September 30, 2017

The Art of Making Films on Smartphones (and Convincing Yourself It's Okay to Do So)

Making films with a smartphone is not as crazy of an idea as it used to be.

If you've ever wanted to make a film with your smartphone, you're not alone. Despite it being considered a tool for "unprofessional" and "inexperienced" filmmakers, devices like the iPhone have not only proven their mettle in a number of well-made films but they've made it into the hands of some pretty notable directors, like Park Chan Wook, Michael Gondry, and Steven Soderbergh.

Fandor takes a look at some of the latest rumblings in smartphone filmmaking in the video below and also shows you a few ways to make your own smartphone films a whole lot more cinematic.

Is the iPhone or any other smartphone going to replace a cinema camera or DSLR? No. Advocates and fans of smartphone filmmaking don't even believe that, but instead believe that great cinema depends on the capabilities of the filmmaker, not the capabilities of a camera. If you're completely broke and want to make a film and the only camera you have is the one on your phone, Sean Baker has proven that as long as you have the creative ability (and maybe some luck), you can make a film on it that explodes at Sundance.

Keep in mind, though, that these films utilized a number of add-ons, accessories, and apps that you'll probably need in order to get the cinematic look. Things like handheld stabilizers, smartphone lenses, and FiLMiC Pro, an app that gives you a lot more control over the camera settings on your phone are definitely worth taking a look at. But the most important elements of your film, more so than any app or lens, are going to be story, sound, and composition—in that order. Nail those and no one will know or care that it was shot on the thing you use to find dates and play Candy Crush.      

Your Comment

9 Comments

I LOVE making documentaries with my cell phone. I just started doing it last year and now I enjoy it more than using my DSLR. Here's a feature doc I made about magic mushrooms that I shot on an iphone 5s without any additional fancy add-ons: https://youtu.be/xltG8AmbIXg

October 1, 2017 at 12:20AM

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Ekim Namwen
Wizard
36

I would flip the order of that last point. It should be sound, story, and composition—in that order. No one will be able to pay attention to your story if the sound is terrible.

October 1, 2017 at 2:50AM

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Sean Morse-Barry
screenwriter, producer
13

The only reason to use an iPhone for me would be to just get things done.
You have a simple script and two good actors and off you go, using available light and real locations and using ADR to later fix sound in post.
But I could also use sth like the LX100 for the same situation, also small and unobtrusive, cheaper than an iPhone and offering almost the same possibilities of a DSLR.
The camera stopped being the limiting factor with the arrival of the VX1000 and MiniDV and the "the best camera is the one you always carry" saying may be true for impromptu street photography, but for shooting a movie...?
Come on NFS, these "Shoot movies on your iPhone" articles seem like part of an online marketing strategy of an agency hired by Apple to keep up the image of "Apple products are primarily used by creatives".
I'm not saying the iPhone isn't a tool that can help create sth astonishing if you set your mind to it, but I'm still waiting for the wave of awesome movies shot on blackmagic cameras to roll in, before I waist a thought on iPhone movies...
(Both things not gonna happen...)

October 1, 2017 at 6:21AM

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I agree with Sean ... and it just proves again that you really do need minimal equipment to make something worth watching. I shot this on an iPhone 5 and it's in this years OneScreen Show. I shot it literally on the way to work:

https://vimeo.com/203320875

Mind you I also shoot with RED and Alexa and everything in between - but really it's just choosing the right gear for the job. More then anything it's making sure the technical doesn't get in the way of the story. Poor image quality, poor sound, poor story, these are what can ruin a production.

October 1, 2017 at 9:02AM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
275

Nice short and a good example. Thank you.

October 5, 2017 at 5:15AM

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Maciej Matysiak
Motion-, Graphic Designer, Photographer
77

I've been shooting a cooking show on the iPhone and but I'm thinking about switching to a regular camera just because of having high quality, controllable sound going into the camera to avoid syncing later.

October 1, 2017 at 12:02PM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
260

I have been shooting my new short "Alex & The Firefly" on an iPhone 7 and there have certainly been plenty of headaches, check out some stills on our fb page (www.facebook.com/affmovie), it's definitely about knowing how to get the most out of what you have.

October 1, 2017 at 5:18PM

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I wish this video spent more time on useful tips. The best thing about the iPhone is having a decent quality 4K camera in your pocket. I love being able to shoot video on a whim. It's also pretty amazing to be able to shoot edit and upload on the same device. I can think of several drawbacks to making a movie using the iPhone but it's perfect for YouTube videos, Behind the scenes footage, and grabbing the occasional Bigfoot video while out hiking.

October 2, 2017 at 5:30PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
533

I liked the article and the short movie, but I think it is a kind of strange to put a drawing at the top of this article where the iPhone is held in what is considered as 'the wrong way', so in 'portrait mode' in stead of 'landscape'.

October 6, 2017 at 2:03PM

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Jan de Bloois
one man band in video!
81

Why shill so much for iphone. With Filmic Pro My samsung makes beautiful video as well. When I put it in Resolve it barely needs any grading for most video shot in decent light. Not counting for film use but for docs or my you tube stuff it's awesome. I know I'm not the only one using other phones than apple.

October 7, 2017 at 1:26AM

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