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Why I Choose iPhoneography

Michael Artsis explores a compact way of taking photos, the iPhone way.

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Ever since I began my career as an anchor/reporter, director/producer, host and video journalist I've dreamed of a day when the gear would be compact, nimble and light.


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The idea of editing video in the camera seemed cool but a lifetime away, and it didn’t seem like it could be practical. In fact, the idea of having a camera with a tape deck as part of its body instead of having one attached by a cable, to a deck hanging on my shoulder, seemed a lifetime away.

That lifetime came fast and furious and now another dream from that time period has been surpassed. I looked forward to the day where a small camera and my cell phone would team up to transmit footage back to the station. Today you can live broadcast/stream from your phone, and have the phone record the video so you can share and even edit right on the phone. In reality it can do even more.

The industry has been transformed and it's an amazing time to be in this creative space. My iPhone has more storage and better system specs than my first AVID editing system (the industry standard back then), which cost me $40,000 brand new. That AVID took up my entire living room, it was massive. My iPhone, well you know - it fits in my pocket, makes calls and sends texts. Since that AVID, I have interviewed presidents, covered Super Bowls, done behind the scenes work with celebs and athletes, won 5 Emmys, and produced a ton of shows, documentaries and commercials.

That lifetime came fast and furious and now another dream from that time period has been surpassed. I looked forward to the day where a small camera and my cell phone would team up to transmit footage back to the station. Today you can live broadcast/stream from your phone, and have the phone record the video so you can share and even edit right on the phone. In reality it can do even more.

So my dreams have been surpassed in many ways. With hard work, experience, and the right supporting tools, you can shoot stunning videos and create professional productions on mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads. It takes some practice, but it can be done. Since I've been working with much of this technology since its inception, I’ve created methodologies and work flows that have given me much experience, knowledge and understanding. I will be sharing these with you at the Adorama Learning Center every month. I will also be presenting free Adorama seminars where you will learn tips, tricks, and techniques on these devices.

In this first installment of iPhoneogrphy, I will be sharing some thoughts about the mobile devices I like to shoot with and why.

Let's start with the type of device. My devices of choice are all Apple iOS. You can shoot and edit creatively on many other devices including Androids and Windows devices but I don't think anything compares to the devices from the tiny company in Cupertino (kidding about the tiny part- they clearly rule the world). Apple iOS devices have been optimized to shoot, they are easy to use and their App Store is the most developed. Additionally, while Apple locks some of its key features, which ultimately  create longer workflows (they seem to be making this better for creators, slowly but surely), they have the most buttoned up system, that offers the most consistent experience, across multiple platforms.

Integration between devices is seamless and there is no fragmentation or issues with apps working with different devices, or different versions of operating systems. It's simple, clean, easy, and they make it a fun experience. I also don't believe that any other platform is as stable, functions as well or shoots as nicely. Apple has maximized performance and tweaked the settings to get the best results, especially with dynamic range, and I believe they will continue to make it better because they are committed to doing so.

Please note that regardless of my choice to use Apple products my tips from each article will be mostly applicable to other devices. Specific app info or workflows, however, will not. 

Shooting with Apple iOS devices is amazing. They shoot better than most regular consumer and prosumer cameras on the market, even rivaling DSLRs and other professional cameras even though it's tough to get that super shallow depth of field that has become so popular and is so beautiful. There are some drawbacks on iOS devices, but the decrease in workflow and labor, makes them more than a joy to work with and more than counterbalances the negative.

Some productions from iOS devices have even aired on national TV and in movies. Some of my work on these devices has been among those.  These devices are computers so it gives us a lot to work with. Quality is terrific, especially if you know what you are doing. Countless newsrooms are replacing expensive gear with these devices. These devices are great for shooting news, product videos, events, concerts, commercials, marketing videos, corporate videos, music videos, sports, weddings, documentaries and much more.

I prefer to shoot with an iPhone 5s. It has the best camera of any Apple iOS device. It has the best image stabilization, and the best low light capability. I love the form factor. It nearly feels like a real camera. It should, because it is.  I also love the ability to shoot slow motion (high speed/high frame rate footage), which I think is paramount in the industry these days. The processing power is insane too. Conveniently, it's always in my pocket. Regardless, please remember that when shooting, we can no longer treat these devices like phones. We need to treat them as we would any other camera, and use them accordingly.

My Second favorite iOS device to shoot with is the iPod touch (again the form factor is great and the results rival my next choice), followed closely by the iPad Air. At this point I don't love shooting on my iPad mini, but that could be because it's not a retina and it's only 16gb.

In terms of accessories, I strongly recommend a bracket like a MXL MM VV 001 kit or a padcaster, along with a tripod, a light and a mic setup; like the MXL MM 130 kit. Add both a good reasonable slider, the flashpoint roller skate for movement and you will need a monopod to stabilize the camera while you are moving around a lot (I like the Manfrotto 562B) and you're all set.

My favorite app to shoot video on is the Filmic Pro app, which was featured in Apple commercials on national TV. It allows you to shoot at 50mbps, which means quality will be superb. I will tell you more about the apps, below. I digress. If you have anything other than those devices, you can shoot video and stills, but honestly- it's time to upgrade. I'm sure your wireless provider would be happy to help because your device is probably old enough to get you into a new contract and save you some money.

You can edit on your phone but it's not optimal because the screen is so small. For editing, my favorite iOS device is the iPad Air. It's truly remarkable device. It's fast, beautiful and light. It feels great in your hands. I suggest you purchase the Just Mobile stand for your desk, and a folding stand for travel. You can literally edit anywhere. In order to edit video that you shot on an iPhone on an iPad Air, you will need one of the following (I use them all): a Kingston Technology MobileLite air card reader, the USB/lighting camera connection kit or a drop box account.

The camera connection kit is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest solution. I love that route. But I also love the Kingston because it allows you to transfer files between any and all iOS devices and you can also backup media to an SD card wirelessly. Dropbox works but it's slower. Be careful with drop box though because if you don't have a wifi connection you can blow through your data plan fairly fast.

In terms of memory, I recommend getting the highest memory available that you can afford for your Apple iOS devices. I always do and it's still never enough. You will have to learn to manage your media, especially when you are done with your project. Luckily, there are several solutions for media storage out on the market. The Seagate Wi-Fi Hard Drive is perfect for storage and backup (you can also use the Kingston for this but the Seagate is a 1tb drive and it makes things easier). It's USB 3 and will also connect to a computer, but this is about ditching the computer, so forget I mentioned that and do it all without!

Being quick and creative with apps while shooting is awesome. You can really speedup shooting time and get stellar results. Still, editing is the part of the process where you can really speedup the workflow. This is also where you will be able to expand profits and increase the fun while decreasing your workload and labor compared to traditional editing systems. Effort however shall remain the same, 110%.

Now that we’ve established some of the equipment you will need to shoot great material, stay tuned for my next article on some must-have apps and what they do, some of which will be explained in more detail in later articles.


You can also visit ifilmmaking.com for sample videos, displaying some of the capabilities of these devices. Also, visit www.ifilmmaking.com/events for more information regarding my monthly seminars.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Adorama.

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