SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD/IWORLD 2012 — If your iPhone videos are so lame that even your loved ones won’t watch them anymore, we’ve got some advice for you.
Cult of Mac talked to Matt Dessner, co-founder of the Original iPhone Film Festival (OIFF), about choosing a subject, keeping it steady, getting enough b-roll and what he calls the Golden Tip of Editing.
The OIFF is about to announce 2012 winners here; with a little practice you might win next year’s competition and a MacBook Air.
Cult of Mac: What’s the best way to shoot steady with an iPhone?
Matt Dessner: Ahh, the puzzling question: “To mount or to grip?” Like many challenges, there are often several good solutions.
When shooting with an iPhone, it always helps to have something to steady the ship. One way to go is to use a mount like ALM’s mCam. I really like this mount because it has 1/4″ holes to put it on a tripod or mic stand and additionally offers so many additional spots to add a light, mic or anything else you can screw into a 1/4″ hole. Without going into a full-on review, I assure you it should be one of the first mounts to consider.
The other option is a lightweight run-and-gun grip, like one from Zacuto called the iPhone zGrip. It’s simple to use and you can literally point your iPhone and shoot with one hand — and get the steady shots you could never do unassisted and one-handed…If you intend to attach other iPhonefilmmaking accessories and build a rig, go mCAM. If you’re on the run and want something simple you can keep in your bag for those eyewitness moments – grab a zGrip.
CoM: What makes a good subject for an iPhone film – since you’ve got some limitations with the field, etc.?
MD: A good subject is always something the iPhonefilmmaker feels passionately about. Yes, it sounds a bit Tony Robbins or Hallmark-like, but if you are not 100% committed your audience will pick up on it immediately. So when picking a subject to shoot, if your passion is in place then there are really no limitations. The emerging ecosystem of iPhoneFilmmaking accessories and apps are amazing and can provide a solution for most challenges.
The iPhone in many ways is like a blank canvas; as a filmmaking device it can be dressed up in many ways to achieve amazing cinematic imagery.
CoM: Where do you stand on the “zoom” issue – is using it good idea for an iPhone video or better to take separate shots?
MD: This really relates to shooting style and what is the best way to capture a shot that forwards the story being told.
I’m a fan of separate shots. It’s just the way my mind works and the way I see a story being built. I actually visualize a storyboard in my mind and see the shots broken down in sequence. Every shot is a unique step in the staircase of the narrative that fits in a certain spot.
Zooming has its place but it often is overused and reminiscent of home movies shot on camcorders. Now if zooming is something that is integral to your style of shooting, then I’d look into a lens adapter like one that encinema makes. You can that pop on a DSLR lens and really control your zoom without having to artificially blow up the frame with a digital effect.
CoM: Do you have any editing shortcuts/tips?
MD: I come from a post-production background having designed, edited and animated TV commercials in New York City. So post is one of my favorite parts of making a story come to life. Whatever the flavor of the month is in the production world, one rule holds true: “garbage in, garbage out.” That simply means that you can’t rely on the old adage “We will fix it in post.” You need to get good shots in the can.
So now here is the golden tip..wait for it,wait…OK here it is: When it comes to iPhonefilmmaking, make sure that when you offload your footage onto your drive (assuming you are cutting on a computer not the phone) you want to grab the UNCOMPRESSED footage off the iPhone.
This will ensure you are starting with the most pristine version of the digital file. A great app to do that with is the Photo Transfer App. You can pull the uncompressed raw files over to your mac and it works wirelessly. Just brilliant.
CoM: The best advice I ever got from a producer was “b-roll, b-roll, b-roll!” (meaning you can never have enough supplemental/extra footage), does this hold true for iPhone films? What makes good iPhone b-roll?
MD: B-roll is always great because it visually fills in holes that can act as a bridge between cuts/shots. Good b-roll starts with having it in the first place. Remember to remain a “first-time viewer” when making your story. People are not as familiar with your subject as you are. Bring out the details of the story by showing the viewer some of the things they would observe as if they were actually experiencing the shot in person.
Naturally, we don’t lock our eyes on one point of view when we witness and experience something. We look around, we notice…we take stock. We see that the blue collar worker we are talking to has rough skin on his hands from working all day outside. Or that the child eating a lollypop telling a story had thrown the wrapper halfway into his jeans pocket and it’s sticking out. Get a shot of the hands to cut away to during your edit! Get a close up shot of the wrapper poking our of the jeans pocket and use it – these details are the moments between the shots that engage us.
So b-roll can really elevate the production value and provide a deeper emotional connection for the viewer.