There are three important lessons this video can teach film makers about DSLR video.
#1 – Play To Your Strengths
While I’m sure they struggled with the limitations of this camera, one of its strengths is that it’s light-weight and very small. Someone on the team must have been looking at the iPhone and wondered, “What if we mounted it on a model train and went for a ride!”
While there are other small HD cameras that could have been used – like the GoPro HD – they used the thin, light-weight form factor of the iPhone 4 to get shots where most cameras would never fit.
There is power in taking a limitation and turning it into an advantage.
For instance, if you’ve got a Canon T2i and are using the 18-55mm kit lens you’ll find it’s very hard to focus manually. I saw this as a limitation when I first got the camera and believed I’d need to replace the lens. Then I discovered how to use the auto-focus while shooting video and everything changed.
Auto-focus on the T2i is fast, accurate and can even be set to find and focus on faces. While you can’t use it when recording video, just click the shutter part-way down while you’re setting up the shot and it will hit the focus in a couple of seconds.
What looked like a problem became a strength when I worked with the tool rather than fighting it.
#2 – You Have To Shoot It Like A Movie If You Want It To Look Like A Movie
Check out the credits and making-of shots in this project. From top to bottom, they had people to play all the major production roles:
- They filled the key roles of Director, Producer, Set Design, etc. Even if the same team is just ‘changing hats’ it’s important to make sure the key roles are covered.
- They had a Writer. It’s true, all good movies are made from good scripts. This one came up with a sweet story that even leaves you wanting to know more as the movie ends. That’s good writing.
- Professional talent in front of the camera makes a huge difference in the emotional impact of the work.
- Original music grabbed your attention and led you through the emotional story line.
- No zoom? No problem. They used a variety of camera support equipment including dollies, glide tracks and cranes to move the camera into the action.
- The lighting was solid and fit the mood of the piece.
- They recorded the voices after shooting the video (ADR) and mixed them into the final sound track to get the best audio.
- The editor understood how to use the language of cinema to tell the story and maxed out the functions of the editing tool.
One of the things that impressed me about Vincent LaForet’s first DSLR movie – Reverie – was that it looked like a good movie in all respects. The fact that it was shot on a DSLR was stunning but it would have been worth watching no matter what the camera.
Making movies is not like shooting video for events or training. It’s not like shooting stills. Yes, they share common elements but the depth of skill and the breadth of specialties required for movies is unique and demanding.
If you aspire to make movies with a DSLR you may want to forget the camera for a while and learn more about the art and craft of movie production.
#3 – Movies Are Made For The Audience To Enjoy
I remember the first time I saw one of my productions on a large screen. No only were the sound and images completely different from all the times I watched it in edit suites and conference rooms, the reaction of the audience changed everything for me.
I realized that my job was to create entertainment. Sometimes the film had to help sell a product or influence opinions and beliefs. Sometimes it was to convey information required to get from point A to point B.
But if that was all I did then the film became one of thousands of meaningless productions cranked out like someone mowing a lawn.
The concept of an iPhone HD movie made me willing to take a look at this film. The opening shot and the entrance of the actors looked nice, kept me watching for a bit more to see what else they did with the camera.
But when they dissolved to that first train shot with the music twinkling magically, I forgot all of that and slipped inside their movie completely. I had to force myself to stop now and then to check out the tech. That’s an entertaining movie.
It’s a lot more work to get into the head of your audience and create something that speaks their language, something that pulls them in and entertains them, maybe even something that brings a deeper emotional moment to their lives.
But that’s the key to making movies that will keep you working in this business for years, no matter what camera you shoot it with.
Take a moment and leave a comment, let me know what you think.