Back in 2009-10, I co-produced and co-hosted a short video series called Food Discoveries which essentially was a series of short episodes on favourite foods, restaurants and cooking tips. The series was shot using my now old Sony HDV-1080i camera, on tape, and post-produced using Final Cut Studio 2 on my iMac. Although the series was one of the simplest I’ve had to make from a logistical point of view, producing the series still felt like putting together an old school television show, albeit for the internet. It had to be planned appropriately throughout each stage of pre-production, production, and post-production. We ended up producing 52 episodes using these old school techniques.
I experienced a revelation of sorts towards the final few episodes of the series when I decided it might be a good idea to do a “mobile” series which would be shot entirely on my iPhone. In my mind, I didn’t really take the notion of producing videos on my phone seriously at the time (this was 2010), and the resulting mobile series was reasonable, but the quality did dip somewhat as the iPhone 4 I was using at the time was not really up to production quality. And given the software and speed of the iPhone 4, it was still far more practical to edit the videos on my iMac. As a result, we only produced eight videos of the mobile series and “Food Discoveries” was put on hiatus (I haven’t ruled out the thought of returning to the series).
Flash forward four years later and I picked up the iPhone 6 which thanks to some great hardware and software technology improvements in the intervening years, is a true mobile production studio. I produced and uploaded a dozen videos from overseas late last year all on my iPhone 6, and they were just as good technical quality as the “Food Discoveries” series (or my other previous work). Check out the video on “Sushidai”, one of the first I shot, edited and uploaded entirely from my iPhone 6. It would have made a great Food Discoveries episode!
With the iPhone 6, I feel I have finally broken away from using a desktop and a dedicated high quality camera which required an old school production workflow to make films and videos. The freedom of doing all of this on a highly portable device that I could carry around in my pocket was a revelation. Despite the appearance of some rather attractive 4K cameras for sale in the past year or so that I would love to have in the studio, a part of me thinks there’s no point in using them. They might produce a better image, but having that device in your pocket that lets you shoot, edit and distribute from anywhere is just about impossible to beat. It delivers a feeling of freedom and flexibility that traditional methods have never allowed.
I had a taste of this freedom with the iPhone 5 and the recording of the previous podcast I worked on: FiST Chat. When my aforementioned HDV camera broke down completely, I contemplated getting another camera, but then realised my iPhone 5 had a 1080p camera built right in; all I needed to do was get the right tripod mount for it. Steve and I were able to do around 50 or so episodes using the iPhone 5 before we finished that podcast. It worked brilliantly and actually yielded a better image (ie 1080p vs 1080i). You can watch the first episode we filmed off the iPhone below:
However, the limitation with the iPhone 5 was that it worked best when it was locked off with a stationary frame. Camera movement didn’t yield good results because there wasn’t good image stabilisation on that model (which procluded taking the iPhone 5 on the road for mobile production). That all changed with the iPhone 6. Hand held camera moves while walking suddenly became as smooth as steadicam footage. The true mobile production studio had arrived. And I was, and still am, excited by the possibilities for video and media production that this device is capable of. Putting together a high quality video almost as easily as writing a blog post like this is a truly amazing breakthrough in consumer and mobile device technology.
When I first started making films back in 1997-98, the computer I used to edit my first videos was barely able to cut a handful of different SD quality shots together without yielding the infamous Windows blue screen of death. Doing simple graphic renders, like the old radial blur filter from Adobe Premiere 5.1 that I used on one of my early films would take nine hours to render on a 30 second clip. And later in 2001, I couldn’t keep a 100 minute feature film timeline open all at once because the computer would either crash or not have enough hard drive space to store all the rendered elements (this proved to be a challenge when trying to render out the final master!). Now in 2015, I have a device in my pocket that can do full playback previews with little to no render time, with HD video, no tape, more onboard storage, and the ability to upload straight to the internet for everyone to see immediately. How things can change in two decades!