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Chinatown London – a short travel film

The public arena is always open for business making street photography accessible all year round. For me, summer is when it really comes to life as the long days stretch out into the night and streets fill up with excited people, eager to have fun.

I’ve always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of London’s Chinatown. It’s as much a feast for the eyes as for the stomach – full of life, colour and energy. I spent the summer months working on a street photography project capturing life in Chinatown. You can see the pictures above. I enjoyed it so much, I was inspired to make a short travel film maintaining the tradition of street photography, using a small hand-held camera and being as unobtrusive as possible.

I decided to use my smartphone – an iPhone 6. Sure, it was small, portable and unobtrusive – they were the good points but the lens wasn’t very wide and the built in camera app didn’t allow the quality or control I wanted so I had to make some changes.

The lens was an easy fix. I bought a Moondogs lab 1.33X anamorphic lens which clamps onto the smartphone and offers genuine 2.39:1 widescreen ratio. It’s a quality item, very well made and the glass is excellent. Moment also offer a lot of smartphone lenses and accessories. I haven’t tried them yet but I hear a lot of good things about them.

I decided to use FiLMiC Pro as the video camera app. It’s easy to use and allows all the creative, technical controls needed but I ran into a problem – a big problem! I kept getting dropped frames. I tried everything; deleting the app and installing it again, I got in touch with support, who I have to say, tried their best to help but couldn’t resolve the problem. I had no choice but to look for an alternative and found Mavis. It’s an odd name for sure but it’s a fully loaded video camera app currently only available for the iPhone. It was easy to get going and it performed flawlessly.

I have used FiLMiC Pro subsequently on an iPhone XR and it’s worked just fine so I can only assume another app must have been causing some sort of conflict.

The camera battery didn’t last long, that was a real drawback. I used a USB battery charger in between filming with lunch and afternoon coffee breaks offering ideal opportunities to get more juice in the iPhone.

Another problem I found with the iPhone was how quickly memory got used up. With a conventional camera it’s easy, just pop in another card and you’re good to go but it’s not that simple with a smartphone. If you’re serious about filming with a smartphone I would suggest buying one with the largest memory you can afford and it still won’t be enough but it’ll give you some hope of capturing decent footage before having to download and free up more memory.

You can watch the finished film below. Don’t adjust the picture, it’s meant to have black bars at the top and bottom. It also features real lens flare, a nod to JJ Abrams, and a scene that rivals the original flake adverts for pure temptation thanks to Katie McClane. Huge thanks also to Rick Cordell for assisting.

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Published in Filmmaking iPhone 6 Travel

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