Equipment Hacks: Using an iPhone Camera 01/02/2012
I still do not own a camera. But, I don't think that is that big of a deal. Camera phones are ubiquitous and their quality has vastly improved. One of the reasons for me to start shooting these videos is to show that with the right adjustments, camera phones can pass for regular consumer cameras no problem.
Right now, I have an iPhone 3GS (yes, I know, swanky).
Here are the specifications:
Resolution: 640 x 480
Speed: 30 fps
Audio: built-in mic
White Balance: Auto
The camera is by no means going to replace your in-house consumer camera. It can match it, and with the tap-to-focus features and improvements from the 3G, it makes a solid competitor. But the handheld style and the awkward focusing mean that its videos are easily branded by the 'amateur' look. Give it a handle or a velcro strap and then we can talk. It is a satisfying step in the right direction, with promises of a better future, but is not worth the price tag if you are looking for a good camera.
What to do?
While the white balance is sufficient, it is not reliable. For set shots, ensure you are evenly lit and try to warm up indoor scenes. The camera still relies on your basic consumer 'indoor/outdoor' temperatures, so make sure to get a nice even lighting setup.
For shooting, you need to develop an even steadier hand than you might be used to. There is no real steadicam function and small jolts and twitches are very noticeable. This is further complicated by the autofocus feature which forces a free hand or finger to successfully direct the object to focus on. While it is an interesting development to the camera phone, it is best suited for still shots or short clips. Rack focuses or longer, mobile shots will require a careful eye and a steady hand. Practice makes perfect.
Verdict: Not the best but passable. Not recommended for professional videos, but can serve as an interim if used carefully and properly. Recommended additions include microphone hookup or some sort of stand/tripod/steadicam. Perfectly acceptable for viral videos, just follow guidelines listed above.
Booty Swing: Breakdown 09/16/2011
Celebrating my very first attempt at breaking into the viral market, I popped open a bottle of Kool-Aid Squeezit and drank it down in one gulp. Here I sit, shivering with sugary glee as I excitedly dissect the YouTube masterpiece.
Song Choice: As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to choose lesser-known songs to see the effect that popularity has on its tendency towards 'viralness' (virulence?). Booty Swing is poppy and exciting, and may have the added appeal of a new musical discovery to first-time viewers. Since the lyrics are somewhat indistinguishable, I thought it would be a good first attempt for the star of the video, Tree. I know little of Parov Stelar's fan base but based on the related YouTube videos I would guess that they are mostly located in Europe. Do Europeans like children? Deng, I should have had them dance with glow sticks.
Equipment: I borrowed an iPhone 4G and found two musty work lights that I think I acquired from painting houses. I wanted the highest shutter speed that I could get in a basement, so I tried to make them as bright as possible. You can even see the light setup in a few angles. I went handheld (naturally) and tried to keep the movement as lively as possible without being distracting. It's shaky but meh.
Props/Costumes: Maybe I should have included this in my list of assets. We have 2 tubs of halloween costumes that we were able to go through. Included in those tubs was a large afro wig, a flower headband and multiple sunglasses. My father played the coronet in high school so I dug that up from the attic. The electric piano was a gift from my uncle and I don't think it works anymore. That couch sits alone in the basement.
Staging/Direction: I tried to keep it as simple as possible. Most of the heavy lifting was on my end, moving around, so I told them to make as much movement as possible. Since my idea was to speed up the footage in editing, I knew sudden movements would look jerky and cool. I think they were partially frozen in fear. I took a large, used poster board and taped the lyrics on it. Then I propped it up and placed it right in front of Tree. If you look carefully at the video, you can see her eyes staring down at the page. The cues were musical, but since we were not using the recorded audio, I was able to give directions during the recording. It took two or three takes (which is actually kind of a pain when the track is at half speed) and I eventually went for the last one.
Style/Editing: I thought out the concept beforehand. I slowed down the song by 50% (changed speed to 200%) and had them perform to the music at that speed. Editing was just a matter of speeding the footage back up to twice the speed and synching it up to the actual track.
First Viral Vid: Booty Swing by Parov Stelar 09/16/2011
Here is the first attempt at Internet stardom (read: blech). I will break down the behind-the-scenes in a later post, but once you watch, it becomes pretty apparent. This was mostly an experiment into seeing the capabilities of the iPhone 4G, testing it's white balance, iris and shutter speed (all automatic).
I am throwing this up in a Viral Vids page. This is where I will house and briefly describe the viral endeavor.
Viral Videos: A Study 09/16/2011
What makes a video successful on YouTube? What makes a videos wildly popular on the Internet? Catz? Epic fails? Is it the luck of the draw, or is there a way to manufacture or harness the 'viral' phenomenon? My gut tells me that it is mostly luck and cuteness, but there are some dumb videos out there with millions of hits. I imagine that there are tricks and tips for messing around on the back end that help get your video the proper exposure, and once it catches on...
My attempt is pretty much going to be manufactured. I think I'm going to rely heavily on the 'cuteness' of my sibs, carefully choosing the artist/song and the use editing/filming tricks to make them unique. The main source of stylistic inspiration here will probably be the mysteryguitarman channel. I have virtually no musical talent, so the only attributes I will be emulating would be editing techniques. I think it would be unwise to shoot for viral fame one vid at a time, so a relatively constant output will be necessary. I think I'm going to add that his stuff looks incredible; I don't think the quality of my videos is going to be there for quite some time.
So, I will be using Kerry, Kyle and Tree. They are all within the golden age range that makes them old enough to follow orders but young enough to still have disproportionately large heads (cuteness +5). I think they are pretty shy, but with enough prodding I can probably get them to overcome their fears. Besides, that fawn-eyed, dumb expression of fear might play well into the cuteness factor.
Here is where it starts getting interesting. Is it better to choose a song that most people are familiar with or will YouTube already be inundated with similar videos. If a song is too unknown, will people not want to check it out? I think this is where we might have to do some experimenting. I can already tell you that the songs my sibs are going to pick are pop songs, so I will try to pick lesser-known gems.
Here is what will make our vids different. I think the style will try to make a definite break from literally interpreting the lyrics. I will try to make every video unique, keeping it down to one or two defining effects. Naturally I will want to push the boundaries of my capabilities as an editor.
This pretty much wraps up all I am planning on as far as content, but I foresee the back-end SEO work to be the hardest.
Viral Videos: An Endeavor 09/16/2011
Here is my first idea.
I don't have any clients, or interested parties. I listed my resources and they have their limits (usage, bedtimes). But I need to at least do something, lest this blog turn into nothing more than a lame livejournal. At the very least I can practice my editing skillz and create video content for this site.
I will try to create viral videos. That is, make vids that people will want to thumbs up, pass to friends, email to their boss, comment on, etc. Hopefully I can pique interest in this blog and track/learn the process. I think it would be a valuable skill to learn proper SEO techniques for YouTube videos and social networking sites.
I don't have any audio recording devices, so I think I will stick with lip-synching. My sibs are relatively cute and have agreed to participate. I had to compromise, though. I get to boss them around as much as I want, but they want to perform and star in a song of their choosing. Fair enough?
Post Numero Uno: My Mission 09/14/2011
Just to clarify, I am not actually penniless...
I have a couple hundred bucks in checking and probably another forty in savings (Just in case I over-draft). One time, I found twenty bucks in the pocket of an old winter jacket. I also keep a beer stein near my desk that I sporadically add change to. I estimate somewhere near thirty dollars in there.
Technically, I should not spend any of that money. I am in desperate need of a haircut and new dress shoes. I have, however, chosen to forsake certain necessities to pursue my passion, making videos.
I majored in film at a university known for its outstanding business school. Senior year taught me that companies want to hire engineers and accountants. (Dad was right all along!) My work since then has been work editing and producing mostly business to business videos and Internet shorts.
It took me my first year to realize that I knew much more than I thought I did.
And another year to realize that I was better than most of the people I worked with.
So now, I am going to prove it. I have relatively high standards, little resources and fewer favors to cash in on. I seek to prove and document the process of becoming a legitimate company without the lavish startup capital or bells and whistles.
My starting assets:
Start your timers now.