Having “cut their teeth” on optics engineering and design at Kodak, Julie Gerstenberger (Co-founder & CEO) and Scott Cahall (Co-founder & CTO) teamed up to form Moondog Labs in Fairport, NY. The two have vast experience in optics and lens design for mobile imaging, photography, motion capture, projection systems and displays. They are now combining talents to create anamorphic lens adapter systems that will allow filmmakers to use the iphone for movie making. Currently, they have adapters for iphone versions 5/5S to 6/6+. A new adapter will be released shortly that will allow filmmakers to use the ipad and the ipad mini for filmmaking as well.
The launch of the iphone as movie making device began in 2011 with the release of Paranmanjang (Night Fishing), a South Korean fantasy/horror short. In 2012, Director Malik Bendjelloul turned to the iphone and the 8mm Vintage Camera iphone app to complete his full-length documentary Searching for Sugar Man, after running out of funding to finish it in the Super 8 film with which it was started. This movement toward filming on iphone encouraged the two to launch a kickstarter campaign in 2013 that raised over $57,000 from 518 backers which set Moondog Labs in motion to create their first 1.33x anamorphic adopter lens for the iphone 5/5S.
Successful? No doubt. The orders have come in so strongly that they now have a four week lead time on them, four and soon-to-be five versions of the adapters, and their technology was used to film Sean Baker’s full-length film Tangerine. The film amazed audiences at the 2015 Sundance festival with the fact that it was completely shot on iphone 5S with a Moondog Lab adapter. The film and its visual effects received critical acclaim from Hollywood’s insider media:
‘Hollywood Reporter described the film’s look as “crisp and vigorously cinematic”, with “an aesthetic purity that stands out in a field where so much indie filmmaking has gotten glossier and less technically adventurous.” According to Variety, shooting with anamorphic adapters on iPhones gave Tangerine “not only a more intimate, caught-on-the-fly feel, but also a bracingly cinematic widescreen look that takes on an almost radioactive glow in the harsh glare of an L.A. winter.”’
The tagline for Moondog Labs is “Modern Lenses with a Vintage Vibe.” The tagline comes from the fact that their lense adapters for iphone offer the ability to remove the “pristeen” quality and incorporate widescreen impact, subtle distortions such as bokeh and horizontal flares that can be found in landmark films like Apocalypse Now, Alien, and Inception.
The two continue to debate how to approach the issue of filters. They also noted that de-squeeze needs to take place on the footage filmed, either during post-production, or during filming using apps such as Filmic Pro, Vizzywig or Movie Pro.
But Moondog Labs has opened a whole new world of freedom to filmmakers. Once, anamorphic lenses were available only for DSLRs at a cost of somewhere between $5K and $50K. Now, for $160 for the iphone 5/5S version or $175 for the iphone 6/6+ version, filmmakers are empowered to create visually powerful cinematic works using technology most people already carry in their back pocket or purse.
Below is the trailer for Tangerine, in which Sean Baker uses the iphone 5S and Moondog Labs’ adapter to create stunning visual effects.
Thanks to Julie Gerstenberger, Scott Cahall and Rochester Movie Makers for allowing RCTV’s Carol White Llewellyn to summarize the Moondog Labs presentation.