With Apple itself not in attendance, the focus of Macworld has shifted, and is now more about how the Apple user community is applying the company’s technologies than about the technologies themselves. There’s no better example of that kind of application in action than what Majek Pictures is doing.
When Majek Pictures, one of this year’s Featured Artists at Macworld, released Apple of My Eye — a short film shot and edited on an iPhone 4 — back in June 2010, that was just the beginning. Since then, the studio hass been hard at work on Goldilocks, a series shot entirely on iPhone 4 and iPod touch devices, and distributed via an app in the App Store. We had a chance to catch up with the inspirational force behind the Majek — Michael Koerbel and Anna Elizabeth James — to get a sense of where they hope the creation and distribution of media on Apple’s mobile platforms is heading.
TheAppleBlog: Watching the behind the scenes footage, you obviously know how to prepare professional-grade camera rigging. What challenges did you face, and what opportunities opened up to you once you made the decision to film entirely on iPhone 4 and iPod touch?
Michael Koerbel: Filming Goldilocks presented a number of challenges, but the opportunities were incredible. Everything has to be shot with a fixed or wide-angle lens; the quality is significantly lower than that of your more “traditional” HD cameras like the RED. Exposure, focus, and white balance are controlled via touching a screen, [so] we were pioneering iPhone filmmaking when we made Goldilocks. A lot of times when you’re making films, simply because of the camera and lighting, you require a crew of 25-plus people. While filming Goldilocks, we were able to move quickly, focusing more on additional coverage and performance. What we discovered was a new way of making movies: one that was very affordable, and in a positive way forced us to be very creative with composition of the picture and movement of the camera.
Anna Elizabeth James: Before we began writing the back-story for Goldilocks, we brainstormed all the places only an iPhone could go with the intention of incorporating as many of these places into our story. Placing the iPhone 4 in a wine glass or on a remote control car was the fun part. We were never sure what we’d end up with, so a lot of it was trial and error to get those shots right. The biggest opportunity shooting with a common device is being able to blend in with the crowd. One time, when we were shooting in public area, we looked around and noticed a dozen other video cameras recording and had to chuckle. Someone near you could be making a movie and you might never know it.
TAB: Editing the short Apple of My Eye entirely on a single iPhone 4 was obviously a painstaking task that only one person at a time could perform. What production and organizational challenges did it pose when editing the short, and why did you decide to break from this novelty when producing Goldilocks?
MK: Filming and editing on one device required a lot of planning and work. We had two iPhone 4s — one specifically for the film, and one specifically for the making of. The editing on Apple of My Eye took much longer than anticipated, but we knew it was important to complete the first film solely within the app. For Goldilocks, we shot much more footage, as well as using multiple iPhone 4s. We knew with the style in which we were shooting Goldilocks, it would be much more efficient to be able to review footage on a larger screen, make multiple edits, as well as saving at various points along the way.
AJ: Editing is about finding the best performances then building around that. Editing a short film on the iPhone is doable, but something like Goldilocks is not. The footage we ended up with on Goldilocks was enormous. Thankfully, we have great editors who are willing to sit through every take and find those golden moments. We originally wanted to shoot and edit on the same device, but then realized it wasn’t worth our time just prove a point.
TAB: While you distribute Goldilocks via iOS app, it isn’t the only option you’ve chosen. You also distribute online through Vimeo and YouTube. Which distribution platform has been the most successful for you?
MK: The bulk of our views have been via the Majek app. The Majek app pulls content from the Vimeo servers, just as it does when you view it via their website. We initially chose Vimeo over YouTube, as the quality was much more superior when it came to streaming across mobile devices. With an action series such as Goldilocks, the quality of the motion of the image was very important. We ran tests on both, and ultimately decided on Vimeo. The downside of choosing Vimeo is that YouTube has a much larger community.
AJ: YouTube streams fast, but Vimeo is catching up. The greatest thing about Vimeo is they take great pride in all of their artists. The entire experience is different and satisfying as a filmmaker and viewer.
TAB: Let’s talk about promotion. Have social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook contributed to your success, or have you found other means to build a fan base?
MK: Apple of My Eye and Goldilocks wouldn’t exist without social media. Sure, we have our family and friends base, but even that relies upon social media. It’s amazing how fast word travels. We’ve continued asking our fanbase to spread the word about Goldilocks. Features are living and dying based on 140 character reviews on Twitter, and web series or TV pilots are no different. Now, more than ever, the viewer has the ability to immediately share with the world their opinion on politics, sports, and absolutely entertainment.
TAB: What percentage of your fan base are Apple users?
MK: A large percentage of our fan base are Apple users. We can view devices and operating systems via the stats on Vimeo and YouTube, and over 85% of views are coming from Apple hardware and operating systems. I think also the nature of it being shot on an iPhone contributes to this specific Apple fan base.
TAB: What one feature or product would you love to see Apple produce or fix that would make the process of telling stories using video on the iOS platform that much easier?
MK: I would love to see the iMovie app on the iPhone/iPod have multiple audio tracks. We had to do some export and re-import in iTunes with Apple of My Eye to get multiple tracks into the finished video. This was definitely part of our decision in choosing to edit Goldilocks in a traditional movie-making workflow.
AJ: If the post experience could become more tactile, like in Minority Report … If we could use our fingertips to arrange and put things in place, upload or download seamlessly, edit and watch footage by a touch here or there, that would be amazing.
While Majek Pictures is certainly among the first to use Apple mobile platforms for the entire lifecycle of film-making, from pre-production to distribution, they won’t be the last. Who else is making waves in the world of mobile movie making, and how would you like to see Apple’s products change to further support their efforts?
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