Friday, 16 March 2018

The Best Value Smartphones for Creating ASMR Videos (March 2018)

As a new financial year approaches I've been assessing my needs for producing my YouTube videos using the AirNinja Movie Method with the added parameter of vlog style production.

With Sony releasing the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact (and currently shooting using the XZ1 Compact) I was pretty disappointed to see Sony drop the headphone jack and downgrade the front-facing selfie camera in the new releases. So they are scratched off the shortlist :(

The front-facing camera has become more important to me as often my videos are created with it and using the selfie camera for video allows a one-man-band to monitor the framing easily.

Losing the headphone jack means also losing the ability to plug in mics, including binaural mics from Sony themselves.

I noticed that the Samsung Galaxy S9 kept the headphone jack still, but no way my budget stretches to £700+ for an unknown binaural performer. Obviously the Sony binaural mics won't be compatible, but my Røde smartphone mics will be.

After reviewing a bunch of sample videos on YouTube I came to the conclusion that the S8 is as good as the S9 for my purposes.

Read on to see what attracted me to the S8 and other phones I would still consider top quality for creating ASMR content on a lesser budget. All these phones record decent stereo-audio video  using either back- or front- camera. Many many phones only record mono including every single iPhone ever produced to date, yes even the X.

1. Samsung Galaxy S8 (£500-ish)

Decent front camera with autofocus and binaural-video recording.
Amazingly fast and reliable autofocus in 1080P.
Great 'Pro' mode to selectively lock ISO and White Balance.
Looks good with minimal bezels. 64GB onboard storage (which tends to be my sweetspot shooting 1080P as I do).
MicroSD card slot.
Price has been cut with the release of the S9 and it's pretty much the same phone :)

THE BAD - This thing is gonna crack into a million pieces when it's dropped on-set or even just casually falling out of your pocket day-to-day; best buy a case too.
Touchwiz and duplicate Samsung branded apps kinda annoying for your soul.

THE UGLY - wtf is that dedicated Bixby button lol

2. Sony Xperia XZS (£250-ish)

Really low noise mics, great audio engineering all around, can plug in a set of Sony binaural mics. 64GB internal storage is worry-free for me when shooting 1080P although can be expanded using the microSD too.
Doesn't overheat (honestly on older Xperia this really was a major concern when shooting long video takes, the camera app would just shut down d'oh - not on this one though and not on the XZ below either).
Dedicated camera button is sweet. Really fast autofocus though maybe a tad slower and less reliable than the Galaxy S8 above.

The 960fps is a bit of a gimmick and doesn't record any sound anyway.

Whilst the phone itself is not particularly ugly looking I did always find it a bit annoying to hold one handed. I have long fingers but small-ish-to-average hand size what ya gonna do.

3. Sony Xperia XZ (£150-ish)

Great value for the results you will get from it, shares many features with the XZS above including the low noise mics and ability to plug in Sony binaural mics to the minijack.

It 'only' has 32GB internal storage which whilst usually enough if you dump your rushes every day, I would start to stress if I was shooting over several days without a rushes dump. Thankfully it does have a microSD expansion but, y'know, it's extra admin and another thing to remember.

Whilst the XZ never crapped out on me it can still tend to get on the warm side and it's not a great choice if you want to film long takes at 4K resolution.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Trash Arts Killers Volume 1

Now here's a twisted leftfield deeply disturbing absurdist collection of short films if I ever saw one. From the Trash Arts production stable and currently streaming on VersusMedia this macabre anthology explores themes from the masked corners of the human mind and will put cracks in the thin veneer of our outdated industrialised society.

Running at just over an hour it demonstrates just what is possible with a camera, a co-operative, and unbound imagination. This is not your multiplex 12A spandex CGI fest, obviously; rather grass roots risk taking fringe filmmakers with a self to express unhindered and (quite possibly) unhinged.

First up is Angel of Decay - essentially a vlog by a Ted Bundy fangirl documenting her slide into mimicry of her hero and beyond. If you ever want to know what to pack in your murder kit, this is the one to watch. Certainly lives up to the Killers moniker, plural.
Angel of Decay

After a brief insert of a plastic doll autopsy (which continues to be intercut throughout the first few shorts) we have Court of Conscience. If you've ever wondered if the soapbox loons foretelling end-times and apocalypse should be respected then this film has your answer. A simple idea, well, executed.
Court of Conscience

Then we have Arrows with a one-shot slow-cinema opening scene and an implied botched heist before we see our protagonist casual and confident strolling through the woods licking revolvers as you do. We find ourselves a masked antagonist and after a quick chase sequence the score is settled with a game of chance - namely Russian roulette. There's probably a deep multi-layered metaphor in there somewhere.

Moving on to Here's Johnny we are left to imagine the circumstances and context of any storyline as this short jumps straight into the staple horror shower scene. Next time you're in the shower you might want to keep your wits about you and your clothes on.
Here's Johnny

Submitting to Desire we are presented with what is probably the most visually striking film of the bunch. Its abstract narrative arc is left to your own interpretation and anything unsettling is down to your own cognitive biases. Featuring blue steak, squished fruit, bondage, and music steadily building to a thrashing climax there's clues and cues to tie it all together into a coherent study of that suggested by the title.

Making you even more wary of the landline telephone, The Call sets a scene of a big local news story - so why does our protagonist keep getting calls from a double-glazing salesman questioning her sanity? A tale of ratcheting guilt until pushed over the edge.
The Call

A great use of available light in Southbank which documents the last minutes of life of the main character with a cameo from none other than Death - well this is Trash Arts Killers after all. With an emotive use of music we are in the moment with the lead with disregard for whatever came before and for whatever may come.

Rounding up we have Attraction which explores a couple's relationship anniversary and psychological fallout when the relationship is not all you want it to be. Do you continue with the relationship or do you break up with unknown consequences.

All in all an entertainment filled hour that should help keep you awake at night! Trash Arts Killers Volume 1 is streaming on VersusMedia from 26th January 2018.

Full disclosure: the ASMR Dolls sections are submissions from my own productions at ASMR.Show