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Occupy San Francisco & The iPhone 4S

Occupy-San-Francisco-Cut-IV from TheCameraForum on Vimeo.

Filmed October 15, 2011 on a one-day old iPhone 4S. On this day global protests for democracy occurred in 951 cities, in 85 countries around the world. San Francisco, California, USA was one of them. On this day 500,000 turned out in Madrid, with 400,000 in Barcelona. San Francisco was smaller, but none the less just as enthusiastic.

Many thanks to the many people who participated in this small project!

On October 14, 2011 Apple Computer released the long awaited iPhone 4S.  Intrigued by the greatly improved integrated camera along with it’s ability to record 1080P HD video, I upgraded my older version.  It was a good decision, as the results above will speak to.

As I’ve gotten older, there is a great deal of comfort to be found in smaller, lighter photographic gear.  I still remember all too well the days of a “portable” video camera being a shoulder mounted monster connected by a long cable to a thirty pound “portable” video recorder.  A two person minimum affair.  Those days are long gone.  Moore’s law is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years.  What this has done for photographic equipment in general just in the past couple of years is astounding.

The other revolution that has taken place thanks to greater processor power is the user interface and software automation making complex behind-the-scenes tasks like color grading as simple as pushing a couple of buttons for most cases to render an acceptable look.  These inexpensive applications are available from the Apple App Store most ranging in cost from free to a couple of dollars.

However, what has been of the greatest interest to me as a professional photographer has been the astounding progress that has been made in professional level editing tools.  The Adobe Creative Suite and Final Cut Pro in particular.  Apple went way out on a limb some would say in bringing out a complete re-write of their industry standard Final Cut Pro video editing software when they released Final Cut Pro X.  This first release caused a major stir in the professional circles, as many of the features formerly found in Final Cut Pro 6 were no longer present.  And, as will most Version 1 major software releases, what was released had several annoying bugs.

Pushing these early release issues aside for the moment, what Final Cut Pro X did bring was a greatly improved workflow for the majority of users, at a greatly reduced price.  Apple has been committed to improving the feature set, the stability, speed, and in meeting other requests from the user community in several subsequent free updates to the software in the months subsequent to the release.  Enough of a degree of improvement for me to begin testing it’s suitability for use in my own work.

That old “portable” video recorder I spoke of earlier took me several weeks to learn to use.  The setup, warmup, calibration, color balance, etc were all complicated, highly technical in nature, and took quite a bit of time to setup before every shooting session.  I picked my iPhone 4S up from the Apple Store in the evening, played with the camera for about ten minutes that evening, then got the idea to try going out to shoot Occupy San Francisco the next day with it as my video camera.  The very idea of not having to carry an entirely separate bag of video gear got me very excited, since I had already planned to shoot the event with my Leica M9.  I hate having gear hanging all around my neck or on my back while shooting.  I find it too restricting on my ability to move around quickly and very distracting from my subjects at hand.   Stills were my main priority for this shoot.  Video would be a nice addition was my thought on it, if I was able to get any.

So the staging for the experiment was set.  I’d shoot my stills with my M9 as usual, and pull out my phone when something interesting came along that was better captured in video.  I planned to edit whatever I got using the new Final Cut Pro X as a test of both.  Honestly, I didn’t expect much.  But after shooting the story in stills (posted below) I switched to the iPhone to try it out.

While the iPhone 4S isn’t quite there for the level of production quality I need in my professional client paid work, it is a very interesting camera.  More than good enough for those magic surprise moments and always there with me everywhere I go.  The best camera I’ve ever used to record an event was the one I had with me at the time.  And to think, only four short years ago my phone could only ring… 

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