2 Feb, 2018

Shooting a short film or a feature film on a smartphone

Smartphones are not called mobile phones anymore and there are quite a few compelling reasons for it. The yesteryear mobile devices have evolved big time to be known and called smartphones. From high-end music players, mini computers, personal assistants to really capable photography machines and video recording devices, the modern smartphones can perform any task and you can still use them to make or receive calls.

I know we all are tech savvy humans nowadays and everybody has his/her choice of brands and operating systems, but I’m only going to talk about the cameras on these things.

Before Apple burst with its iPhone, the only mobile phone manufacturer I knew was Nokia (I mean I knew quite a lot, but Nokia was the GO TO device OEM).I owned and used more than thirty Nokia devices and apart from the build quality and the reliability, the feature I loved the most was the camera. Back then, if point and shoot cameras were pricey, the professional SLRs and DSLRs were almost out of reach for many. I remember the content and quality of the mobile videos the world used to shoot; it was…..ah ‘simple’.

However, making a film, movie, short film or a documentary instantly meant it was shot using some highly priced device. It’s 2018 and things have changed drastically, the modern smartphones have more or less finished the market share of point and shoot cameras and the small (I mean big) camera sensors on the smartphones with insane HD & QHD capabilities have proved to be an alternative for expensive camera gear. Of course the selfie craze is on the higher side for most of us and our photography capabilities still revolve around landscape photography; there are artists, independent film and short film makers, ad makers and photographers who’ve decided to utilise their pocket companions in a much more creative ways.

“Still, we haven’t really heard about any major full length feature film project (successful) that was completed only using the power of our modern smartphones and this is really sad.”

So, what does it really mean for Independent filmmakers on shoe-string budget?

I love the idea of recording, shooting something with a smartphone. Almost all of the current devices offer FHD 1080p and 4K recording options and you can choose from an Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, HTC, Nokia, LG, Motorola or any other device manufacturer. Apple’s iPhone are popular for so many reasons and one of them is the amount of cool accessories you’ll have at your disposal, plus there are apps to match the numbers. Grab an iPhone X or an iPhone 7/8 or iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus, or you can even use your iPhone 5S, iPhone SE, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
Apart from the iPhone, the obvious choice for most would be an Android powered device and you might want to scout Samsung’s flagship Galaxy series of devices. For short films and documentaries, the smartphone boom has been wonderful. However, the question still remains that haven’t we seen, read or heard more on feature films shot entirely using a smartphone (s). Of course there are some notable (countable) names, but these aren’t enough.

Anyhow, if you’re an independent filmmaker with no or little budget, this is the time to shine with your smartphone. Work on some DIY projects, make your own gear (stabilisers, rigs), tweak the devices and don’t worry about professional cameras. Just think about all those major, drastically flop, awful films the Hollywood, the Bollywood or any other wood has made with all the expensive, professional gear you don’t have.


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