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Smoke and Mirrorless – iPhone X Short Film – Dancers Of Series

6 min read

With the release of iPhone X I had to take it out and push it to the very limits to create my newest installment of “Dancers Of” called

Smoke and Mirrorless

Behind the Scenes

This short film was inspired by my Dancers Of series. I shot a series for iPhone 8 Plus and wanted to push the limits even further with iPhone X. Instead of multiple portfolio like clips, I wanted to get back to the roots of where Dancers of started which such award winning short films as Dancers of NYC and Dancers of Zurich.

The goal: Shoot something that pushed every technical aspect of shooting on iPhone X to the limits with a minimal budget and setup. If your canvas is blank, paint something, knowing you can keep painting because you are inspired for a new image or you want to change a design in the original.(i.e increasing budget, using different apps, mobile devices, gear, dance styles, etc.) It is like contemporary dance, sometimes you just need to move to express the moment and sometimes those moments become a show.

To me, the 240FPS on iPhone has always been a huge tool in my arsenal of equipment. To achieve these frame rates on any other camera would A: be very expensive and B: be a large format camera. To have this in the palm of your hand has always been the biggest draw to mobile film-making for me.

I got together with the extremely talented hip hop dancers Lizzie Fleitas and Carol Malak to create Smoke and Mirrorless(iPhone is a mirrorless camera in case you were wondering where the title came from).

We found this amazing location that fit perfectly with the look and feel we were trying to achieve and spit-balled the idea from there. This fall esque landscape combined with an entire abandoned warehouse, created this amazing urban feel for the dance style needed.

It also allowed us to play with something new and exciting: Smoke Grenades by Enola Gaye. This alone threw in all sorts of hurdles to overcome shooting on mobile. Unlike a DSLR you cannot just create your settings on a test smoke bomb and film, you are constantly adjusting and compensating for the changes in light, motion, and environment. Add choreography to that and you get a true anxiety filled shoot. But the end result was worth the challenge!

The biggest challenge was it was the coldest day of the year when we had our shoot day. So staying warm was important. Thankfully I had my assistants Alyssa Dimaria and Nathan Irizarry to help keep everyone warm and things running smooth!

This is what mobile film making and photography is all about to me, pushing the limits of the cameras in our pockets to produce high quality end results. Challenging ourselves creatively to overcome the limitations in-front of us. Pushing our own use case of our mobile cameras beyond that of a review or unboxing, but unlocking the true potential for professional use. iPhone X was definitely up to the challenge.

What is “Dancers Of”?

The goal with “Dancers Of” is to help artists build their portfolios,
Not only the perfect frame but reel quality video as well!
No more spending thousands of dollars on one photo only to have it outdated for the next season!

My goal is to give people the opportunity to get an accurate and affordable portrayal of them, in motion, and in the perfect image! The idea here is to bypass the need to be in hundreds of performances, waiting for those performances to be released so you can add them to your reel(that you may not be equipped to do) by creating a portfolio catered to you, in an extremely timely manner, but with the quality of a leading performance!

“I picture my series the same as someone who travels the world shooting the different people from different cultures. Each dancer is a new “culture” for me, that can be brought to a new location specific to them, their fashion, and their movement! That is why I may not always be able to answer the question “what is your next project?”. I am always shooting new dancers, styles of dance, fashion, and have new locations to explore. It is such a beautiful gap in the bridge that showcases the power in our pockets.” – Tristan Pope

I am often asked, why not just shoot on a DSLR?

The answer is quite simple: I truly love the idea of a DSLR-less world. A world in which our best camera is in our pocket and readily available without the need to carry around tons of heavy equipment and attachments.

Sure I could dust off my 15,000+ dollars worth of equipment but that is not exciting for me. To me it is excited every time a mobile phone is upgraded and we get new features that bridge the gap from being called “Mobile photography” to just “Photography”.

What is the best phone?

This question is not as straight forward as it used to be. Currently with the technology advancing the way it is you cannot really go wrong with anything you choose in the iPhone, Pixel, Samsung, Flagship phone line.

iPhone X is my current favorite middle ground for the following reasons:

Video Quality:

Out of all the Mobile devices iPhone X provides the most options when it comes to quality video with it exclusive offerings of:

  • 240FPS at 1080p
  • 4K @ 60FPS

One interesting thing about this film is that iPhone X shot so clear at times(clear meaning, denoised skin tones and lack of DoF, that you sometimes have to go into post and trick the eye into thinking it is seeing something a bit more dirty, so it doesn’t feel like that horrible TV setting that makes films look like a bad sitcom.

For photography,

iPhone X has the best mixture of color balance and daylight capabilities, as well as an unrivaled natural looking “bokeh” effect via portrait mode. However, the Pixel 1 and 2 both have a better sharpness to their photos that I wish iPhone X would take advantage of. There is a “de-noising” situation going on with iPhone that is getting way too aggressive for my liking. But still in the everyday scenario, iPhone provides the best rounded image quality out there to my eye and use case. I do wish I could turn down the smoothing however and highlight blowouts to get more accurate skin tones, such as the Pixel, but not as overly sharp as the Pixel.

At the end of the day, the consistency I get from iPhone X over the other phones is what keeps me loyal. It is very important that I can keep color profiles, quality, and photo/video quality the same throughout an entire shoot.

You can read more about my full iPhone 8 Plus review here:

What are some of the tools you use for shooting?

I am often asked what tools I use to shoot these films. I always ask the person what their story is, as that will often determine the equipment you need. But my go to kit for all things mobile photography are the following:

Other than that, it is really up to you on what you are trying to achieve. There are so many tools out there. My biggest suggestion is take advantage of the small form factor of your mobile device. If you start adding DSLR lenses to it and big frames, why not just shoot on a DSLR? Use the size to your advantage and get creative! You have no excuse NOT to tell your story now!

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