This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

iPhone video experiment

28th December 2012

I am an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to photography and video, but I like a challenge. In 2012 I tried to shoot video wherever I went. However, I don’t like carrying around loads of expensive kit, so I constrained myself to only using my iPhone 4S, some carefully chosen apps, and a couple of peripherals. The results were… interesting.

Firstly, here’s a five-minute video collating some of my favourite clips from last year. As a simple record of a year I think it works pretty well.

Figure 1: 2012 in clips

This end result has encouraged me to keep going and produce something like this every twelve months. However, I had to edit out a huge number of mistakes, and some of my clips were unusable. Initially I captured a lot of shaky footage, and screwed up with things like auto-focus and other details. Still, as an experiment and ongoing challenge I found it really interesting to try and make more of that powerful little video camera I carry everywhere I go. Almost everyone I speak to says “Oh yeah, I always forget to take videos.”

Some basic kit

I limited myself to just three peripherals, and I only had these with me if I carried my bag.


Figure 2: Olloclip, Gorillapod, Walimex stand.

Firstly, the excellent Olloclip, which features three lenses: wide-angle, fisheye, and macro. I find the fisheye distorts the video too much, and whilst the macro is amazing you need to get really close and be incredibly steady-handed. Mostly I use the wide-angle lens to pack more in, but even then the video is cropped slightly. Still, it’s the best tool any amateur can carry and I often regret not having it with me.

I also bought a Gorillapod. This is a super-flexible little tripod that fits in a pocket and makes steady shooting possible in a variety of tricky situations. The only caveat is that it’s light, so a breeze will cause it to shake a little. Thanks to my reflexes I managed to prevent a gust sacrificing the whole lot to the East River back in March.

Finally, I use a Walimex tripod stand screwed in to the Gorillapod, which makes slipping the iPhone on to the tripod a doddle. It also doubles as a stand for watching movies and stuff. It’s similar to the Glif.

I’ve also ordered a nifty little Camalapse for rotating time lapse japery.


I’ve tried so many variants of so many tools, but finally reduced my collection down to just eight additional photo/video apps that cover pretty much everything I need. I’ve always taken lots of photos with my iPhones, so naturally I have Snapseed for editing, as any sane human should.


Figure 3: Apps in my Photo/Video folder.

I have apps on hand for stuff like shutter speed and slow-motion, and these really need a tripod or very steady hand for any success. I’m a sucker for a time lapse video, and my main toy is TimeLapse Camera HD from Cateater LLC (the best of all the ones I tried). Alas, it took me eight months to realise I could disable auto-focus, hence the occasional annoying focus shifts in some clips.

A few favourites

I ended up with a bunch of clips that I really love. Most are just single shots from a specific viewpoint, but they serve as great reminders of moments from the year. I can go fullscreen and be sat back in that square in Helsinki, or watch my colleagues working. Here’s a selection of some of the best clips in their entirety.

Figure 4: Greg at work Figure 5: Helsinki Figure 6: Flying over Canada (zoomed in from portrait format, duh) Figure 7: Seattle Figure 8: Vancouver waterfront Figure 9: Vancouver

Oh, and here’s a five-minute video I made from the Fictive Kin retreat in Montreal. Apologies to M83.

Figure 10: Montreal
Amateur and proud!

So it’s been fun to experiment and see how far I can push the iPhone. Of course I’ve seen iPhone videos from others that are annoyingly professional and breathtaking, and you can find heaps of inspiration on Vimeo. That said, I am an amateur and proud. I take photos and capture video to build tangible shareable memories of the times when I’m enjoying myself. It’s as simple as that, but very rewarding all the same.

Next time you find yourself in an interesting place, or enjoying a moment to treasure, remember that little magic shiny black rectangle in your pocket, and use it!

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