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How To Make A Film With An iPhone

How To Make A Film With An iPhone

More of you are starting to ask questions in the comments. I’d really like this website to become a platform for discussion about cinematography and filmmaking in general, as there are so many people out there looking to learn, as well as people with experience willing to share their knowledge.

Today I’ll try to answer a couple of questions that you’ve posted. If anyone out there would like to provide their insights or would like to ask more questions or comments to be addressed in the future article please post in the comment section below.

Making A Film With An iPhone

Have you ever made a short film or video using nothing but an iPhone? What gear or software would a team need to have to get some decent-looking sequences with a phone and on a budget? 

No, I’ve never made a film on an iPhone or phone, although I have made many shorts and even a feature, which I made a previous article about, using consumer DSLR cameras. Personally, I prefer using cheap DSLRs for low-budget filmmaking overusing phones because it gives you access to using different lenses and manual control over your camera settings and focus.

You can also find some DSLRs for less than what an iPhone costs so it’s definitely something to consider. One of my biggest takeaways though from shooting projects in this way is that rather than trying to improve upon the medium and make the footage look like it was shot on a professional cinema camera, I tend to go the other way and embrace the fact that it looks like an iPhone or a cheap DSLR.

If you look at a South African feature shot on an iPhone, like High Fantasy, or Tangerine, for example, they’re never trying to hide the fact that they shot it on a phone. They visually embrace the low dynamic range, exposure shifts, and wide lenses of the iPhone.

If you want to find out about specific software or gear I’d suggest doing some research on Tangerine, but more important than that I would focus on the basics. What does elevate the so-called ‘production value’ of those films is the sound and the lighting concepts.

So make sure you record the best sound you can, light the shots in a continuous style throughout the film and embrace the look of phone video rather than trying to make it look higher-end than it actually is because then you’ll just be fighting a losing battle.

Technical Details In Movies

How do you find out the technical details of each movie?
So it depends on the movie, but generally through a combination of online articles, interviews, and looking at behind-the-scenes footage or photos. Some sites I regularly use are American Cinematographer, Kodak’s Motion Picture Blog, Cooke Optics TV, and Arri Youtube videos, and British Cinematographer.

Then to break down specific scenes or shots I’ll try to find BTS photos of the gear which I can identify based on my knowledge from working in the film industry. Generally speaking this is easier to do with more modern movies as there are more resources available online now than ever before.

Other On Set Departments

Are you going to expand this to other departments working on set? 

Because the base of my knowledge is in cinematography and particularly the camera department that’s usually most of what I focus on for now. I do try and touch a little bit on other aspects of filmmaking and departments through the lens of cinematography in my articles but going forward I’ll try to include more information on other aspects of filmmaking.

Also if there’s anyone out there with knowledge about these movies from the perspective of other departments I’d love to hear it in the comment section.

Lights And Color

Can you share your knowledge on the relationship between light sources and the color/look they generate?

So this is quite an in-depth topic and types of film lights which I’ll cover in more detail in the future articles but I’ll give a basic rundown of three common light fixtures. I’m no expert on lighting so if there are any electricians out there that can provide more info or correct me that’d be great.

1. Tungsten lights have a color temperature of around 3200 Kelvin which means that they appear warmer. Usually, tungsten lights are powerful and quite directional so are great as a hard light source or can be softened by bouncing or diffusing them to achieve a higher output of soft light.

2. HMIs are also strong, direct light sources, but have a cooler, daylight color temperature. They’re often used to replicate the look of sunlight.

3. LEDs are lower power fixtures that can be singular color (like daylight), bi-color (tungsten or daylight), or RGB (any color you like). They’re easily dimmable, tend to be a bit softer, and have a lower output than tungsten or HMI lights although now that LED technology is rapidly improving this isn’t necessarily the case anymore.

Last words

Thanks, everyone for your questions. If you guys enjoy this more informal article I’ll try to make them alongside my regular content in the future. As I mentioned before if you’d like a chance for your questions about filmmaking, cinematography or the website to be featured please comment below and I’ll try to get around to answering them in an upcoming article.

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