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June 28, 2019

His DIY Drive

The brainstorm of a producer-turned-teacher turns iPads and iPhones into full-blown video cameras.

Neil Turitz
  • This case, which holds a mobile phone for more stable photography, is one of David Basulto’s offerings.

    Paige Elizabeth Gribb
  • David Basulto

    Paige Elizabeth Gribb

David Basulto was teaching a high school class on media, animation and mobile journalism when he dreamed up a device that helps people shoot video on phones or tablets.

Dubbed the iOgrapher, it spawned a new career for the former indie producer and film exec and changed his life.

“I had become fed up with the feast-or-famine side of the film business, and while I was figuring out my next move, I started teaching,” recalls Basulto from his home in San Gabriel, California, east of Los Angeles.

“There were several different cameras, but nothing to get the kind of work done that I needed. So I looked for an apparatus to use with the iPad, and when I couldn’t find one, I started to tinker.”

He knew he needed something with handles, to offer stability. He also wanted something that had a Steadicam-like feel, to which you could attach a tripod, lights and microphones. Basulto put together a design using a 3D modeling program, had an engineer friend tweak it, and then spent a few hundred bucks to print it in 3D.

He was able to use the result with his iPad mini. After his Kickstarter campaign raised more than $17,000 to fund production, the New York Times and Forbes magazine featured the invention. Then the father of one of his students offered $500,000 to “do this thing for real,” as Basulto says, so he patented the device.

In 2014, he left teaching to be an entrepreneur, and he hasn’t looked back. The iOgrapher has become a useful tool for director J. A. Bayona (Penny Dreadful, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom); for networks like CNN, Univision  and the BBC; and for sports teams like the Miami Dolphins and Boston Celtics. 

Norry Niven is also a fan; he’s helmed spots for Gatorade, American Express and Lavazza Espresso, among others, as well as an upcoming documentary feature about the band Blue October.

“It’s an amazing tool to have in my backpack. It’s fantastic for tech and  location scouting, and it really supplements the other cameras,” Niven explains. “I can hand it to a crew member or a client and tell them to frame up the shot. I’ve used it shooting on an iPad and iPhone, and  it’s legitimized the format. My crew is always super curious about it.”

Basulto recognizes that his new career sprang from happenstance — if his teaching budget had allowed for a few RED cameras, all this might never have happened. But he knows that now, more than ever, there’s a great need for his products.

“We have these amazing devices in our pockets, and we’re documenting our lives every day. Why not have something that helps you do that and can make it better?”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2019

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