Starting in 2006, nary a year after the launch of YouTube, I began contributing video to the start-up environmental website Treehugger.com experimenting with emerging web video production. By 2007, the site had been acquired by Discovery Communications, I was producing for broadcast as well as vlogging on the environment, had become very busy, a father to tiny twin babies, and tired of carrying big gear to small shoots. Having begun as work done out of concern for the environment, I was still eager to get the word out on sustainability and good causes.
Coordinating getting a camera person and lugging a camcorder rig for these quickie, do-gooder web videos was pretty unappealing and not cost-effective. I happened to get an $800 Nokia N95 phone for free in a Webby Awards party swag bag. While it came with a free month of phone service, I never used that but rather was drawn to its capacity to shoot 640×480 standard definition video to mpeg-4 files at around 3-4 mbps — at the time the iPhone only in its second year of existence could not yet shoot video. Coming with a whopping 8 gigabytes of storage, I decided to try the Nokia with an LED light strapped on with gaffers tape using this kluge to interview Mark Wahlberg at a charity event — he eyed me with some suspicion since again this was early 2008 way before the site of throngs of people shooting video on phones became commonplace, and meanwhile the rest of the press had their heavy-duty, giant, shoulder-rig broadcast cameras. Nonetheless he gave me a great interview to spread word on the internet about the charity. Around that time I also used the Nokia N95 for an interview over a leisurely lunch with the peripatetic Gary Vaynerchuk. We veered off topic to touch on the undeniable fact that mobile was the future for these types of production.
CAMERA KLUGE: The Nokia N95 strapped to a Litepanels MiniPlus daylight-balanced onboard LED. Nokia N95 specs: 8GB NAM (N95-4) Frontal CIF video call & main rear 2592 × 1944 camera with auto-focus, Carl Zeiss optics, capture Aspect ratio (image) 4/3 (1.33:1)
I explored the idea of creating a stand-alone camera device with live-switchable front/back cameras, but then Apple introduced the App Store and by 2010 I began to think if I built this thing, we could make it available for everyone. I decided to develop the ultimate, all-in-one, video-making app for iPhone, Filmakr.
The capacity to only shoot individual clips wasn’t good enough for me. Shooting single clips and then off-loading to a computer would defeat the purpose. Wouldn’t unleash the potential of mobile devices. The app needed to deliver full-circle production beginning with shooting, through multi-shot-auto-editing, and finally upload to the web. The solution had to be a mash-up of camera and editing into one, simplified, fluid experience that feels seamless to use. And this new way of doing things would speed the inevitable march of video-making becoming transfored into digital filmmaking. I also recognized that over time having to use multiple paired-down apps to accomplish making films on a small phone would become annoying and counterproductive. I decided we had to make the killer videomaking app. And to cram all the required functionally into a single app without sucombing to the bloatware, Swiss Army Knife pitfall of crappy user experience. The UX needed to be off the hook. We would have to start from scratch and rexamine every element of the workflow, never assume the current way was the best way for mobile, certainly we weren’t going to simplly port-over and transpose a desktop paradigm to a little iPhone touch screen….
I go into a bit more historical perspective and tell a bit more about my own journey in this article about how high quality low cost cameras are disrupting the film/video job market.
More here: Early Mojo Experiments with Gary Vaynerchuk