6 Tips For Filmmaking On A Smartphone

Posted on: 8th May 2018
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Does the name Steven Soderbergh sound familiar?

The Academy Award-winning director shot his latest feature film using nothing more than an iPhone! With that inspiration, we thought we would share some tips budding filmmakers looking to use their smartphone for movie-making.

Lighting

It’s an obvious one but this is pivotal for great looking content. The majority of smartphones can’t handle low-light filming, due to the smaller lenses and sensors, so it’s better to use natural light (easily the best and it’s free!) or if they are affordable, backlights. Be careful not to overdo it to avoid lens flaring and over-exposure.

Horizontal > vertical

Unless you’re filming for social media, then try to keep the phone horizontal or on its side. This will provide a better aspect ratio, resulting in a much better quality picture. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a clip with black bars either side.

A good additional tip here is to lock the orientation onto landscape, so if you move or tilt your device, it won’t alter the view when it comes to filming.

Hold it steady

You may see from time-to-time that when videos are published they are either smooth or incredibly shaky. 

The best way to try create a stable shot, without spending any money, is to tuck in those elbows and hold your phone steady with both hands or place your phone against something. Remember the camera itself is not centered, so complete some test footage to see how it looks.

If that’s still no good, it might be worth purchasing a tripod that has an adapter for smartphones or, if you have a big budget, a gimbal.

Memory Bank

Before you even get started, make sure that you have sufficient storage on your device to cover the time that you’ll spend filming. You can either back it up to a cloud service or a file hosting website, such as Dropbox.

There’s nothing more annoying than getting a phone notification reminding you that you have no memory and having to delete those funny cat videos you’ve accumulated over the years!

Enough juice?

“Lights, camera…wait, the battery is on 10%.”

We all know that our smartphones can be thirsty. Make sure it’s topped up to 100% before you start because you soon realise how quickly it’ll go flat, especially when filming.

Other tips like, putting your phone on airplane mode (which will stop any ill-timed texts/calls from coming through), turning off wifi and Bluetooth as well as putting it into battery saving mode could help prolong the life. It may be worth purchasing a travel charger for a backup.

Audio buffer

By now, you’ll know that smartphone audio quality isn’t great, especially outdoors. If the wind catches the microphone or if the area you’re in produces an echo, you’ll lose part or all your clips. You could try adding phone accessories to upgrade it but really, you’re better off recording sound separately.

This can be done from either a second smartphone using a voice recorder or, if you have the budget, via an external microphone and then sync up the audio in post-production.

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