Evaluation

When Occupy Bournemouth set up in their new site in Boscombe, I decided to re-visit my earlier idea of creating a documentary about them. I think the media coverage of the occupy movement has been biased towards the other side and has wholly failed to show the protesters in a fair light. With this short documentary I aimed to give the demonstrators a forum in which to air their views. While I was at the protest, I spoke to a few people who were against in when they first came down, however, after spending a few minutes talking to people, most would leave with a wholly different view on the movement, and in fact, one person even went from shouting abuse one day, to bringing the protesters food and fuel the next because they managed to get their point across to her so well. I would hope this film can help the protesters express their views to a wider audience. I would like to think I’ve created something people can watch online and hopefully be brought round to the groups way of thinking without having to go down there, so when they finally do visit the demonstration, it will be to donate supplies or join in rather than to shout abuse. I originally planned only to show footage of the occupiers speaking, but I realised from my research that the best arguments are the ones that acknowledge the other side, so I decided to show some footage I secretly filmed when two of the occupiers were having a debate with one of the locals. He makes his views known and the protesters explain their side to him, and appear to make a significant impact on his views. For a similar reason I decided to open the film with some footage of Prime Minister David Cameron making his views known.

 

I originally decided to work with smartphone’s because I’ve recently become fascinated with the level of quality film-makers have managed to achieve with such a small piece of equipment. Films like the Korean “Night Fishing” by director Park Chan-Wook and Hooman Khalili’s Olive, the first cinematic release to be shot on a smartphone, are a treat for the eyes despite being produced in such a way, and the cinematography in Olive can at times put other films to shame. Of course, it wouldn’t be right to say this is just the smartphone’s doing, as the phones used to shoot ‘Olive’ were attached to top of the range lenses and the main phone used for the shooting of ‘night fishing’ also used an external 35mm lens. Unfortunately, due to lack of planning on my part, when I came to film my documentary, I had nothing of this nature available to me, and it’s fair to say my film suffered for it.

I was also prompted by recent stories in the press, which spoke of a young black man capturing his racist police attackers on audio with his phone, to attempt to gain some hidden camera footage, in a bid to show how effective these small cameras could be at getting in undetected and filming while unseen This worked for me in one instance ans I managed to film a heated debate between the protesters and a local man.

The manoeuvrability of these cameras made filming a great deal easier as I could be set up to film in a matter of seconds. I decided to spend 4 days with the demonstrators and because of the small camera, any time one of them said something interesting I could take it out and record what they had to say. This gave it a certain sense of intimacy, and allowed me to become part of the group rather seeming like an outsider who’d just come to film. I can see the iPhone camera becoming a must have piece of kit for the investigative journalist, as one can film or record sound very discreetly on a phone without drawing attention to themselves, as I’ve shown in the film and it’s even possible now, to attach powerful external microphones. For example, in 1999 comedian Mark Thomas smuggled cameras into an arms fair in Athens and used them to discredit members of the Indonesian government, this kind of work would be far easier today with the use of discreet phone cameras.

When I was originally filming and listened to the audio back, it sounded fairly good, it was for this reason I decided I wouldn’t need mics. It wasn’t until I got it back and listened on the computer that I realised how badly the audio had suffered. This is a shame because I now know, from research done since that with the addition of a simple able, I could have run the Sennheiser radio mics straight into the iPhone

To get the content I wanted I decided to spend four days at the occupation befriending the demonstrators and seeing how they dealt with the public and the day to day problems of camping on public land. They were very friendly from the start and the feeling of solidarity was immediately apparent, with one of the protesters even saying in his interview that they feel more like a family that anything else. On my third day there they really began to accept me into the group, and I began helping out a lot more around the camp. At the end of the day, one of the demonstrators got a call from her friend who’d been evicted, and wanted to donate her furniture to the occupation. I volunteered myself to carry some furniture back from the house which allowed me to further ingratiate myself into the group. Unfortunately, the family didn’t want me filming because they didn’t like the idea that their children might get caught in shot.

This was the time when the iPhone came into it’s own, as I managed to film a fair amount before they even realised I was filming and plenty more secretly after they asked me to stop. After getting all the furniture out of the house I did an interview with Two of the demonstrators called Barney and Bo on one of the sofa’s in the road in front of the house. They both put on comedy posh accents at the time, which I thought was funny and was prepared to use, but since getting some feedback on the footage I’ve decided it shows them in a bad light and conforms to the Daily Mail view that all the occupiers are posh students, which certainly isn’t the case, and not something I wanted to show, so I decided no to use it.

For the documentary I filmed several interviews with the demonstrators. There were two with a protester named Bo, who’s been at the occupation since the beginning at the Town Hall. There is also one with Bo’s mother, and one with a protester called Dilly who’s recently been made homeless, there’s also several other interviews I’ve decided not to use.

Bo and his mum have been at the protest since day one, the two of them have only recently found a new house after being evicted from tier last property in Leeds having built up about £87,000 worth of debt. They’re both disillusioned with the way the system has treated them and are both strongly anti-capitalist.

Dilly was made homeless recently and still hasn’t managed to find a place to live. He’s at the occupation because he’s annoyed that big businesses can get away without paying tax, and he’s unhappy with the treatment of homeless people. Dilly’s stories gave me a great insight into the family feeling around the camp.

I think this project has gone well and I’m fairly happy with my final film but there are several things I’d like to change if I was to do something like this again. I feel like I only touched on the surface of how great the iPhone can be as a camera. I think I went into this project determined to see the iPhone as a phone rather than as a camera, and failed to truly appreciate how great it can be to film. What I really wish I’d done was experiment with external lenses and microphones, I think with a little more research at the right time, I could have made this a far better project. I thought the iPhone itself was a great piece of kit, wit ha very impressive camera for it’s size and I’m glad I got the chance to use it in this way.

One thing in particular I was happy with was getting the secretly filmed footage, which I thinks works well in the film, I originally wanted to blur out the man’s face, but this seemed to crash première every time I tried so I had to make do with the footage in it’s original form. The speaker doesn’t say anything controversial and actually makes a good argument, so I’m sure it makes little difference. I think the footage of David Cameron speaking on the issue greatly improves the film because it lets the viewer know, if they didn’t already that it is a global issue and it also gives the film another voice.

After initially editing the piece, I decided to go back to Boscombe and take some more footage of the local people expressing their opinion on the subject, Unfortunately, by this time the protesters had been moved on and all of the people I managed to speak to either had no opinion on the matter, or were so misinformed that it would have been detrimental to the film to include any of the points they made. If I did this again, I’d make a point of getting the public’s views as well at the original time of filming. And although I think, while the film does it’s job, a point is always more solid when both sides are shown

I’ve enjoyed making a documentary more than I thought I would and I’d like to try this again in a different setting. I would especially like to attempt to work with the iPhone again, but attempt to create something more visually pleasing now I feel I really know what it’s capable of.

 

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Why I chose to use an iPhone

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

I think there are many good reasons a film maker would choose to use iPhone, or smartphones in general, to produce a film. Part of my reason for using iphones for this project was my that I thought it would allow me to gain a greater sense of intimacy. I wasn’t just a reporter who turned up for five minutes got some opinions and left again, I spent four days ingratiating myself into the group and explaining the purpose of my short film to them, to the point where they were more than happy to be part of it, because they believed it would benefit their cause. I was able to sit around the fire and have a conversation about the issues at hand, and any time I thought something was relevant to my film, I’d take out the phone and ask if they’d mind me filming them talking about that issue. One of my main regrets looking back on it at this stage is that I didn’t use microphones, Based on research I’ve done prior to the film, I now know that with a simple £18 wire, I could have attached the Sennheiser mics to the iphone and had far better sound quality. One thing I felt was a benefit while doing this, was something I didn’t plan for. There were several people in the camp who agreed to be filmed by me but hadn’t agreed to be filmed by the BBC crews the day before, Both of them said they felt less intimidated by my presence because I wasn’t backed by a whole crew and I didn’t have big cameras which they said they found intimidating. In the end I didn’t use the footage in question as they didn’t express views that I could have used in the angle I eventually went for, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that I gained valuable footage that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I also think the iPhone camera could become a must have piece of kit for the investigative journalist, as it’s possible to film or record sound very discreetly on a phone without drawing attention to oneself. For example, in 1999 Mark Thomas smuggled cameras into an arms fair in Athens to discredit a group of arms dealers, this must have been incredibly difficult. Cameras were strictly banned and his team had to very discreetly smuggle them in. All the filming they did was done using a camera hidden in a bag. Imagine how easily one could do something like this now days, with the size and manoeuvrability of mobile telephone cameras. 

I also thought it would be amazing to attempt to recreate the quality and precision one can achieve using an SLR with something as small as a phone. However, in the end I couldn’t procure a lens in time, as I only had a very limited amount of time for filming. I ended up having to use the iPhone camera on it’s own. This wasn’t ideal, but I felt that I got the bests quality possible with the resources I had at my disposal

Since filming on smartphones is becoming ever more popular, more and more apps and pieces of equipment are becoming available. It may have started with just simple software, but already gone are the days when one would need to use the lens from their DSLR because companies are already producing camera lenses made specifically for the iPhone. And it’s not just lenses, steady cam equipment is also available, if it carries on like his, how long will it be until the camera as we know it is completely obsolete?

Talking of his recent experiments filming with an iPhone, Leeds based write director Danny Lacey said he used an iPhone app called Super 8, which made his iphone behave like an old super 8 camera, It’s a popular application which has drawn strong approval ratings on the apple website

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/super-8/id435739918?mt=8

“Super 8™ is the ultimate Super 8 camera emulator for your video-capable iDevice. Using Super 8™, you can make your own vintage movies and add lens, filter and shake effects, arrange clips and scenes the way you want them; you can even add your own credits.

And now with Version 2, you can publish your videos to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and via E-Mail instantly! With the addition of one-shot movies, all you need to do is film a clip and then post it directly. No more need to go to the cartridge or library or render a movie to put it out to the world!”

The truly amazing thing about the iPhone camera accesories is the sheer variety of them. They range all the way from £14.99 external fish eye lenses which can be picked up off ebay in a matter of seconds, all the way up to $899 Sennheiser wireless mic kits that can be hooked up to the iPhone.

Here’s a link to a website that goes into great depth about the equipment currently avaliable http://www.smartmoviemaking.com/10-best-accessories-and-gizmos-for-shooting-a-film-on-an-iphone-4/

There’s a video on the site which features a a variety of different pieces of equipment either made exclusively for the iPhone of which can be adapted to work with one just as well. Here’s the list

Joby’s GorillaMobile for iPhone 4 ($39.95 retail, $29.29 on Amazon)

Suction Clip ($12.99)

The Glif ($20)

Owle Bubo ($169.95)

EnCinema 35mm Lens Adaptor ($200 and up)

LitePanels Micro Light ($297.99 retail, $259.95 on Amazon)

Sennheiser EW112PG3A Wireless Mic Kit
 ($899.99 retail, $599.00 on Amazon)

Grippit Smartphone Adaptor ($9.99)

TreeFrog Camera Accessory Kit ($49.95 retail, $38.79 on Amazon)

Zacuto iPhone Point-n-Shoot ($121.00 retail, $114.95 on Amazon)

The Guardian ran an article earlier this year claiming they believed smartphones had now overtaken traditional point and shoot cameras in popularity when it came to taking stills. They said the turning point for this was when the iPhone became the most popular device for uploading pictures to twitter. Since this has happened, phone makers have been fighting tooth and nail to have the best camera on the market, and have even been adding internet connections and powerful zoom lenses to basic models in attempts to corner that end of the market.

But this has since moved on from just stills, film-makers also quickly realised the potential of such devices and have been working with all types of smartphones to produce not just quality short films but feature length as well.In fact, on the 16th of December last year, The first film to be shot entirely on an iPhone was released to cinemas in the U.S. The film, entitle Olive, was about a little girl who didn’t speak, and from what I have seen, has not suffered visually at all for having been shot on these small cameras. In fact, based on what I have seen, the film appears to be so aesthetically pleasing, that it would likely be fair to say the film makers went out of their way to makesure the film looked just as good as it would with full size cameras and as a result it has ended up looking better. The film was shot on Nokia N8 smartphones, which were double-taped to traditional film-camera lenses. The director Hooman Khalili said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that they had to hack the phone to turn off it’s auto zoom feature in order to make it behave the way they wanted “The camera thinks it knows what you want to focus on,” he said. “But it doesn’t know.”

This is a behind the scenes video from the film, It gives a great insight into the way they shot this  film and shows the kind of equipment they still needed to use to get the sort of quality they needed.

 

Here is the short cinematic trailer from the film

 

Although some people may be surprised to learn that a feature film has been shot on a smartphone, it’s not by any stretch a rarity now days, with film-makers constantly looking for the next great idea. Acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-Wook is likely the most famous film-maker to adopt the smartphone for a film, and he chose to go with the iPhone. Chan-Wook shot his 33-minute feature entitles Night Fishing (Paranmanjang in the original Korean) on the device, although he to used an external lens, proving we are still some way off using just smartphones alone. He attached a 35mm lens to his own iPhone to be used as the primary camera on the set, but as far as I know, the crew filmed with iPhone’s plain and simple, no external lenses.

Here is the film in full from Vimeo

 

It’s the flexibility that attracts film-makers to the smartphone. If you know what your doing you can simple whip it out and shoot, when your done, it’s there, in the bad and your ready to go on the next scene. Leeds indie film maker and director Danny Lacey spoke to the Guardian about his feeling on the subject of smartphone filming. He said he usually DSLR’s but that he can see the appeal of using something smaller and more manoeuvrable “It’s incredibly handy and fun to be able to film using my iPhone 4,”  “Shooting at 720p, 30fps on that tiny piece of technology that fits in the palm of your hand, very exciting. I recently shot an experimental video on my iPhone 4 using an 8mm app called Super 8. On top of that I used a macro lens attachment made specifically for the iPhone. The idea was to film lots of random images with the main focus being on the interesting shapes and flares you can get from various light sources.”

When one looks into this it’s hardly surprising at all that film-makers are starting to become interested in using this kind of camera. Looking around on the web, there are so many examples of amazing looking short films which people have produced simply by attaching an SLR lens to their smartphone

Here is one more example, which I think is a beautiful showcase of what is possible on a smartphone

 

Smartphone Film-Making

Posted: April 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

The mainstream media is generally slow on the uptake. A fact which is far more evident in the today’s era of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. It is generally accepted that one can garner a much better understanding of what is going on in the world form the blogsphere than the apocryphal world of newspapers. One only needs to look at the recent breaking of super injunctions on twitter and Facebook to realise that news is quite often better received from sources on hte internet. Indeed, there were certain facts revealed at that time that I would still to this day not be at liberty to divulge on this blog, much to the delight of certain media personalities. Similarly was the case when the riots where taking place in London. While the sky copter gave up occasional views from the sky, and the odd reporter braved the rioting masses with a smartphone camera to capture the violence, the computer literate among us took to twitter for our news, where the residents of the capital where themselves consenting to report the goings on outside their windows. It was not rare during those two or three nights of surfing twitter to see something become a trending topic a good half an hour before it became ‘breaking news’ on any of the high profile news outlets. During this time, many amateur videos of the goings on in the capital were uploaded to to internet, which gave those of us who took the time to look a far better appreciation of the goings on that those who only watched the news

The disposable film festival of DFF was created in 2007 to celebrate the artistic potential of disposable video: short films made on non-professional devices. It has been repeatedly called one of the world’s “coolest film festivals” This has burgeoned in popularity over the last few years to become an outlet for a lot of people to show short films made using their smartphones. This is something else that the mainstream media has seemed wholly ignorant of but suddenly they too are taking an interest and 2012 looks like it could be the year the rest of hte world finally catch up. These films are called disposable because they were originally filmed on disposable one use video cameras but the films themselves are far from being disposed of, becoming more and more prominent in a world where the average persons ability to broadcast themselves is becoming more and more prominent.

The festival themselves say

“The Disposable Film Festival supports and celebrates the democratization of cinema made possible by new, inexpensive video technology, offering a legitimate forum in which the work of zero-budget and non-traditional filmmakers is taken seriously and exhibited in theaters around the United States and internationally. Through workshops, competitions, panels, and other events intended to educate and inspire, the Disposable Film Festival promotes experimentation and helps build the track record needed for a new generation of filmmakers to enter and change the industry”

As further proof of the secret recording capabilities of the smartphone, I need only cite the recent case of which shamed the metropolitan police. The Guardian newspaper, one of few managing to maintain any kind of respectability in recent months, obtained a recording made by a 21 year old after he was stopped by the police, he was then arrested and placed in a police van during last summers riots.

The young man who was arrested that day was black, and to his great misfortune, he had been arrested by an inherently racist police officer. The officer strangled his his victim, kicked him and subjected him to levels of racial abuse that nobody should ever have to endure. I can imagine this kind of unwarranted abuse goes on far more than should ever be possible in our questionable London police force, and has been recounted numerous times in their treatment of innocent Irish prisoners in the 70’s and 80’s but what hadn’t been present in the past, has finally come to fruition, for the arresting officer in this case hadn’t confiscated the prisoners mobile phone. Said arrestee proceeded to use the voice recording function of his smartphone to capture the further heard racist rantings of the arresting officer. He was heard to say such things as “The problem with you is you will always be a nigger”  “You’ll always have black skin. Don’t hide behind your colour.” and many other nonsensical claims that are outdated in any level of society, let alone the police force of our capital city. The man who was arrested later said he felt he was treated like an animal, but took some satisfaction form the fact that he caught the officers rantings on his phone, thus preventing his personal institutional racism from being subjected to any other innocent people. The officer in question has since been suspended from duty pending an investigation.

The story from the guardian online featuring the full audio clip can be found here http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/30/police-racism-black-man-abuse

The events of this day have prompted many people to look much more closely at the inner workings of  the metropolitan police and it has come out that in 2004 they ‘buried’ a report that warned of an impending racism scandal if something was not done about the level of racism within the force. The secret metropolitan police report warned police chiefs that they needed to take tougher action to stop officers discriminating against black people, and ‘that a failure to do so would threaten a breakdown in community confidence’

The unearthing of this investigation and everything that has gone with it, has been helped along a great deal by the actions of one man secretly recording an officer on his mobile phone. I think it goes without saying that similar instances could occur in the future, and secret filming of this nature could go a long way to helping root out racism in our police force. This instance of secret recording is to me further proof of the smartphone capabilities as a tool for the journalist and documentary maker.

While shooting my film, there where several times I it was necessary to film secretly, This was was difficult at times because generally people would know the device was being used to film. It was however, made easier by the fact it was done on a phone, as I could hold it by my side and angle it as to capture what I needed. The only time it can become difficult, is if the people being filmed catch a glimpse of the phones screen and see they are being filmed, something I had to take great care to avoid. To solve this problem, an app has been devised for use when filming secretly. The app allows the iPhone to film without the camera preview being shown on the screen, instead, a novel viewer appears, which can be scrolled up and down and navigated as usual, with the controls for the camera hidden in the display of the title bar. This makes it very easy to film secretly without the possibility of anybody knowing what your doing.

This has become increasingly more common recently and also available is a similar application allows secret recording of audio. This application boasts “Record conversations, meetings, lectures, and more even when you’re not in the room! Schedule recordings with the advanced sound detection feature to avoid recording long periods of silence. Secure your top secret recordings with a passcode!”

Link to the app http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/spy-shot-hidden-video-cam/id421092776?mt=8

 

Tools like this could quite possibly become essentials of the journalist or film maker who may need, for whatever reason, to covertly film or record audio in situation where this may not be desired of those present.