In advance of the release of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Apple gave one to RYOT, maker of VR and documentary films. They produced a short about a painter in Haiti who is trying to transform the very poor neighborhood he lives in into a bright palette of colors.
The entire film was shot on the iPhone 6s, which now supports 4K resolution. I noted in my review of the new device, out today, that the video and camera quality had outstripped any smartphone I’d tested before. Those capabilities are put to good use in this new documentary, which is short, sweet and worth watching. I’m the son of a painter — both houses and canvases — and the story probably may have had a greater effect on me than it might on you. But it’s still worth your time.
RYOT co-founders David Darg and Bryn Mooser shot “The Painter of Jalouzi” just a few days ago in Haiti. It’s the story of Duval, who lives in one of the biggest slums in Haiti. He paints and inspires his neighbors to paint. The color, he believes, whether it’s on busses or walls or cinder block fences, is an agent of change.
RYOT has experimented with other kinds of alternative filmmaking before, and have created a series of VR films that allow people to experience news stories as if they were there themselves.
I asked Darg and Mooser a few questions via email, which they’ve answered here.
How did you come to choose Duval as the subject of the film?
When we were given the opportunity to get early access to the new iPhone 6S Plus, we knew we needed to find a location that would really demonstrate the 4K camera’s capabilities. The community of Jalouzi is the ultimate test for a 4K camera because the hillside is full of detail and color. We have been friends with Duval since meeting him after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 as aid workers on the ground, and we’ve wanted to tell his story for a long time. Haiti receives so much negative press, but the Haiti that we know and love is full of color, beauty and resilience. This project allows us to test drive the new iPhone 6S Plus and share Duval’s story, and the story of Jalouzi.
What about the project was made possible by the new features of the iPhone?
The 4K resolution allowed us to use SLR lenses and an adaptor for a real cinematic feel for some of the shots. The lenses focus the image onto a plate which the camera captures. The image stabilization in the iPhone 6S Plus is amazing and we bought an electronic gimbal to use as a steady cam, but ended up hardly using it because the internal stabilizer allowed for some pretty incredible handheld shots. The evolution of high quality cameras into smaller and smaller devices has made shooting in tough conditions easier, and the iPhone 6S Plus has made it really easy to get pro-quality footage on the fly.
Was the time-lapse section shot in 1080p or 4K?
The time lapse was shot in 1080p and there are a handful of 1080 slo mo shots, too. The only shot we really struggled with was getting a good aerial shot with our drone. We maneuvered several cradles together to try and isolate the phone from the vibrations, but it was really hard to get a good steady 4K shot. As a solution, we had to shoot at 120fps in1080p to try and isolate a long enough steady clip. If we’d had another day we could have gotten the drone rigged up to get the ultimate aerial shot but we had to make do with the shot you see in the film.
How did the quality of image compare to similar equipment that RYOT has used?
Apple has done an amazing job with the iPhone 6S Plus – not just with packing a 4K camera into a phone, but where the iPhone 6S Plus really shines is in it’s ability to capture color. We were blown away at the color accuracy and the image overall. It’s really impressive when the telephone in your pocket can produce images that rival high-end cameras. The iPhone 6S Plus’s footage performed really well in post production, too. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were stoked by our first camera phone, which shot a tiny pixelated image. We’ve come so far, so fast!
Do you believe that iPhones will become a staple for documentary photographers?
We’ve used iPhone footage for a few clips here and there in previous projects but we’re seeing a shift to where the iPhone could be used in more and more of our work. After this project we feel more comfortable relying on the iPhone to shoot pretty much anything. As a camera, it was actually really practical as the battery lasted much longer than the cameras we traditionally use (although we did have airplane mode on and no other apps running) and the memory was more than enough for a full day shooting (on the 128gb model.)
If there was a better way to use external lenses I think it would accelerate the iPhone into the major leagues and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a better adaptor or, better yet, Apple gets creative with lens mounts. No matter what, I’m sure we’ll start seeing a lot more iPhone footage in future productions. The funny thing is, because the quality is so good we’ll never know!
The short movie is pretty spectacular. Colors are bright, detail is sharp. Though most people won’t be able to watch it in its native 4K, you should if you can.
A few years ago, filmmakers began experimenting with the iPhone to shoot music videos, short projects and even feature films. But the rapid pace of improvements in the camera could open up options for an entirely new generation of filmmakers.
For just a few hundred dollars, they now have access to a high quality 4K camera that can be used in conjunction with adapters and lenses to solve creative problems.