening in front of my eyes etc. Especially now that I’ve changed jobs for the better and am in a much more saner plane of existence, my excuse pool is very much shallower. ;0)
I know that the quality of footage will never hold up next to a Semi-pro HDV Camcorder when you’re needing to be able to push the footage in post, as there’s so little visual information to play with in comparison. I also knew that there wasn’t going to be even half as much control over what I shot or the quality of the sound. However, for quick ‘making of’s’ on set, for doing possible video blogs / podcasts, or capturing something worth sharing on the net that didn’t require the post polish, it was going to be a damn sight better than a Flip type camera.
It was the fact that you can now install the iMovie video editing app on it, and unlike any other phone out there [to my knowledge] you can film and edit and upload all from your mobile phone, that swung it for me and made me sign up to an exorbitant contract for pitiful data rates. But like any cynical sod, I firstly wanted to fully research the workflow and conduct a few misguided experiments. I wasn’t going to rush out there like many did, just to be the first iPhone movie (shot and edited on the iPhone exclusively) on the net; although the day I picked up the phone I was instantly inspired to write a very easy to shoot low budget comedy horror short – more news on that soon.
Fans of science fiction, and those interested in low budget media production, may want to check out PIONEER ONE, a 2010 American independent film project / Web TV series by Josh Bernhard and Bracey Smith (the duo behind the other torrent delivered film THE LIONSHARE) that is being funded purely through donations and created for release via BitTorrent networks.
The series is about a spaceship crash in Canada and its one lone Soviet survivor, riddled with cancer, who may be a cosmonaut from a base on Mars. Federal agents working the case, are conflicted by orders to bring the man back to the United States as a suspected terrorist, despite his severe condition and the possibility that his story may be true.
The pilot episode – a 35 minute webisode – was filmed on a budget of $6000, raised in advance using Kickstarter, and was released under a Creative Commons license. The rest of the season is funded through direct donations. At the time of writing, they’ve already raised $20K US.
Now I sadly won’t be watching it, as I hate watching something that I have to wait ages in order to see the finale. But that’s just me. If you are not bothered and want to get involved, find out more and study it as a model to launch your own web series, please visit the website:
RAINDANCE posted a great article on “How to make it with a short film in Europe” that nicely sums up how times have changed for the film industry. It shows that although there are less obvious paths into the industry for those trying to break in by making a short, there are still ways to monetise your film and get your start – if your smart and prepared to work hard that is.
I am considering using WRECKAMOVIE.COM , the collaborative film website to promote and produce our next project.In their own words, Wreckamovie is:
“a new way of creating film brought about by the power of the Internet to connect people and spread information.”
Obviously the model is attractive. Especially if you require many digital elements for a film, or those such as a music score than can be produced by a co-located team. Even better if they are donating their time and effort, for passion for the project and a chance to get legitimate production credits. Could it work for this film??? – what film you ask? – patience… all in good time.
I’d first heard of it when IRON SKY was first announced on the scene. And eagerly followed their progress on Youtube.