After another weekend of filming at the race shop, I have a new drive to update my equipment. At the beginning, I focused only on getting really nice, expensive equipment. I was intimidated to work with anything less than what was perceived to be the best film gear within my budget. I relentlessly called my more experienced friends and either quizzed them on what I should get or begged to borrow gear to try out, all quite complicated to operate for the non-techy type. One of my first interviews ever, due to operator error, I focused in and out during an entire interview because I forgot to set it to manual instead of auto focus. That was disappointing.
Before I launched the current web series I am working on entitled Fastlife, I thought the way to go was to hire a crew, spend money to make a sizzle look professional, and sell the concept to networks. I was quickly proven wrong. Over the course of a year, I spent money, pitched to producers and networks alike, received an offer, and couldn’t get it negotiated, and then ended up right back to where I started. The thing that never wavered was my resolve that this could really be something. I was not only living the story, I was very passionate about it and felt very strongly that it could be inspiring to people. So we embarked on producing a blog and web series entitled Fastlife.
I have now defaulted to the use of my iPhone and a few small pieces of gear for many reasons. For one, the phone is always with me anyway so it’s hard to miss anything. I am documenting the behind the scenes story of my husband’s journey to be a pro race car driver. I follow him, and as the title indicates, he moves very quickly. It became glaringly clear that I wasn’t going to be able to lug around 3-4 heavy bags of equipment and set it up for perfect audio and lighting, etc. every time I wanted to shoot something. As a matter of fact, far before this web series became a reality, my husband said to me, “Why don’t you just use your iPhone? It will be so much easier!” I resisted due to my long held opinion that he oversimplifies things too much. However, I will say, we are moving forward, and I think I was wrong…mostly. The second reason I decided to use the iPhone was that I felt less intimidated to approach people. Most people in the racing world, move quickly. It is an intense fast paced sport, even behind the scenes. So, trying to get an interview with someone or a scene could prove to be challenging if I had to set up gear. One of our primary “cast members” actually walked away from an interview after being mic’ed because he had business to attend to. He couldn’t wait for ten more minutes for a sound check and further camera and lighting set ups. I have taken the approach on Fastlife to be an imperfectly great story teller. I am focusing on the story, instead of the sound, lighting, and perfectly steady camera operating. This is not to say that those are not important, it has just become clear that for this project, that approach won’t work. The last main reason why I am choosing the iPhone over all the gear, is that people are also more at ease with less gear and a smaller camera. In the past I have prided myself on helping subjects be comfortable and open up as naturally as possible in a formal interview setting. With the iPhone, people seem to be mostly at ease. It isn’t as intimidating. My husband’s mechanic has very quickly become very at ease with the camera on him. The iPhone is unintimidating and small.
As with any equipment, no matter how small, there comes a time when updates or improvements are needed. After visiting Pro Photo in Portland, OR, I added a small Rhode Mic designed for iPhones and a wind cover. I purchased a bendable small phone tripod that also acts as a handle for steadying the camera a little easier or holding it out away from me if I’m adding myself into the shot. Recently my iPhone 6 has begun to have a mind of its own. At random, it just types and opens apps on its own. At one point over the weekend I was filming some fun spots for social media and waited to check it until I got in the car. The audio was blown out and there was intermittent loud interference. It is the tool I have come to rely most on and it was having a meltdown. I was already aware of the better camera in the iPhone 7, but was having a hard time throwing more money at a project I had already gone way over budget on. Needless to say, the iPhone is getting upgraded today. It will still work well with the rhode mic for the iPhone with an adaptor and I will continue to use the small tripod.
There are some downsides to the iPhone. Low light compromises the quality rather severely. The mic plugged into the phone is the highest quality sound. it’s better than just the iPhone mic. Running around with an iPhone is also not very stable. Almost all of my videos are flagged on You Tube for adding stabilization. My next steps will begin with the upgrade to the iPhone 7 Plus. I have researched stabilization for the iPhone and what other bloggers are using for cameras. I may add one pf these to my package. In which case, I will update you weekly on the gear I add to my filmmaker toolbox. For now, as my life coach Louise says, “The best story wins.” I will focus on the quality of the story and improve upon the equipment over time. I do know that I will appreciate every new piece of equipment after having operated with such a bare bones gear package.