Between the dropping prices of professional cameras and DSLRs and the advancement of camera technology in smartphones, you can find decent equipment that fits in your budget. As long as you don’t get hung up on the fancy aspects, you can make short film with your phone look the part. Take a look at the following examples for some inspiration.
A Short Journey 4S
This short film shows a simple day-in-the-life journey through London. Instead of following a traditional narrative structure, the film focuses on the interesting sights and sounds from around the city. “The Film Artist,” as the creator is called on Vimeo, has a unique technique and look to his film. He uses a Steadicam Smoothee, which is a stabilizer, to create extremely smooth movements. The shots are evocative of him weaving in and out of the crowds like a ghost and show how he is able to focus on what is interesting at the moment and nothing more.
Unlike “A Short Journey 4S,” “Sharkoon” focuses more on quirk and wit to tell a compelling story. The filmmakers mostly used locked off tripod shots and good editing to tell the story of a man and a strange fish. Even though the iPhone they used is a few years old (they used the iPhone 4), the final footage looks good because they worked within the limitations they were given. By feeding enough light to their camera, they were able to keep the shadows from becoming muddy or snowy. They also show that filmmakers don’t need the most expensive equipment to make a festival-worthy film.
Things to Remember
When shooting on consumer-level technology, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time in the post production phase. However, the amount of time can be minimized by knowing the limits of what you are working with.
Smartphones are not as ergonomically comfortable as a professional camera that is made for making movies. Until recently, optical image stabilization was not an option on many phones, but now it helps you capture a more stable shot. A tripod or steadicam will give you the best results, however, especially when compared to holding it from the corners where all your motion is transferred into the phone. The addition of 4K video on phones like the LG V10 also helps you get a good image because it allows you to stabilize your footage during the post process.
The low-light abilities have also improved greatly in smartphone cameras. However, if you want to be safe, have more light in your shot. Smartphone cameras have more latitude on the high end, so it is cleaner to make an image darker than brighter. Manual control also is a big plus. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 come with native manual control functions, but if your phone doesn’t, there are apps that give you this ability.
Although smartphones do not have interchangeable lenses, there are manufacturers that make clip-on lenses that give you wider or more telephoto fields of view. This means you don’t have to move extremely far or close to your subject to get the shot you want and you don’t have to worry about compression that requires different focal lengths.