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Where do you draw the line as a Cinematographer?


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#1 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 12:21 AM

Tangerine_2014_090_ct-624x416.jpg

 

So I'm listening to KPCC today and they talk about the new film 'Tangerine' which is shot on iPhones. Few months ago when I heard about this, I honestly thought it was some ultra low budget, directorial debut film, but then it comes out the director Sean Baker, has made many films. So I start doing some research and sure enough, these guys have taken iPhones and made a serious movie with them. Their budget for production was $100k, which you'd assume is enough to BUY a decent camera and shoot. Sean's last film was shot with a AG-AF100, which in my eyes is a bit better then an iPhone. 

 

They used this new Anamorphic adaptor from Moondog Labs: 

 

 

tangerine002.jpg

 

 

They also used Filmic Pro which allow the iPhone to record at 50Mbps @ 2K, though still 8 bit and still 4:2:0 color space. They could make aperture and focus changes on the fly as well. 

 

http://www.filmicpro...pps/filmic-pro/

 

So my question is… as a cinematographer, where do you draw the line? Shooting a feature film with iPhones is about as low as you can go today. Would any of you even contemplate doing something like that? 

 

I must say, I for one wouldn't even dream of it. However, now that it's been done and with a very popular subject to boot, maybe it's going to be the new fad? 

 

Outside of a few shots, the trailer looks pretty good. 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 02:44 AM

The camera selection could be due to the locations and having a low profile. It's not the first feature to be shot on a mobile (cell) phone, although it can be interesting at times to compare the amount of kit the sound dept carries to get high quality sound compared to the small camera.


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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 03:04 AM

I'd do it. I can hardly tell everyone cameras don't matter and to buy grip and lighting and crew and locations, and then complain about this!

 

Much of the production looks pretty good.

 

P


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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 03:16 AM

I'd do it to if it was appropriate for the story in one way or the other. The camera, in the end, is a tool. What matters is what's in front of and behind it.


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#5 Phil Connolly

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 04:05 AM

Sometimes having a gimmick like shooting on a iphone - can help you get a bit of extra press attention as it creates a story that you can get people to write about. Small projects with limited marketing budgets can benefit from this - after all would we be discussing this film if it were shot on the AF100/101?

 

The resulting quality is pretty good as well and there have been plenty of successful films shot on lesser formats. I think  the texture of cheap digital does create a particular look and supports some types of narrative - its a creative choice along the lines of shooting in grainy super 8 or 16. Sometimes you don't want visual perfection. e.g the grimey miniDV look of 28 Days later was appropriate to the subject matter and in my opinion supported the mood. That was a film that didn't shoot DV for budgetary reasons - but for aesthetic reasons(they could have easily stretched to Digi-Beta). 


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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 04:14 AM

Not to side-track too much; but I vividly recall when the XL1 did come out many many people ranting that film was dead; oh the memories of yore.

But I think you hit the nail right on the head-- when you have a film, you need something to differentiate it from the flood of other films. Sometimes that's an original story, or some great shooting, acting, what have you; though more often than not it's going to be some kind of rather "odd" sounding technical choice just the stand out from the crowd.


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#7 Phil Connolly

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 04:35 AM

I made a music video for the very obscure palm top theatre for iphone a few years ago, not because we thought many people would see it in that format - but because we could get more press attention for the artist with a zero budget project. People talked more about the tech then the music - but at least they were talking about it.

 

http://www.wired.co....teractive-album

 

 

So this sort of thing can work. 


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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 04:38 AM

We did a whole feature on gopros and IR canons (and a few GHs) yrs back which is about to come out-- that was their thinking as well-- get people talking. we'll see if it works.


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#9 JD Hartman

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 06:24 AM

Apple is certainly hying the, " ......shot on an iphone" , in their commercials.


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#10 Albion Hockney

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 10:11 AM

I Really enjoyed that directors previous film "prince of broadway" that one was shot on low end DV

 

I think this film looks pretty interesting visually.

 

cameras are tools... I think you need to question what an "acceptable" image is and what is "good" what is "bad" its all up for debate.

 

that said I donno how much of a marketing plan it was, that part of it I think is kinda silly.


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#11 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 10:50 AM

I've never been a fan of shooting at lower resolution then your presentation format. That was the big problem with those few early DV movies, when blown up, they really looked bad. I didn't care for '28 Days Later' because there was no detail in the image. There was no "reason" to see it in the cinema because it was (at the time) shot in home video quality. At least with these new iPhone tools, you can shoot at acceptable quality for cinema digital projection. 

 

As a side note… I shot a short film on a DVX-100A in 24P in 2006. I was blown away at how good that camera looked in that mode. Years later, I took the original tapes, re-captured them and did an upres to 720p and unless I told you it was shot in DV, you may never know. So DV did come a long way over the years and at the end, became somewhat acceptable as a format. 


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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 10:51 AM

Cinematically it looks really good.

 

Sundance programmed a movie with this content, wow, no way!

 

R,


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#13 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 06:45 PM

I think the trailer is edited really well.  The cinematography probably suits the content.  Looks like footage from someone with them on the street.  

 

If you're question is whether I'd opt for shooting a film with an Iphone after seeing that.  No way.  It looks like a casting or blocking rehearsal of the film they wanted to make.

 

I always die a little inside at the first few shots of a film like that.  Contrastly, when I see a film like It Follows where there is actual cinematic production value apparent within the first minute, I am able to relax and sit back and feel like I'm watching a movie.  There is a stark difference.  At least to me, but maybe cause I shoot.

 

I am increasingly aware that the distinction between those two types of shooting is definitely NOT something that everyone notices or necessarily even cares about.  But do I want to help obfuscate that line?  Uhhh No.  Not even for marketing reasons.   Unless Apple backed the whole movie and even then I'd just lie and say I shot with their phones while I had an Alexa in the background somewhere getting the principle shots.


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#14 AJ Young

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Posted 15 July 2015 - 07:49 PM

I don't think the price of your camera package means the quality of your production or cinematography.

 

Too many filmmakers and cinematographers today are concerned with the equipment rather than story, production design, and performances (which, throughout history, have always been top priority).

 

The only line to draw is which camera is perfect for the project.

 

To quote Radium Cheung, HKSC, on shooting Tangerines, "The decision to shoot with a couple of mobile phones turned out to be one of the greatest assets to the film." (Indiewire)

Sean baker chose to shoot on iPhones as an artistic decision, not budgetary or lazieness. In fact, he's not the first person to shoot on "crappy" mediums. Look at the Dogma 95 films or 28 Days Later.

I think we use the quality of cinema cameras now as a crutch; we're getting spoiled with how good they are. For myself, personally, I would shoot a film on anything as long as it serves the needs of the project. Even an iPhone.


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#15 David Peterson

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 04:10 AM

The camera selection could be due to the locations and having a low profile. It's not the first feature to be shot on a mobile (cell) phone, although it can be interesting at times to compare the amount of kit the sound dept carries to get high quality sound compared to the small camera.

If it as purely about the locations and needing to keep a low profile, then they could've used a Sony RX100 which is vastly superior than an iPhone. 

An iPhone was picked as a marketing gimmick, as everybody and their mum has an iPhone. Thus it appeals to them, for instance the feeling: "I could shoot this too". (or even the opposite: "wow, AMAZING, I could never do this with my iPhone". Either angles might work psychologically in getting a person into the cinema to see the film)

However, I feel as more and more features get shot with an iPhone, then "the hook" of shooting with an iPhone will be a weaker and weaker marketing tool.


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#16 David Peterson

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 04:15 AM

Sometimes having a gimmick like shooting on a iphone - can help you get a bit of extra press attention as it creates a story that you can get people to write about. Small projects with limited marketing budgets can benefit from this - after all would we be discussing this film if it were shot on the AF100/101?

 

The resulting quality is pretty good as well and there have been plenty of successful films shot on lesser formats. I think  the texture of cheap digital does create a particular look and supports some types of narrative - its a creative choice along the lines of shooting in grainy super 8 or 16. Sometimes you don't want visual perfection. e.g the grimey miniDV look of 28 Days later was appropriate to the subject matter and in my opinion supported the mood. That was a film that didn't shoot DV for budgetary reasons - but for aesthetic reasons(they could have easily stretched to Digi-Beta). 

 

I recall interviews where they said they couldn't have shot with anything else, as they cleared streets of London for certain key shots. And could of course only do this for very very very short periods of time, thus they had to use a *LOT* of cameras covering it all at once, to get every angle they needed all at once for the edit. I suspect going with a pricier Digi-Beta camera would've prevented them from doing those particular shots. 


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