The days when professional equipment was required for filmmaking are fading away. Now, it is enough to have a smartphone in hand in order to make a great movie. This is how Sean Baker made his film “Tangerine” in 2015. And three years later, Steven Soderbergh released his mobile movie named “High Flight Bird.” These two are far from being the only successful examples in cinematography since films shot on smartphones are a real trend today. At FizX, we have compiled some useful tips for those who want to start making amateur mobile films. After reading this post, you will hardly have any questions about how to shoot with an iPhone.
The first thing you need to do is to decide what you want to create: a reportage, a video diary, a documentary, or just a sketch. Maybe you have long dreamed of making a video for a song, blogging, or giving master classes? Or maybe you have a goal: for example, to get into a short film competition. When you choose a genre, think about the setting and the characters: people, animals, and nature.
Sometimes, it doesn’t make much difference what to shoot with. In the beginning, a smartphone with a camera will serve this purpose perfectly well. Modern phones have an image stabilization function; the picture will not float and will look quite professional. Besides that, you can always try to find new perspectives, change the usual way of looking at ordinary things, and experiment with different angles. Later on, if you enjoy shooting, you can buy external iPhone lenses (Moment Wide Lens), tripods, sound recording microphones, and lighting fixtures.
To shoot better, you can search for special applications in the App Store. Using special programs, you can manage manual settings. If you know how to use shutter speed and aperture, then Scriptation, Filmic Pro, Mavis, and iMovie will work best for you. Once you are done with the actual shooting and want to polish the video material, there are a couple of free video editing software solutions that will help you cope with the task. Top color grading software will help you make all the necessary color adjustments, or you can use professional video editing software to fix the background sound, scene detection, or apply an overlay.
It will be a pity if the memory on your iPhone runs out during the shooting. To avoid this, you can use different types of storage devices, such as HDDs and SSDs, flash memory devices, optical storage devices, etc. The filled storage of the gadget needs to be cleaned regularly. Otherwise, if the device is broken or lost, there is a risk of losing everything. Storage media will solve these problems.
It is imperative to take a power bank with you to the shooting spot because your iPhone may run out of power quickly during the shooting. At such moments, the brightness of the screen drops, and you can stop clearly seeing the picture on the screen. It is better to have an external battery for at least 15,000–20,000 mAh, such as a MagSafe Battery Pack, with you.
If you are going to shoot on the iPhone and use a focus puller, there are some pitfalls to be aware of. For example, if you don’t have enough exposure, your iPhone may have autofocus problems. Since the loss of focus is not always appropriate when shooting a portrait, it is best that the actor’s face has sufficient exposure and the details visible to the camera.
Indeed, with digital cameras, it is always better to shoot lighter and to make the desired atmosphere in terms of brightness during the actual film production process. But this solution does not work well in 100% of cases. Therefore, it is critically important to find the right focus at the very beginning – when shooting an object or scene.
You can find all the controls on the phone screen, so your hands should be there all the time. If you have a portrait scene and you need to shift the focus from one object to another or from the foreground to the background, then everything starts to move. This is when you need to use a stabilizer. With mobile shooting, the gentle operator’s arms are the main stabilizer, with a regular selfie stick serving as one of the additional shooting accessories.
You may receive an incoming call at any time. Moreover, if your phone is synchronized by Apple ID with some other devices, then all of them can ring. For example, once a producer’s phone rings in his pocket, a MacBook and an iPhone camera synchronized with it can react on a call as well. Airplane mode disconnects you from both Wi-Fi and any other network. The rule seems silly and obvious, but sometimes you can forget about it.
Movies are made much faster when a smartphone is used for shooting. If only because there are no permanent large permutations: you use simple light and do not have to deal with visual effects. Due to the fact that you have very small pauses between scenes, everything happens quickly; the rearrangement takes a maximum of fifteen minutes, there is no time to sharpen the fringes.
The more good movies you watch, the more inspiration you get to create your own masterpiece. Cinematography is a life-long science. Read books on directing, see how actors work, and learn how to write scripts correctly. Take your smartphone out of your pocket, try to photograph something, and do not be afraid to make mistakes. Experiment, and you will get the experience that pays you off well.
Filming with smartphones is no longer something that is considered marginal. In fact, the new filmmaking approach is stepping into the world of professional cinematography, especially now that Stephen Soderbergh has taken advantage of this promising technology. In his recent interview, the famous director said that smartphone-based filmmaking was an option that any filmmaker can try, at any time. That’s true, filmmaking becomes available to everyone. All you need is a script, a smartphone, and inspiration. Follow our tips, experience, and create an outstanding iPhone movie. Give it a try, and you will never have doubts about what to choose: a $13,000 camera vs. the new iPhone 11 Pro.