Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Fone It In" Festival - Filming With An iPhone

Ever since we subscribed to the Online Video Contest site, we've been finding great motivation in creating content for festivals and challenges. We decided to take place in the "Fone It In" Festival. Under this, you are to film a fiction/nonfiction short film on a phone. The videos has to be under 3-minutes, and can be edited on any software. After striving to step forward with our gear over the past year, it was time to step back and put what we've learned onto a lower class camera. Here's how it went and what we have to say about the Production of "PREVENT: Standoff Against Time".

PREVENT: Standoff Against Time
Filmed with an iPhone
Directed/Written by Silas J. Rowland 

A Cowboy and his family are wrapping up an average day on the farm. When they enter the barn, they are disturbed to find a man who appears to be from a different time period on Earth. At first, he seems to be injured. From there, they realize that the man is a different type of trespasser. And he's hostile. 

At first, we thought, "Who's going to take your production serious if you are filming with an iPhone?" It actually turned out, if you have a story, a plan, and a role, people will come to be a part of the project. So that problem quickly faded as we expressed why we were using the phone as the camera instead of our
Canon t3i.

Since we were novices for never using external audio equipment, we thought this would be the perfect time to start, so we borrowed some and brought it in. This allowed for us to get some crisp audio that we wouldn't be able to capture with the iPhone. 

It was going to be a big problem having to hold the Phone in our hands for each shot. We didn't have the time or money to purchase a rig that could properly hold the iPhone, so we became MacGyver. Since we already had a fig-rig and tripod, we decided we could improvise something to hold the camera onto those pieces of gear. Clamps. Let's use the clamps that hold our lights to poles for the phone. At first, Silas was nervous about the pressure the clamp would hold on the phone's screen, but it didn't do any damage or interfere with the display. 

An issue arose in post, that was quickly resolved. It appeared that the files couldn't be extracted from the device directly onto the PC. So Jake Mycko came up with the idea of downloading Dropbox to his iPhone, so we could upload them there. This turned out to be a big help. While over 70 clips were uploading, I could download a few at a time and began examining and color grading. The videos appeared to be responding appropriately to the touch ups. 

Going for a certain look. When I started messing with the clips in After Effects, I was pretty sure with the look I wanted. I got through a few clips, and decided the way I was taking things didn't seem right. Everything seems to dark and over graded. I quickly scratched that and tried to go for a classic looking style. With a few presets and touch ups of my own, I finally found something that I liked. It looked like more like a Western than a darkened, green Sci-fi look that I had originally planned on doing. 

Over all, the experience was great. On set, everything seemed to have a flow, and the mobility of the equipment was easy. There was lots of opportunities to get some flexible shots I couldn't usually get. If there was one thing I would complain about, it would be the display. We've grown so use to the rotating screen, that with the iPhone, I had to get in prone position with the camera to just frame a shot. Also, the display wasn't that bright and hard to see with the sun directly overhead. 

Check out some of these stills from our shoot:

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