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Film shot entirely on an iPhone 5S makes waves at Sundance 2015

The iPhone’s camera is a pretty impressive piece of kit; it’s one of the fastest snappers out there and most of the time takes an attractive picture. But of course, you wouldn’t film an entire feature-length movie with it…would you?

We saw Bentley use iPhones plugged into some serious camera rigs last year when it produced its five-minute “Intelligent Details” mini documentary, but now a fully-fledged feature film has made its way to the Sundance Film Festival, titled “Tangerine”.

The plot of Tangerine centres around two transgender prostitutes; Sin-Dee and Alexandra (played by Kiki ‘Kitana’ Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) searching for Sin-Dee’s pimp boyfriend and the meth addict he cheated on her with whilst she was serving a month-long prison sentence. They walk the streets of Hollywood on Christmas Eve interacting with clients including an Armenian taxi driver and by the sounds of it, the viewer is given a unique perspective into the lives of these two main characters and the reality that the film tries to mirror.

If the subject matter isn’t intriguing enough, the film’s co-writer and director, Sean Baker chose to captured the entire movie using just three iPhone 5Ss. Unlike Bentley’s effort, Baker decided to use simpler methods to achieve professional cinematic results, that according to those who’ve seen the film, worked pretty fantastically.

Aside from a deep understanding of filmmaking as a base for the composition and aesthetic Tangerine uses, Baker employed a specialised 1.33x anamorphic adapter to alter the iPhone’s conventional 16:9 aspect ratio. The adapter in question is actually the result of a successful Kickstarter project by Moondog Labs and it allowed Baker to capture footage in 2:35:1 cinematic widescreen.

Baker also invested in a Steadicam setup, explaining that, “These phones, because they’re so light, and they’re so small, a human hand — no matter how stable you are — it will shake. And it won’t look good.  So you needed the Steadicam rig to stabilize it.”

In addition to what are arguably minor hardware tweaks, Tangerine relied on a £5.99 iOS app called FiLMic Pro, which gives the user far greater manual control over the iPhone’s video capabilities, with access to everything from audio gain to focus, exposure, ISO and shutter speed.

Whilst the capture methods for the movie were unorthodox, the post-production process was more akin to conventional film making. Colour work and artificial film grain were added to help add to the cinematic feel of the film.

The first picture shows two of the three iPhones, complete with lens adapters, between shoots

Based on the buzz the film created at Sundance and the fact that Magnolia Pictures has now purchased Tangerine’s international rights, it goes to show just how a good storyteller doesn’t need professional equipment to create a professional product.

With three iPhone 5Ss, a Steadicam rig, a lens, a laptop (for post production) and an app still costing less than a fraction of the catering budget for most Hollywood productions, there’s little stopping any of you budding cinematographers out there to get shooting.


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