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Behind the Scenes of Apple’s “Dark Universe” Video Shot on iPhone 12 Pro

In a video commissioned by Apple, Donghoon and James of Incite Design show off some incredible visuals captured by the company’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 12 Pro. The two show how they did it in this 5-minute behind-the-scenes explanation.

“We were enamored with the idea of trying to create a fictional universe,” Donghoon said. “In the past, we weren’t able to get the look that we wanted. I really had to fight the darkness.”

Donhoon continued, “We had to contend with, ‘How do you film darkness?’ What are the parts that build up this fictional universe?”

“With the iPhone 12 Pro, we were able to shoot so much better in low light,” James said.

The duo used a combination of plasma, different colored lasers, as well as different materials to produce a mix of visual effects. The behind-the-scenes video also shows how the two used different liquids to produce a flowing “clouds” effect.

The number of different ideas, machines, and techniques that Donhoon and James talk about in this video come in at a rapid-fire pace, and perhaps more impressive than the final visuals are the interesting ways that the two created desired looks. In one clip they show how they dropped the phone directly into rocks that they had fired upwards using a piston, and in another, they use magnets and iron filings with the camera very close to the surface. One step further, they use ferrofluid to create rapidly flowing ripples that flow wildly on camera.

The final video is definitely worth your time to watch after seeing the methods the two used to create it:

If you have ever been curious about how creators make some of the most interesting practical effects, even this short video will hit you with a large number of outstanding ideas that are worth considering. Though Apple warns “do not attempt” in the behind-the-scenes look, it’s likely more to prevent someone from damaging their phone than it is a warning about experimenting with different materials and lighting.

If you’re interested in what Incite Design has done here, you can follow them on Instagram for more examples of their outstanding effects work.

(Via ISO 1200)

This Project Aims to Teach Anyone How to Make TV-Caliber, Visually-Striking Videos

Steve Giralt is a New York City-based director, visual engineer, and founder of production company The Garage. He shoots those visually-stunning commercials you see on TV, and while most studios keep secret how they are made, Giralt wants to share it all with the world.

PetaPixel has featured Giralt’s work in the past, from recreating a $1,000,000 Hershey’s shoot on a $500 budget, to how he built a “burger drop” machine.

His latest project is called The Garage Learning and is live on Kickstarter. Giralt’s goal is to provide a mammoth amount of resources for filmmakers of all skill levels to allow them to create content to the level he and his team have been reaching for years.

“We make videos that artfully drop burgers from the sky, explode all types of food midair, and get slow motion to look so natural,” Giralt writes in the project’s Kickstarter. “It’s a lot of fun! Now, I want to bring the years of knowledge my team and I have gathered and innovated in our Garage to yours.”

The Garage Learning is broken into three categories: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Beginner lessons are for creators with smartphones as their main visual tool, and little to no Visual Engineering experience. “If you love to tinker, create, experiment, and learn—or are a parent looking for hands-on, educational activities for your kids—these courses are for you,” Giralt says.

Intermediate/Advanced lessons are for users who may have a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, and maybe even some lights. “You may be a still photographer who wants to get into shooting better videos, or a film student who wants to learn how commercials are engineered. If you’re comfortable with using your camera and have had some experience with photography or film, you’ll be able to get these lessons as part of our One Year Intermediate/Advanced Subscription, or as part of the Professional Subscription.”

Pro lessons are designed for working professionals who want to learn new techniques and ways of working with higher-end cameras and tools; or for those interested in learning how to manage a commercial image-making business.

The Garage Learning has uploaded the a work-in-progress course list:

The Garage Learning isn’t just the education, it also can include the actual tools needed to coordinate motion of objects with the camera. Called Learning Kits, The Garage wants to be able to ship you all the technological tools you will need to use in conjunction with the online courses. “The Learning Kits will bring technology and engineering skills to filmmaking, giving users a hands-on way of learning complicated mechanical and electrical systems normally not taught in any sort of art school,” Giralt says.

The Garage Learning has a particularly high goal for its Kickstarter, something that many projects on the site avoid because it makes it harder to reach the goal. However, given the amount Giralt is seeking, it feels more transparent than what other projects do because it seems like he knows how much it’s going to cost to effectively execute on the promises.

Still, remember that Kickstarter is not a pre-order platform, so do your research and pledge with caution.

You can learn more about The Garage Learning and pledge your support on its Kickstarter page.

How Richard Nixon ‘Stole’ This Photo and Twisted It Into a Campaign Slogan

American people standing up to the Soviets! America needs Nixon! These were some of the tag lines attached to this photo during Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1960. But behind every picture, there is a story. And this is one of those photos where the story is just as good as the picture.

How many times have you heard the phrase: “truth is in the eye of the beholder”?

We’ve seen it many times in the history of photography and photojournalism. Some photographs are just not what they appear to be. Sometimes the composition is corrected later in the post, sometimes pictures of casual moments are staged, and sometimes the story behind the photograph is completely different from the reality that the photo purports to portray.

The medium of photography represents the vision of the artist as they capture a two-dimensional representation of their three-dimensional reality. But for the viewer, looking at a photo is ultimately an act of interpretation: it is never purely objective, and often needs additional explanation.

It’s true, sometimes a good photo needs no explanation. However, in photojournalism, it is often crucial to describe the situation so the picture is not misinterpreted. And it’s the photographer, is the author of the photo, who should be the final authority when it comes to sharing their story.

But what if the story of your photograph was hijacked and misinterpreted? What would you do? That is actually what happened to Elliott Erwitt: the French-born American photographer known for his advertising and documentary photography was put into a situation where his story was flipped upside down and used as a campaign slogan.

It was July 24th, 1959 when the then Vice President Richard Nixon visited the American national exhibition in Moscow. The exhibition was showcasing American art, fashion, cars, model homes, kitchens, and more in “Typical American Houses”. It was basically introducing the American lifestyle to a wider public in Soviet Russia.

The now famous kitchen debate happened in the house called Splitnik, which was created from the words “split” and Sputnik (Sputnik being the famous satellite the Soviets had launched into orbit two years earlier). It is here in Splitnik that Elliot Erwitt captured the now-iconic moment between Nixon and Khrushchev.

The photograph happened in typical Erwitt fashion. He was in Moscow working for Westinghouse Electric, taking pictures of refrigerators and their installation for Macy’s kitchens.

“When Nixon famously wagged his finger at Khrushchev, nobody from the media was there. Only me,” recalled Erwitt. “I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was in the kitchen free to move. it was like shooting fish in a barrel.”

This seems to be a recurring theme in Erwitt’s photography. As he once famously proclaimed:

The best things happen because you just happen to be somewhere with a camera. Some of my colleagues in Magnum go to places on purpose to do news, but the historic pictures I have made have been by sheer accident.

Nixon’s staff would use this photograph during his presidential campaign to show Nixon standing up to the Soviets, when in reality they were actually discussing something completely different at that moment. The argument was about cabbage soup vs. red meat…

As you can see, this moment was… twisted a bit… to try and help Nixon in his campaign. A campaign he ultimately lost to JFK.

The whole story comes to light when we look at the contact sheets; it actually seems as though the discussion was rather friendly, and we can even see Khrushchev in a similar position as Nixon in one photograph. But truth is in the eye of the beholder, right?

This is why photography as a medium can never be 100% objective. Simply put, what is included and/or left out is chosen by the photographer. When I started studying photography and looked for the sources to learn from, I was often told to look at the pictures of great photography masters, because you will often learn far more than composition techniques.

If there is one thing we can take from this story, I think it would be that a simple twist to reality can change the narrative of a single photograph.

News and the media will push you to decide why a photo is the way it is. However, if you look at a photo both subjectively and objectively, you might discover its truth for yourself. In today’s digital age, I think this is a very important skill.

Ultimately, you are the beholder.

About the author: Martin Kaninsky is a photographer, reviewer, and YouTuber based in Prague, Czech Republic. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Kaninsky runs the channel All About Street Photography. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube channel.

These Guys Strapped a RED Camera to a 100mph FPV Racing Drone

Filmmaker and YouTuber Potato Jet recently teamed up with first person view (FPV) racing drone pilot Paul Nurkkala to try something kind of crazy: they strapped Potato Jet’s RED cinema camera to a custom-built, high-speed octa-copter and took it for a spin… and a flip… and a few more maneuvers besides.

It’s worth pointing out that Nurkkala isn’t just any FPV drone pilot, he’s actually a regular contestant in the Drone Racing League on NBC and the 2018 world champion of drone racing. He also shoots commercially for movies and television, capturing high-speed stylized footage that you simply can’t shoot with a “regular” drone that has a bunch of sensors onboard to keep you from crashing.

In other words: If you’re gonna let anybody take your RED camera for a joy ride while strapped to a high-speed racing drone with no safety features whatsoever, Nurkkala is probably your best bet for getting that RED back in one piece.

For this video, Potato Jet and Nurkkala first explain what makes racing drones special: mainly touching on the crazy power-to-weight ratio and how that makes these drones incredibly hard to control. Then they practice on a few smaller drones before Nurkkala puts googles on his head and a RED camera in the air.

To see all of this and more for yourself, check out the full video up top.

And if you want to dive deeper into the world of FPV drones, definitely check out Nurkkala’s YouTube channel or head over to his website. As interesting as this particular drone-to-camera mash-up is, it’s far from the coolest footage Nurkkala has captured this year.

(via Fstoppers)

Perfect for 36 Frames: The Scariest Assignment of My Career

Most everyone’s got one. If you’ve been around for a while, you may have some great stories or a few crazy or scary assignments, but this one is not what you might think. Oh, I have had some interesting gigs for sure, but most of my work was in studio and not at all scary (with the exception of melted ice cream). I’ll save those stories for another time. No, this phone call was a different kind of scary.

Thirty years of top work and my confidence went out the window within sixty seconds of answering the phone. Actually, the entire call lasted less than sixty seconds.

One February afternoon I’m cleaning up the studio and planning to run for the 4:40 train from NYC to Greenwich, with my biggest worry being whether I’ll grab a cab or get soaked. That’s when the phone rings. Tony, the creative director of J. Walter Thompson was on the phone, which either means bad news with a problem, or good news with a new assignment.

My work with J.W.T. was generally studio stuff: liquor, Burger King, pizza or something else that typically sits still and doesn’t talk back, but always pays well. Those days in New York I was a busy still-life shooter with a name in studio photography. I took pride in myself for lighting, composition, a sparkling personality, and a cool studio; all of which I’d banked on for several decades.

“I’ve got an interesting assignment, if you’re up for it.”

Well of COURSE I’m up for it, we both know that! But instead I simply responded

“Sure, what’s up?”

He must have been smiling to himself when he broke it so casually:

Would you like to shoot for Kodak? It’s a new campaign. You would choose one of the four films we’re advertising; like Kodacolor II, Hi-Speed Ektachrome, Ektachrome and Kodachrome II. It’d be your choice, you choose and show off the benefits of one, like Hi-Speed for candle light maybe, or Kodacolor II for saturated daytime…

“I’ll take Kodacolor,” I said, as I just laid it right out there. Dibs, if you will. Bright colors and sunshine? Mine! Fate sealed; challenge accepted. Next? Layouts; budget issues; unreal deadline?

Instead, Tony said simply “OK, let me know when you’re done.”

And there it was. “LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU’RE DONE!” Shit, now he’s just playin’ with me. This was starting to scare me.

“Wait – tell me more. What about…”

He ignored that and said, “Just have fun, do something great, as usual, remember bright colors, call me when you’re done.”

I tried again to extract details, but alas, “No worries, no layout, budget is great, I’ll talk to Bill Stockland (my rep) about it, but it’s pretty unlimited. Gotta run, have fun.”

Complete panic ensued.

I realized it was all on the line now: could I really do this? Thirty years of building a reputation, and now no excuses, no art director, no layout, just deliver greatness to the creative director of New York’s top ad agency or crash badly. And for Kodak, no less. Shit – at that time the name of my sailboat was actually ‘Kodachrome’ though it happened to be in winter storage at the time.

I needed sunshine. After pouring a healthy scotch, I scrambled to call Bill. He reaffirmed that I could go anywhere, do anything, spend any amount, but just come up with something great within maybe two weeks. He offered no help at all.

In those days my usual film was 8×10 Ektachrome (with a Polaroid tossed in here and there). I almost always shot in studio and always with a layout and I always brought the assignment. Roll film? I’d shoot a roll or two maybe once a year and I still owned a Nikon, if I could actually remember where it was…

I went home and, on the way, grabbed a brick of film, new batteries for the Nikon, packed up the wife and kid, and headed for California sunshine. It would be sunny, with parks, boats, zoos, and even hot air balloons seeming to be a safe bet, and I wanted safe. Upon arrival, this idea crashed.

I found that they don’t fly balloons when it’s rainy, and it was very rainy. No bright colors and no sunshine.

So, I learned something: when dropped into chaos, you’ll probably stretch a bit. You can actually relax and trust yourself. Sure, it was raining, but I did happen to have a great model with me. I decided to just relax and let things flow… which it did. I found a kiddie store on Union Street with a yellow Sou’wester hat and a matching yellow raincoat. Perfect Kodak color, actually.

A few weeks later Tony called. They couldn’t pick a single shot. My heart began to sink. Then he said that this shoot changed their entire advertising campaign. They decided to run an entire contact sheet when they couldn’t pick just one image. He loved it. Kodak loved it. It ran in a number of national magazines, influenced their future advertising, and it was my all-time favorite shoot.

Greatest model to the greatest shoot ever, Lauren Molly Bartone, age 3.

About the author: After his studies at the Art Center College of Design, Laurence Bartone first opened his commercial studio as a photographer in San Francisco. Ten years in and looking for new experiences, he headed East to NYC.

Heavily influenced by the lighting and composition of Vermeer, and the brilliance of both Irving Penn and Phil Marco, he believes every photo should tell a story. Bartone won four gold medals for advertising photography in SF, NY, and LA, and has been published in dozens of national magazines. His work consistently underlines his lighting and composition talents, with Bartone delivering successful campaigns and assignments – both in studio or on location.

Whether traveling through Europe, shooting on a beach in Tahiti or a vineyard in Australia, he’s descended from helicopters, climbed high-rise scaffolding, flown gliders, and even donned a scuba suit into the icy depths of the Monterey Bay Aquarium – all to get the best possible shot; as his incredible list of Fortune 500 clients would agree.

You can find more of his work on his website. This article was originally published on The Photographer’s Tribune.