Category Archives: Photography

My New Film “Force Touch” Is Streaming For Free


Force Touch is now streaming for FREE

Check out my latest short film “Force Touch”, shot entirely with the Varavon Birdycam Lite and the Panasonic GH4. Synopsis below:

When four friends discover a smartphone that takes pictures of the future, things go from bad to worse as their darkest secrets are revealed. Written, Shot & Directed by Rik Cordero. Produced by Arbor Day Pictures & Neutral Zone. Executive Produced by Nancy Mitchell.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

The sold out screening at the historic Michigan Theater was a huge success. The power of independent storytelling, community and inspiration is a potent combo and it was evident from the positive feedback from the audience. A big thank you to our sponsors – Camera Mall, Aspen Mics and Polar Pro for the wonderful raffle gifts, Neutral Zone, Sunday Afternoon Pictures, YPSI24, our photographer Katie Alexis and our friend Jason Buchanan who conducted the interview below about the making of “Force Touch”.

I sense an influence from The Twilight Zone here. In particular, the episode “A Most Unusual Camera”, was that show an influence on you as a storyteller? Could you talk about some of your influences in writing and directing?

Yup that episode of the “Twilight Zone” was a major influence, especially with the voiceover narration that provides just enough exposition to pull you into the story. Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” was also a strong influence as I wanted to explore the consequences of modern technology on a specific group of young people who aren’t very likeable. I imagined these characters had big dreams in college which never fully materialized. It’s like that weird time in your early 20’s when you’re not young enough to be dependent yet not old enough to be jaded by the grind.

My wife Nancy (Executive Producer of the film) and I, moved from New York City to Ann Arbor last July. We shot a ton of music videos and commercials during our time there but the work life balance sucked. Once we moved, the creative quality of our lives improved almost immediately through meeting many diverse folks with common interests.

With more time to focus on storytelling, I came up with the idea of “Force Touch” and my goal was to capture elements of the college culture here from an outsider’s point of view. I’m a college football fan but maybe not to the degree as some of my friends who have lived here their entire lives so I wanted to explore those emotions and how they would bounce off the characters in the story. Also Ann Arbor was a new canvas for me to employ a layer of sci-fi and technology which is another passion of mine.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis


Neutral Zone Promo video produced by Arbor Day Pictures

Can you expand on the role that the Neutral Zone played in producing the short? What was it like working with them?

I was introduced to Lori Roddy and Mary Moffett at Neutral Zone through Dug and Linh Song. After getting the tour of the facilities I was instantly inspired to contribute something to their video program that’s run by Alysha Schlundt-Bodien. Once we set our shoot dates, I reached out to Neutral Zone to help produce it. From our script rehearsals with the actors to camera assisting, lighting and sound, we provided some Neutral Zone Teens first hand experience with independent filmmaking. It was a tough shoot, especially since our first day landed on a major snowstorm but we made it through and hopefully some of the kids will stick with it.

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Force Touch pre production meeting at Neutral Zone, Ann Arbor

As a relatively new transplant to the area, what are your impressions of the local filmmaking scene? What do you like? Anything you wish you could find but haven’t?

I met the majority of our cast by participating in last year’s YPSI24 24 hour film competition and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. There’s a special sense of camaradrie and collaboration here that’s been missing for awhile in New York City. It’s easy to stay busy in NYC but most video creatives including myself were often stuck hustling multiple gigs just to pay the bills. There’s a better work life balance here that’s very refreshing and reminds me about why I got into this business in the first place – to share stories and stay inspired.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

Can you talk a little about your work with Duo Security?

Duo Security reflects a lot of why the Ann Arbor community is appealing to me. Our CEO Dug Song, Creative Director Pete Baker and Multimedia Specialist Martin Thoburn have embraced my thirst for living a creative life which motivates me to think about creative video solutions for Duo. Things like recruiting videos to brand awareness and case studies are not often big priorities at most tech companies but Duo is unlike any other company I’ve worked for. Our creative team can go toe to toe with some of the best creative agencies in any major city and it’s a testament to the forward thinking goals of the leadership here.

One thing that most filmmakers have in common when it comes to doing the corporate grind is – how much of my artistic integrity do I have to give up just to fit in? I’ve retained 100% of my artistic integrity since working here and that comes from having an office culture that doesn’t force you to conform to tradition.

My value at Duo may not have a direct measurement as someone in Sales or Engineering and while metrics and procedures are important, nothing is more valuable than offering up creative solutions that keep our street cred intact. There’s a reason why our website doesn’t look like an out of the box template or why our videos entertain some of the most successful tech people in the world. We must be doing something right.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

Lastly, are there any video projects in development that you can talk about?

At Duo, I’m working on a huge marketing stunt called “Duo in Space” where we will launch a weather balloon equipped with a phone and prosthetic finger that will perform a Duo 2-Factor Authentication push from close to 120,000 feet above the earth. In my spare time, I’m sharing DIY techniques on my blog runplayback.com and building electric longboards with my crew A2ESK8.

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Photo Credit: Katie Alexis

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product information button runplayback Polar Pro Trippler 3-in-1 Tripod/Grip/Pole

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal


product information button runplayback Panasonic GH4 4K Video Recording

How I turned my Ztylus iPhone into a DSLR Killer

Ztylus has been releasing some of the best iPhone accessories for quite some time and their latest product, the premium Z-Prime Lens Kit is no exception. The Z-Prime claims to be a professional grade solution for serious photographers. But I’m mostly into video so in the clip above, I pair it with the Varavon Birdycam Lite to see if a Ztylus equipped iPhone could produce professional DSLR-style results. In short, I was blown away.

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Ztylus Z-Prime Telephoto Lens for iPhone 6

Both the wide and telephoto lens contains 5 glass elements in 4 groups that enable corner to corner sharpness with ultra low distortion. Packaged with the two lenses is the iPhone Metal Series Case, a lens carrier, a pouch and lens cloth. Once again, Ztylus has reinvigorated the power of the iPhone. Be sure to click the banner below to receive 25% off all Ztylus products with our special RUNPLAYBACK referral code.

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Ztylus Z-Prime Lens Kit for iPhone 6

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Varavon Birdycam Lite 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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Custom Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter Base

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WF717 Replacement Quick Release Plate

LG G4 Unboxing and Camera Review

Last year’s LG G3 was a great travel companion for a recent trip overseas. And with the brand new G4, LG has once again raised the stakes with smartphone photography. With it’s 5K resolution, 16 megapixel camera that can shoot both JPEG and RAW, 5.5″ Quad HD LCD display, and Ultra HD (4K) video recording, it’s easy to see why the G4 has been getting massive media attention. Similar to my LG G3 review, I’ll focus mainly on the G4’s camera as rumors have been floating around that this device is a “DSLR Killer”. While it’s not quite there yet, the future looks incredibly bright…for stills anyway. For video? Not so much.

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The LG G4 has a design that’s almost identical to the G3 which is a good thing. The lightweight, minimalist aesthetic of the G4 makes it a very reliable device on a shoot. It’s curved back and faux-metal backing makes one handed shooting a breeze. It feels slightly heavier than the G3 which is a good thing since I like to throw it on my Ikan Fly-X3 Handheld Stabilizer that works best with heavier phones.

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Like other Android phones, the LG G4 has a removable battery and microSD card slot that can hold up to 2TB. When I’m shooting with an action camera or a drone, it’s vital to have some kind of playback device when I’m on the field and don’t have access to my laptop. The G4’s microSD card slot and ability to playback footage on a crisp 5.5″ Quad HD display make’s it another great tool for filmmakers who like to travel light.

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So what’s up with the LG G4 camera? As a stills camera, it’s incredibly feature rich and a powerful creative tool. But as a video camera it is frustratingly handicapped which I’ll explain in a moment. But first let’s talk about those stills. Bottom line, the LG G4 is a professional photographers dream come true. With it’s 16 megapixel sensor, f/1.8 lens, manual controls for ISO, shutter speed, white balance and JPEG and RAW capture it has just about everything one would expect from a high end point and shoot. “DSLR Killer” is a nice marketing idea but it’s more of a “Point and Shoot Killer”.

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LG G4 Raw DNG

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LG G4 Raw DNG Graded in Adobe Raw Filter

If you asked me last year if editing a raw DNG image that came from a smartphone camera would be possible I’d call you crazy. This year I’d shake your hand. The LG G4’s RAW files are saved as 20mb DNG’s which can be easily brought into Adobe Photoshop for grading. I was shocked at the amount of dynamic range that is possible with the G4. I’d say there’s at least 10 stops of dynamic range which opens up all kinds of creative possibilities for smartphone photography. This is a game changer for sure and the G4’s stance on empowering photographers will only grow from here. Like I said, the future is looking very bright.

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LG G4 Raw DNG

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LG G4 Raw DNG Graded in Adobe Raw Filter

Now on to the bad news – that video camera. As a filmmaker, I was really looking forward to the LG G4’s manual controls that all the press has been touting for months. Mysteriously, I couldn’t find anything that dived into the video specs other than it could shoot Ultra HD 4K. Once I got my hands on the G4 and realized that none of the game changing manual controls for stills were completely ignored and seemingly left out on purpose for video, my heart sank. You can change resolution but that’s about it. It doesn’t even tell you framerates because you can’t even change that option. Why did LG do this? Sure the average consumer is fine shooting video in auto mode but why is the love for photographers not the same for filmmakers and videographers? What are we, chop liver?


LG G4 Ultra HD 4K Test Video

But I digress, the video I shot above came out great despite auto white balance, auto shutter speed and moire issues. Maybe LG will one day unlock the manual controls for video in a future update but I still can’t shake the feeling that it was done on purpose. Sure there’s Cinema FV-5 for Android but since the LG G4 is too new, the software simply crashes. I’ve reached out to Cinema FV-5 for some updates but haven’t heard back. I’ve tried every other manual camera app in the Google Play Store and nothing seems to unlock the manual controls on the G4. I have no doubt someone will create something soon but I’m not quite sure how long I’m willing to wait when I can just pick up my Panasonic GH4 and shoot.

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Maybe we aren’t ready for full manual controls for video on smartphones. Maybe there are those who think shooting video on a smartphone is a novelty, best reserved for home movies and Instagram posts. But there is a small but growing group of filmmakers like myself who are eager to use smartphone video technology to tell stories and create an emotional connection with our audience. Overall the LG G4 is an impressive, game changing smartphone best served for amateur and professional photographers alike. But once you get the urge to shoot 4K video, it may be best to use the right tool for the job and perhaps wait for the LG G5. But by then, it might be too late.

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product information button runplayback LG G4

Flying the iPhone 6 with Ztylus Lens on a Varavon Birdycam Gimbal

So after unboxing these Ztylus iPhone lens accessories, I wanted to take it out on the field for some test shooting. And for the sake of overkill, I mounted an iPhone 6 with Ztylus smartphone case and the 4-in-1 Revolver Lens onto the Varavon Birdycam 3-Axis Gimbal using a Custom Fancier 717 Adapter Base and the Dot Line SMARTBracket Smartphone Adapter. The combination of all these parts gave the iPhone 6 just enough weight to fly on the Birdycam.

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Ztylus Metal Series Camera Kit for iPhone 6

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Varavon Birdycam2 3-Axis Camera Gimbal

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Custom Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter Base

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WF717 Replacement Quick Release Plate

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product information button runplayback Dot Line SMARTbracket Smartphone Tripod Adapter

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Fisheye Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Fisheye Lens for iPhone 6

Next we shot some stills using the 4-in-1 Revolver. First we used the fisheye lens which captures a hefty 180 degree field of view.

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Wide Angle Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Wide Angle Lens for iPhone 6

The wide angle lens is great for capturing that extra field of view without having to stand across the street.

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Circular Polarizer Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Circular Polarizer Lens for iPhone 6

The circular polarizer lens cuts glare and reflections from the sun to allow natural colors to show along with great saturation.

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Macro Lens for iPhone 6

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Ztylus 4-in-1 Revolver Macro Lens for iPhone 6

My favorite is the macro lens as everything looks fascinating when its macro right? Stay tuned for the next part where we’ll try some night shooting with the Ztylus LED Ring Light Attachment. If you have any questions, hit me in the comments below!

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Ztylus LED Ring Light Attachment

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