Zurich has always held a special place in my heart, as I spent many summers there as a child. Revisiting so many years later as a contestant and ultimately a winner for the MoMo film festival with Dancers of NYC, and meeting so many creative people using their mobile devices to tell stories, inspired me to make the sequel to Dancers of NYC. It was so different than our first go around, with multiple dancers in frame at once, better equipment, and foreign backdrops. It was an adventure to say the least and everyone was a huge part of its creation with their ideas, suggestions, and talents. The goal here is to showcase everyone’s talent and have a ton of fun doing it!
- Why shoot on an iPhone?
I switched over to an iPhone (around the iPhone 4s) because as a photographer I know the ageold anecdote “The best camera is the one you have with you”. I noticed I was using my phone for my vacations and everyday shots more than my DSLR due to ease and convenience so I wanted the best quality possible. From there I just kept pushing the limits of what an iPhone could do.
Be it through apps that unlock manual controls or techniques with external attachments, I found the potential this little phone in my pocket held to be exciting.
Dancers of NYC was inspired by the fact that a small camera could have 240FPS. I love slow motion, especially being a dance photographer/videographer. Being able to capture the entire move instead of just the perfect frame is beautiful. From there it has really kind of taken off for me, pushing my creativity to the next level while providing quality footage for the dancers I work with. As someone who is often the casting director, I knew people without a Reel more than often get passed over for those who do. So I found a way that I could help Dancers and Actors alike create a Reel for their portfolio efficiently, cheaply, and quickly. Not only that but I could focus on their strengths and cut right to the meat of what makes them stand out from the rest. I call this process InMotion Reels which can be seen at http://www.tristanpope.com/portfolio/in-motion-headshotsreels/ the latest one being: https://vimeo.com/129973515
But this is just one layer. For me the “Dancers of” project had much more potential than just one city. What comes to mind is that old YouTube video of the guy who went around the world dancing with multiple cultures in a kind, loving, and sometimes comedic form. “Dancers of” has the potential to showcase the different cultural styles, fashions, and movements. This is why, when I went to Zurich for the Mobile Motion Film Festival for Dancers of NYC that won, I decided to film as many dancers there as I could. I felt Zurich is a more ballet- focused culture so I focused mainly on Ballet this time around.
What I have found out during the festivals I have been to, is a consensus that there is something liberating about shooting on a mobile device. I can’t put my finger on it completely as I have shot on DLSR, RED, and ARIS… you name it, but mobile filmmaking is just different, in a truly liberating way. Sure, you are limited but the limitations seem to be very freeing in terms of being creative. They push you to truly focus on the story. Plus it is a ton of fun to show someone something so beautiful from something so small. No longer do you need to add 5000 attachments to your camera to be taken seriously. It is also nice to push the boundaries of what the iPhone can do and try to make something small much bigger through content and story. This is the ae of the storyteller, where cameras are in everyone’s pockets, with the ability to produce amazing quality. So if you have a story worth telling, you can get it out there . There is really no excuse!
- How did you improve the production value? What equipment did you use?
This time around I was not limited to a tripod and the iPhone alone. I had some innovative stabilizers: From the Ikan’s FlyX3 Electronic Gimbal to Grip Gear’s IndieSolo Stabilizer,I had an arsenal with which to do some truly unique movements through the dance, with such a small footprint it is easily transportable and flexible in terms of locations and mobility. It is like having a complex rail system without the setup.
I was also lucky enough to have multiple dancers available at a time giving me depth and multiple actions going on at once. At one point I had every dancer line up on a banister I found, wait for a train to go by, and as it passed I ran down the line as they all did a simple Tendu iteration that had an amazing feel of strength and unity between the dancers. It also allowed me to layer and give depth to the shots since I was lacking true DoF with a mobile lens, using these layers as a creative way to fill that open aperture space.
As well, I had a lot more time to really go into post and add the needed color correction and special effects that I didn’t have time for in Dancers of NYC due to the 3 day turnaround(including filming).
I am often asked what is the best equipment to film on an iPhone, and I always return with the question: “What is your story?” “What kind of shots are you creating”. There are so many amazing options out there to accomplish unique shots, lens adapters from Olloclip, stabilizers from Gripgear, full on DSLR lens rigs by Beastgrip, even traditional equipment can work with a mobile device as was shown with my own film Romance in NYC utilizing a Gorillapod and Glidecam, but at the end of the day the best way to approach it isto ask yourself: if everything broke, could you still achieve the shot with just the iPhone? Then you know that it is the best medium to tell your story!
- What sort of limitations did you have to adjust to?
I am constantly fighting the bitrate and focus of my shots. This pushes my need to get creative with layering, depth, and movement to allow the shots to keep the “feel” of DSLR quality but with a phone that doesn’t always have that luxury. I also needed to be very careful about exposure and the smoothing that the iPhone can apply to certain shots. While this may be great features for when you want to point and click, it can work against you when you need continuity between all your shots. I would hope in future iterations that Apple allows me more controls over exposure and bit-rate through the stock app. The LG G4 is an amazing example of giving the camera operator all the tools he needs , while not overwhelming those who just want to have the one button to click and shoot. Until then there are some amazing external apps that I use to get the shot right. I use all of them at this point.
- What’s the downside of shooting on an iPhone?
To be honest the only downside is lack of DoF, but with equipment such as Beastgrip and iOgrapher you can now attach DSLR lenses to your iPhone, so it will be interesting to see what I can do with that next. Like I said, the downsides are there for sure… lower resolution when shooting 240FPS, no 4K…but it all seems trite compared to the liberating feeling you get running down the line shooting 3 dancers moving in tandem with just a small stabilizer and iPhone in your hand. And man, does it make traveling with your equipment so much easier.
- How big was your “crew” for this film?
The “crew” consisted of me and my sister who happened to be taking an “Eat Love Pray” trip around Europe at the time. She shot Behind the Scenes and helped me to keep my equipment in order and I shot. We had about 8-9 dancers this time around in total. All extremely talented and part of some very prestigious ballet companies. Ideally you want at least 1-3 people with you on these shoots. One person for lighting, one for makeup, and one assistant to make sure everything is in order.
- What are you planning next?
Dancers of the World! I actually just got back from another film festival the New Media Film Festival in LA for my short film shot on iPhone 6 “Romance in NYC” which also came away with a win, and ended up extending my trip in order to shoot Dancers of California as well. This film will have a strong emphasis on contemporary dance, performance dance(aerialist/pole), with ballet and other forms to round it out. I wanted to really capture the dance culture in California as best as I could. There are whispers that I may be heading to Hong Kong for my next “Dancers of” film.
Ultimately I believe this could be an amazing way for Dance companies such as Capezio, Sportswear designers such as Under Armor, or Fashion Designers in general to get their lines out there in a new and exciting way. I would love to work more hand in hand with them because the juxtaposition of the absolutely magical beauty of a ballerina’s form and technique with style and fashion and trends produces a beautiful result that caters to a broader and potentially deeper audience. Take that and apply it to dance styles and trends all over the world and you have a recipe for something truly amazing, all shot on an iPhone…. can’t get any more cutting edge trendy than that. And not just for the “trendy” aspect but because it is truly something I believe in as a legitimate form of filmmaking in this day and age.
Not only that but this is an amazing way to connect with so many different people and showcase their talents for the world to see, in such a new and unique way.
I am very excited to continue shooting on iPhone in the future, it is extremely fun to overcome the limitations and after seeing our first short film Romance in NYC on the big screen next to those shot with Reds and such we were completely blown away by the fact that it really held up beyond a measure of a doubt.
I was asked a very interesting question during the Q/A for Romance in NYC, “Have you ever considered not telling an audience they are watching a film on an iPhone?” I ended up writing a pretty in depth piece about it here: http://www.tristanpope.com/portfolio/shot-on-iphone-the-age-of-the-story/
The jist though is that “As I continue forward with mobile filmmaking I am constantly working with companies like Grip Gear and Beast Grip to push thelimitations of mobile devices further. So I am excited for the day when I don’t feel it necessary to say it was shot on an iPhone, but for now I enjoy sharing that small bit of information for those who may feel like they can’t tell their story because their tech isn’t up to par. Because in the end if your story is strong and you know how to manipulate your medium for filming, iPhone or RED, your film will captivate your audience because we all go to the movies for that suspension of disbelief and all of these mediums allow that to happen. So take your phone out of your pocket more and start filming!”
As always you can follow the progress of all of these projects at http://tristanpope.com or any of my social media outlets: Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @tristanpope