Ever since cameras became a part of phone hardware in the early 2000s, the crafts of photography and filmmaking have become much more accessible to the average person. When used correctly, contemporary smartphones like the iPhone 6 (with its ability to capture 1080p video at 60 fps and slow motion at 240 fps) can do the work of expensive video equipment that can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.
Case in point, one of the more popular films at Sundance 2015, “Tangerine,” was shot entirely with an iPhone 5s. It only used an $8 app called FiLMiC Pro that gave the filmmakers control over the focus, aperture and color temperature. There’s even an iPhone Film Festival dedicated to short films produced entirely on iPhones.
Are you ready to get out and shoot your own film? Follow these basic tips to get started with the iPhone filmmaking process:
Because the iPhone is so lightweight, it’s difficult to stabilize and any little movement is apparent, even with the iPhone 6’s image stabilization technology. The easiest way to keep your camera steady is to use a tripod. If you’re on a budget, you can find a solid tripod for $20 to $30. Or, if you have resources available, $400 to $600 will get you a lower-tier professional tripod with a fluid head, which gives you the ability to pan and tilt with ease.
Unfortunately, the iPhone 6 cannot be attached to a tripod on its own. But, there are a few devices on the market that have been created specifically for this purpose. Studio Neat makes a product called the Glif, which works like a vise grip to hold the camera and has a universal tripod mount. Shoulderpod makes a similar device called the S1, but it also can function without a tripod as a lightweight grip that helps you stabilize handheld shots.
If you want to spice up the shots in your film, use devices like stabilizer rigs, sliders and jibs. Unfortunately, most of this equipment is pretty pricey. But, luckily, the internet is full of DIY solutions. Websites like nofilmschool.com are great resources for DIY equipment.
Once you’ve figured out how to keep your camera steady, you’ll need to pay attention to how your shot is lit. Professional lighting can run you thousands of dollars, but, with a little bit of planning, you can make use of natural lighting and lights around the house to mimic a similar effect.
If you’re shooting outdoors, use collapsible reflectors to bounce light toward your scene and diffusers to soften light where it’s too harsh. If you have LED lights, use thin, plain white sheets to help diffuse the light and make it appear more natural on camera.
There are some incredible resources online for low-budget lighting solutions. Here’s a tutorial that shows how to use a $10 flashlight to light a shot.
Although the built-in camera on the iPhone is good, the audio recording capabilities are lacking in comparison to professional cameras, so you’ll need outside equipment. Tascam and Zoom are popular brands for audio devices.
If there’s extensive dialogue in your production, you also will want to do some research on microphones for your type of film. For example, a dialogue heavy comedy might rely more on lavaliere microphones while an action-packed adventure story may benefit from a shotgun microphone.
Once you’ve shot your video, it’s time to edit. There are some great apps such as Pinnacle Studio and iMovie that can help you cut hours of footage down into your five-minute masterpiece. Keep in mind the mantra “when in doubt, cut it out.” When it comes to low-budget films, shorter is almost always better.
Now that you know how to stabilize your camera, how to light your scene, how to capture good audio and how to edit, you’re ready to start shooting your film. Remember, that the best way to learn is to get out there and do it yourself. So, grab your iPhone and a couple of friends, and get started.
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