7 Tips for Making Your Smartphone Cinematography More Cinematic
These tips will help you take your smartphone filmmaking to the next level.
The best camera is the one you have, right? Right! If the only camera you have is the one in your smartphone, then you might be stressing over the hurdles that you have to jump over to make your cinematography look as good as possible.
However, filmmaker Zach Ramelan shares 7 tips in his latest video that will help you tackle the challenges of shooting a film on a smartphone. Check it out below.
Can we just put this whole "smartphone filmmaking is dumb and amateur" thing to bed? Because...you guys, it's tired.
Tech is advancing, my friends, and smartphones are shooting 4K, capturing 240 fps (Sony's Xperia XZ2 shoots a whopping 960 fps at 1080p ), and have a ton of apps and accessories that give you the power to beef up your camera rig.
As you probably know by now, Steven Soderbergh shot his latest film High Flying Bird with smartphone technology:
- An iPhone 8
- The FiLMic Pro app to customize his camera settings
- A DJI Osmo gimbal to stabilize his footage
- Moment smartphone lenses (2X Tele)
- A Moondog Labs anamorphic adapter
Vary Your Frame Rates
If your phone has the capability, use different frame rates. Shoot at 24 fps for those "cinematic-looking" shots. Shoot at 60 fps for action/sports shots. Shoot at even higher frame rates for some beautiful slow-motion shots. Try to incorporate a variety of frame rates into your videos
Good Lighting is Key
It's a misconception that cameras are what make images look cinematic. They don't...not necessarily. It's the combination of a lot of different filmic elements, like camera movement, blocking, costuming, and set design. But perhaps one of the greatest tools you have at your disposal is lighting. That's why Ramelan suggests shooting during Golden Hour, the time right before sunrise and right after sunset, because that's when light is soft and warm and friggin' gorgeous.
And that's just one, very simple and free option. If you have lights and modifiers, work on a lighting setup that makes your images look more cinematic and professional.
Use a Stabilizer
Smartphones are not as heavy as DSLRs or cinema cameras, and they're not designed to shoot video, so you're going to get a lot of camera shake when you use them. This is why you might want to think about investing in a mobile camera stabilizer, like a gimbal or handheld rig. Your shots will not only look buttery smooth but you'll be able to perform those tracking, slider, and orbit shots that increase your production value.
Why shoot 4K for a smartphone video? Because it gives you a ton of latitude and freedom when you head into post. You'll be able to crop in if you want, create a tracking shot by adding some position keyframes, or downsample if you want to.
Use Custom Settings
If your camera allows you to set custom settings, do it! Adjust your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to get the image that you want. You might even be able to adjust your depth of field to get that beautiful bokeh that is often lacking in smartphone cinematography.
Don't Treat Your Phone Like a Phone
I know smartphone filmmaking is still kind of dogged on and seen as unprofessional. But listen, so many beautiful, cinematic, pro-level work has been shot with smartphones. Don't treat your phone like a phone! Sean Baker shot Tangerine on an iPhone 5 and Steven Soderbergh shot High Flying Bird on an iPhone 8 (and Unsane on an iPhone 7)...so clearly they didn't treat their phones like phones; they treated them like cinematic tools. You should do the same.
BONUS: Get Some Lenses
Grab some good quality smartphone lenses. I've been using Moment lenses for years. I also use a Moondog Labs anamorphic lens. Both of these companies are bomb as hell and they're not even paying me to say that.
Do you shoot films on a smartphone? Which one? What are some things you think new filmmakers should know about shooting projects on smartphones? Let us know down in the comments.