Smartphone Filmmaking, Explained: How To Make A Film With Your Smartphone?

Many of us want to make films. Humans have a history with logical reasoning. They are easily demotivated rather than being inspired by regular events. The thing with demotivation is it comes in handy. Whenever any of us tries to make something extraordinary, the first thing, mostly, that hits is the question ‘how.’ It is very easy to say that don’t think about the obvious, turn yourself in, chase the dream, etc. But, how many of us actually have the will to make a movie? That is the bigger question. 

Filmmaking is an art form that consists of many layers. Filmmaking requires utmost dedication and unhinged attentiveness. When someone becomes obsessed with it, this art form becomes easier in the course of making it. So, today we are going to discuss how we can tell our story with our smartphones. Before that, we must make sure that we are willing to tell the story. Shooting in a smartphone is not going to be a big-budget production, so you must be very picky about the little details.


What Stories Can You Tell Through Your Smartphone?

When you are going with the idea that you’re going to shoot your movie with your smartphone and even edit it after, you need to be realistic. Whatever smartphone you’re using, it is best to make a short film first. If you’re planning to do a feature, make sure the editing process never includes too many after-effects. What we must remember before shooting a film on a smartphone, (is that)we can always conceptualize complex scenarios, but we must never make concepts complex.

What story you are going to proceed with is very important as the concept is the foundation of the story you’re about to tell. This will help you connect with the audience more and create an introspective session with your own ideology behind the story. Whatever you’re trying to tell through your lenses should always contain the truth, not an exaggerated one but the exact truth. The audience in general puts their faith in you as a filmmaker, so in many ways you must repay them. Shooting through your smartphone should give them the idea that your dedication behind the making of the film is beyond marginal.


See More: Guerrilla Filmmaking – An Approach To Independent Filmmaking


Tips For The Beginners

Light: The sensors in the phone camera are very small, which leads to one singular problem: it gets tough to shoot in low light. Even the contrast is too high to film a frame. So, what you can do is try and shoot where there is enough light for your shot and the contrast level is less. It will help you to get your shot in the way you want. If you really need to shoot in low light, you can use extra flashlights, or you can mount a box with light and put your phone into it. But, it is best if you don’t shoot in low light.

Sound: Smartphones are very sound-sensitive. It will catch some sounds from nowhere and can spoil the whole shot. So, it is always better to use folly sounds or dub the entire film. But, if you really want to capture real-time sound, you can try using a microphone. Get your microphone closer to the subject and record the sound. But, the problem with using the microphone is that it can capture less ambient sound that may create an uncomfortable scenario.  So, it is best to forget about live sound and use dubbing instead.

Editing: If you want to edit your movie on your smartphone, the first suggestion will be don’t. It is very complex to edit using your fingers on your smartphone. In computers, editing becomes a no-brainer. It is much easier, and there are so many options that you can explore. But, if you don’t have access to a computer, tell your story in the most straightforward format you know so that it will be easy for you to edit and see through the whole project with minimal effort. 

Stealth Mode: If your shot is too shaky after a period of time, the audience may feel distracted at times. It’s pretty hard maintaining focus on something too shaky for a longer period of time. So, try and keep the frames still as long as you can. You can always use tripods or gimbals to adjust your shot and make it as good as you can. If you don’t want to use any gadgets, then you can learn to make your hands steady. You can rest your upper arms against your body, and be relaxed; in this way, you can make sure to take a steady shot. The more steadier, the better, always.

Settings: You have to pick a format to shoot your film. There are options like 720p, 1080p (2K), and 4K. It is strongly recommended to shoot in 720p or in 1080p as these have better broadcasting resolutions. If you’re willing to shoot in 4K, there are two things you must be aware of. One is it will eat up your space very fast, and the other thing is, if you crop the frame, there is a chance of losing the quality of the shot. Most smartphones have stabilizers so that your shots don’t get shaky all the time. But the problem with this feature is the frame gets blurred at times. If you’re using an iPhone, then it won’t be an issue. You can also try cinematic mode, but the focus shifting may get a little hasty at times. Lastly, in settings, there will be frame rate options. You can pick 24 fps for a more film-like structure. For slow motions, 60 fps is strongly recommended.

Shot Selection: What shot do you wish to take? Pan, Dolly, OTS, Aerial all of these need ample planning and retakes. It would be best if you never stepped down to do retakes. Retakes are in the fundamentals of filmmaking. For some shots, you can use minimal gadgets too. Like for Dolly shot, you can try dyno equipment. They are miniature, motorized slider systems that help you provide the perfect dolly shot. You can always use a gimbal to do a pan or OTS shot. For aerial shots, you have to improvise if you don’t have a budget to hire a drone. Shot selection is very important during storytelling. Every shot represents your point of view. So, if you want to do a good job in shot selection, make sure you are capable of improvising with your smartphone.

So, apart from all of these, if you want to make a film with your smartphone, the only confidence you need is your concept. The concept is the key to all the attention. If you know about how to shoot a film but if you don’t put up a good script based on a brilliant concept, then it will all be a waste. It is very common to make mistakes like this. Script and concept are the most important things in filmmaking. A filmmaker must concentrate on making a film that tells a good story at the least. The story is the only thing that attracts the mind of the audience, forcing them to feel ecstatic. So, as a filmmaker the main thing you need to focus on is your approach to the concept you are going to establish through your smartphone.

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Shovan Roy
Shovan Roy
Shovan Roy is a creative content writer. Formerly he used to write film reviews on an international film festival website named Beyond the Curve International Film Festival. He also interviewed global directors. He also interviewed one of the characters from the show 'Trailer Park Boys', Mr. Bernard Robichaud, platformed in Netflix. Shovan tends to write through the third person narrative and he loves to do psychoanalysis. He can't say that he has mastered it but that is some sort of hobby of his. Film is a platform where he loves to spend most of his time learning.

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