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We caught up with James Heath, who produced the video, to find out how it came to exist.
The London-based agency he works for, Hugo & Cat, makes a lot of the assets that appear on the www.nokia.com sites – pictures, videos, backgrounds, that sort of thing. They’ve been working with Nokia for about 18 months. James tells us the story:
“Towards the end of 2011, Nokia came to us and said ‘We’ve got a new camera phone we want you to look at’.”
“So they came and showed us the phone. It was very clear from the way they acted that they thought this was something special. We only had a couple of hours and could only see the results in the viewfinder. And they deliberately didn’t tell us the magical 41-megapixel figure, so we weren’t really sure what we were looking at.”
It wasn’t until the next visit a few weeks later, at the start of 2012, that the team realised what they had in their hands.
“This time, we were allowed to get hands-on for a couple of days. What brought it home to us was zooming out. They showed us a focused image in the viewfinder and encouraged us to zoom out. And out. And out.
“It was really disorienting at first as we realised quite how much detail the camera was able to capture.”
The team, James, art director Chris Tozer, and photographer Patrick Harrison started making their plans for a video to demonstrate the 808 PureView. At first, they came up with some really grand schemes involving more than a dozen locations across the world. But as the realities of short deadlines and limited budgets dawned, the initial plan was scaled down.
“When we eventually started filming, we thought we’d have to shoot the whole thing in London,” laughs James.
“Then we realised Carnival was coming up in Rio and with a small team and some hard work we could get it done on time and on budget.”
The team of three found a ‘fixer’ in Rio who could find them suitable locations and for five days, the team worked twelve-hour days to get the shoot done.
“It made us laugh when we read some of the reactions to the piece. People thought we had a full crew, actors and complex lighting rigs.
“In reality, we had none of that. The people just happened to be there, either for the Carnival or from a friendly local Samba school.”
When James’ team normally produces a video, they work with the latest DSLR cameras. So what was it like working with the Nokia 808 PureView?
“Well, I think the results speak for themselves – though to be honest, working with such a small device, that’s also a phone – the quality absolutely baffles us.
“Our key concern was battery life. We were working long days and shooting a lot of video – and that’s going to take it out of any camera phone. It didn’t let us down, though.
“Working with a camera phone, we were able to get pictures that we wouldn’t have been able to take with a DSLR. Because it’s a phone, you can get closer to people, deeper into scenarios, without people becoming self-aware.
“Also, bear in mind this was a top-secret new product at the time. So we were really paranoid about it being spotted. But people weren’t curious. The sight of someone shooting video with a phone at Carnival isn’t exactly uncommon…
“What I’d say to people considering the phone is, don’t concentrate on the 41-megapixels. Concentrate on the great results at 5-megapixels. The low light imagery we used in the film was taken at that resolution.
Lastly, a number of people have wondered why the film is only available at resolutions up to 720p on YouTube, when the camera is capable of 1080p?
“Originally, when we shot it, the film was made for a very specific page on nokia.com where the maximum resolution is 720p. It was only afterwards, when we started getting some very favourable reactions, that we decided to put it on YouTube.
“Unfortunately, to create a full HD version at that point would have required another month’s work – and we’d have probably missed the boat in terms of getting people excited about the product before it comes out.”
Thanks James, and well done to you and your team for such a sterling demonstration of this new smartphone’s powers.