iPhoneography update: Going HDSLR (almost)

During my recent shift in gear and equipment from days gone by to the modern era I began to collect all the little hardware that was either loose or just kind of hanging around with other stuff.

In a moment of inspiration this week I dumped a pile of it out and began assembling a rig for providing me with better iPhone images and video. Hand-holding a device that small and light does not bode well for “expert” imagery so adding a handle or a bit of heft here and there would certainly improve things.

After a couple of starts and restarts I have come to my “Aha” moment. I don’t yet have a name for it but I believe I have created a nice device that will aid me in greatly improved video from my iPhone4.

And thanks to our friend Thomas over at USBFever.com (gratuitous, shameless plug) I have a portable kit that offers great flexibility and more freedom.

The heart of my new rig is a bracket I first purchased from Nikon more than a decade ago for my Coolpix 950. (A brief pause here as I realize I have not been shooting film in over 10 years).

At the heart of most attachments in the non-studio world of photography is the ¼-inch thread and my persistent digging through my mountain of “junk” produced quite a few knobs, sockets and assorted whatnot.

I modified the bracket by moving one of the rubberized pads to a different location and drilled a hole or two in the aluminum stock. From my iPhone3 and iPhone4 USBFever telephotography kits I borrow the spring-loaded device holders each with a ¼-inch thread socket meant for attaching to a supplied mini-tripod.

These holders are placed side-by-side on the largest section of bracket and will serve as “homebase” for my iPhone4. Using the pair to hold the device greatly enhances its stability and eliminates any chance of shifting or swiveling.

For maximum comfort and stability of the rig I attach a foam-padded handle on the far left side of the bracket. This I borrowed from an old video camera shoulder rig and luckily the foam hasn’t dried out.

A few years back when I was shooting streaming video with my Nokia N82 I remember being able to connect a professional-grade microphone to it for optimum audio. Hmmm, will this work with my iPhone4? Yes.

I produce an old swivel ballhead from the junk pile and attach it to the left of the phone holders. My short shotgun microphone has a camera shoe mount on the bottom of it and the swivel ballhead has to shoe base on top. Perfect.

I fire up the iPhone camera to make sure the tip of the windscreen on the mic does not show in the image. Okey-dokey there although I will have to modify this when using one of the wide-angle adaptors provided with the new kit from Thomas.

Attaching the mic to the iPhone via its cable proved no more difficult than placing the square peg in the round hole. The straight-tip end bumped into the slight curve in the bracket. No problem, switch the cable around so that the right angle tip is connected to the device. Bingo.

Moment of truth – fire it all up and begin shooting. A quick dry run (always, ALWAYS test your equipment before using it on a shoot) and playback shows no audio. Dang, first real glitch.

Dingbat, turn the mic on. Yes, there is a switch on the back end of the shotgun mic since it is self-powered. Pfffft. Alright, take two.

BAM (apologies to Emiril). Works like a champ and put together at no added cost to me as everything came from other kits or the bottom of crates, bags and boxes in my equipment “morgue.”

I will add that one of the ¼-inch knobs I used for attaching the left device holder has a ¼-inch thread in the bottom of it for attaching this entire device to my spare quick-release plate for my Bogen tripod head thus further enhancing the flexibility of my new (almost) homemade rig. One hand on the foam grip and the other hand on the right upright of the bracket and I am off and shooting. My right thumb can easily access the record button on the screen without having to let go of the grip. Going vertical? No problemo. The upright has a couple of holes in it for tripod attachment (conveniently placing the iPhone in the proper orientation.

Categories: How to Do It Yourself!

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