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  • Writer's pictureBlake Calhoun

An iPhone Camcorder?

When I started shooting video professionally I primarily used camcorders.

Now I'm talking about in the affordable/indie film markets... I also shot more expensive Varicam and Betacam on client work (and even some 16mm in the late 90s and early 2000s), but most of my own work was primarily shooting on Sony, Canon or Panasonic 3-chip camcorders.

Below is production still of a Canon XH-A1 HDV camcorder (on a jib) that we used on a digital series I directed called "Pink" back in 2007.

The point is I am very used to camcorder-style setups and actually prefer them in many ways to the DSLR or mirrorless cameras so prevalent today. Of course camcorders are still widely used today as well, but mainly for news or event work versus narrative or commercial work. So I don't use them as often now (although you could definitely make an argument that the Canon C200 or ARRI Amira and similar body style cinema cameras are basically camcorders).

So when I heard about the IndieVice - a camcorder style rig for your smartphone - I was intrigued.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know what you're thinking (and I've thought and said it too). If you're shooting on mobile shouldn't you actually keep it mobile?

My answer is yes and no.

Yes, if you're trying to keep your setup minimalist (and be inconspicuous) or just shooting quick b-roll shots or are traveling, etc. But for some jobs - no. And especially now that phones are getting so good and in many cases rival much more expensive cameras.

I would compare it to the aforementioned DSLR cameras. When they first came out they were pretty much laughing stocks of the industry. It was embarrassing to show up with one on set - or if you did you rigged it out with a matte box, follow focus, external monitor, etc. (which of course people still do today - maybe more actually).

You not only rigged them out to look "more professional" though, it also was/is because they are often hard to work with being such a small form factor. Especially shooting handheld along with monitoring (small LCD screens are hard to see in the first place, and then add getting critical focus or shooting outside in bright light it can be very challenging).

Today I'd argue the same can be said about smartphones.

Not only does using a rig like the IndieVice make your setup look professional, more importantly it actually makes using the phone easier for certain kinds of jobs. Primarily think handheld event video work, mobile journalism, documentary, corporate video, etc.

The other question is if you're going to shoot with a rig like this then why not just use a "real" camera.

That's a subjective call. But here you don't need a traditional camera if you don't already own one. Everyone has a smartphone, but not everyone has a Sony a73.

Also, mindsets are rapidly changing along with the quality of mobile video technology. A few years ago I'd say this was more a novelty, but today I think it's a completely viable option for many jobs.

Is the IndieVice for everyone? No, not at all.

But for those that are interested in using their phone in more professional environments and having a larger form-factor (camcorder) look and feel, it's a very interesting option to consider.

Btw, I'm working on a full review video that will be coming soon and I will add it to this post when it's ready.

UPDATE: Here's the full review video...

What do you think? Do you like the idea of a larger camcorder style body or keeping it more simple?

I'm on Twitter a lot and happy to discuss. :)

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about smartphone video and mobile filmmaking consider taking one of my courses.

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