Berlin producer Robert Koch, better known as Robot Koch recently dropped a fascinating and visually intriguing music video for track “Dark Waves.” Koch’s haunting melody compliments cinematic shots of pristine ocean waves, surfers, and underwater exploration puts your mood in an organic dreamlike state, carving out a sexy perspective on world of bodies on, around and in water.

What takes this narrative to the next level is that it was completely shot by director on the latest iPhone 6s Plus by directorSven Dreesbach. We took some time to tap into Dreesbach’s the creative process and challenges his team faced while making this fine piece of work.

Dark Waves seems a to carry a defiant motif of sadness in a very picturesque setting. How was this concept created?

SVEN DREESBACH: When Robert shared his song Dark Waves with me he told me how his ingenious musician brain came up with this song out of nowhere while asleep. In this dream, he didn’t only hear the song but also observed a lonesome surfer paddling through “dark waves” in some type of a mysterious oceanic scenery.

Seems like a pretty intense dream. So, what went into creating the visuals for Dark Waves?

SD: After hearing Roberts concept it was already more than enough input in order to come up with a few ideas. When I listened to Dark Waves for the first time, I knew this is the song I wanted to jump back into the water for and finish what I had already started exploring in a concept video entitled Willow Creek. I knew that I wanted to dig deeper into this eerie world that I had discovered. Roberts dream, the title of the track, the atmosphere in it, it was like a calling for me to shoot this video.

What was your crew size, considering it was such a small shoot?

SD: A friend, Ryan Gast, had just landed in the States and was psyched to come over to California in order to be part of this journey. On his way to Venice, he picked up his friend Elijah Bustos, who isn’t only an extremely talented surfer, but also a gifted musician. As soon as the next big swell was announced, the three of us took off on a trip to Central Cali. Bruno Troadec and Gilles de la Pointe, the guys behind Breed Surfboards were immediately in with sponsoring a few of their slick ’White Aeroplanes’ single fin boards. Both joined us on the road once we took off. My homie Steven Holleran, a gifted DP would join us a little later. Watch out for his feature debut “The Land” premiering at Sundance this year!

Shooting schedule. And go: 

SD: We were a pretty solid crew and everyone was in for creating while having fun. Just imagine that! We spent the following four days surrounded by some of the most mind-blowing scenery in some of the remote parts along the California coast. Our excitement went through the roof, or in our case, through the canvas of our tents the first night after arrival. In the early mornings, a nicely mixed swell welcomed us to what would be our playground for the next few days. The conditions were pretty spot on. The waves weren’t barreling but better than what we could have asked for.

What are you and Robot Koch really trying to convey here? 

SD: Dark Waves in my ears is a great symbiosis of Robert’s unique electronic soundscapes and Delhia’s melancholic lyrics. Dark Waves is not only referencing the ocean and the described “rider of the dark waves” on one level but also comes with a strong notion of loneliness and melancholia. The visual cues of the ocean and, to a certain degree, the subject of surfing were already laid out as a key element for the video in Robert’s aforementioned dream. So I wanted to find a way to connect these cues to the Leitmotiv loneliness. This wasn’t easy to achieve due to the overly masculinized subject of surfing, as it’s usually been put in front of us in the media. I hope factions of the surf community can still follow me and connect to the more minimalist and surreal approach that I decided to go with.

How did you decide to shoot with an iPhone 6s Plus?

SD: The latest iPhones now supports 120 fps in full HD, which gave me a great reason to use it. I knew this frame rate would help me creating the dreamlike look and atmosphere that I was going for. Just using a professional smartphone underwater housing (from Watershot Inc.) on top kept everything within our slim budget. Any professional camera system with the same basic capabilities would have increased the budget easily tenfold and just wasn’t an option for us. Also for the sake of flexibility and availability it just made more sense.


Did this make for any interesting differences when shooting? Did you learn a few fun tricks?

SD: Well, there are definitely some limitations that come with shooting with your smartphone, opposed to a big camera with high-end glass attached. The video footage, opposed to the usually desired high dynamic RAW footage, just doesn’t seem to do so well in regards to sharpness, dynamic range and doesn’t give you as much freedom in color grading for instance. But, on the other hand, the iPhone captures images really beautifully. It’s still important to avoid overexposing the images since there is almost no detail in the highlights or shadows respectively. Apps like Filmic Pro help you with having more manual control over the iPhone’s camera and are literally well worth giving a shot. Another bright side is the sheer amount of footage that you can capture before you run out of memory or battery, which is particularly one of the big pros when shooting out there in the ocean where you can’t just swap a battery or make backups freeing up memory. Any bigger camera system that I have used in the past needs a lot more attention to these factors. The rest I would say is just the same as with any professional gear.

Where do you think the future of shooting on iPhones and other smartphone devices is heading?

SD: I think smartphones today, as in my personal experience with the iPhone, can achieve stunning results that might attract a lot more indie filmmakers in the near future, no doubt. It’s gonna be very interesting to see how the democratization of content creation, arts & media will keep evolving over the next few years. Everyone has the tools necessary for becoming a creator at hand these days.

Any other videos coming up that we should keep an eye out for?

SD: Since I knew that I was going to shoot 120 frames per second and would end up with way more footage than I needed, the plan was to shoot an additional surf short parallel, since we were already there. It’s in post-production right now and will release early February. So keep a look out for it.

*We produced Dreesbach’s capture of Nick Simmons at Hudson Loft a few months back. Peep all of this emerging director’s scope of work here.