The Rise of Mobile Filmmaking

Your iPhone probably won¡¯t replace your Canon EOS 5D. However, if you¡¯re still going to shoot on an iPhone because:

¡°it¡¯s cool¡±
it¡¯s all you have
you heard of its feats at the Zacuto shootout
Tangerine,?a recent Sundance hit, was shot on an iPhone
you can get enough friends with iPhones to shoot multi-cam
you¡¯re entering into one of many mobile film festivals and contests
you saw the Bentley Motors commercial shot on iPhone and cut on iPad
more and more music videos are being shot on iPhones

¡ªor for any other reason¡ªthere are only a few key things to know, in addition to knowing how to tell a story with a camera.

“You¡¯ve got to mask the iPhone¡¯s weaknesses with creativity… basically, to put the focus more on the story.”

You¡¯ve got to use an app, the most popular currently being FiLMiC Pro, because the iPhone¡¯s default system won¡¯t give you much cinematic control. You¡¯ve got to get add-on lenses, which are available in different price ranges, none too expensive. You¡¯ve got to get external sound, preferably totally separate, such as with a Zoom H6 or older model, like you would with most other cameras, if you could. And you¡¯ve got to mask the iPhone¡¯s weaknesses with creativity¡ªfor example, getting tight close-ups of a strong color or colors to distract from compression artifacts¡ªbasically, to put the focus more on the story. This is one of countless ways, and one that may or may not work for your story.
Bentley¡¯s ¡°Intelligent Details¡± campaign¡ªso far, two commercials, one shot on the iPhone 5S, showcasing integration of the iPad into the Bentley Mulsanne, and the other shot on the iPhone 6¡ªis in black-and-white. These commercials have a contrasty, rich, and elegant look.
Of course, these guys used as much as MoVIs in their shoots, and they highly praise the MoVI for raising production value, but the look is the look with or without a MoVI. The choice of black-and-white isn¡¯t all there is to the look, but it allowed for a more polished, graded image. Keep in mind that your grading is limited to the amount of data the iPhone is capable of producing, so aim for powerful tweaks rather than major grading.
So why an app?
The app most mentioned is FiLMiC Pro, but in a pleasant surprise, on the second Bentley commercial both FiLMiC Pro and Filmmaker were used, with ¡°user preference¡± the reason given by the production team, Reza & Co. Use an app because the iPhone is tiny, and everything it has is tiny, and the bit-rate is low, and you can¡¯t adjust settings much. Sticking with FiLMiC Pro¡ªit about doubles your bit-rate to 50Mbps at 1080p at 24 fps, and enables you to adjust focus, exposure, color temperature, and other settings, as well as select frame rates and aspect ratios other than 16:9, like 2.35:1. Drag a little square around the screen to position your focus where you want it, drag a circle to do the same with exposure, brightening and darkening desired areas. An app opens up your iPhone for you.?

Sreenshot from the FiLMiC Pro App?
Add-On Lenses
The next aspect to consider is lenses, and here we¡¯ll lump support gear, as you won¡¯t want to hold an iPhone directly in your hands. The Bentley guys went with the iPro lens system from Schneider Optics for their MoVI M5, and with the Neewer 37mm Fisheye on a cage-like BeastGrip case for their handheld shots. The makers of Tangerine went with a Moondog Labs 1.33x anamorphic adapter. The Bentley guys also added a Moondog for the second video.

Schneider Optics iPro Lens System?
So why use an add-on lens? Well, the Moondog will give you a wide-screen, cinematic look, and when used with FiLMiC Pro, which welcomes this lens with many settings, including in-app de-squeezing, the transformed look will also have better image quality, with detail increased to 2554 x 1080 native recording resolution. The Schneider lenses give you several different focal lengths, including macro and telephoto (and they also screw on to one-another to form a handgrip). The Schneiders are also available for select Android phones, as are many apps available for Android and Windows. You may also want to try some lens filters. Also choose from a variety of mobile stabilizers, including motorized ones, from companies such as ikan, Shape, and Steadicam. Something else to keep in mind on the subject of accessories: you may or may not want external battery power, like the Mophie Juice Pack. On another note, you definitely want sufficient storage space. If your iPhone only has 16GB of storage, you may want to consider external sources, such as a Mophie Space Pack.?
Better audio
Now on to audio, an area in which we can expect to see improvement, as manufacturer focus has been more on video. Some have stepped up, like R?DE, with the iXY, and Zoom with the iQ series microphones. These attach directly to the phone and give you stronger capture capability. But with these mics, the audio still gets recorded to the iPhone, so you can likewise attach a larger on-camera R?DE as long as you account for the heavier weight with additional support gear. But while the iPhone¡¯s audio recording tests okay, if you can, go totally separate, such as with a Zoom H6. Tangerine¡¯s single sound person, Irin Strauss, went with the Sound Devices 664 6-Channel Mixer/Recorder, and he praises its dual functionality for allowing him to keep up with the cast and crew on the set. He also praises how easy and convenient monitoring each individual track was, and how the provided metadata allowed him to make on-the-fly decisions, again letting him keep up more easily (he was also the boom operator). The 664 isn¡¯t within most users¡¯ range, but its application in Tangerine gives us yet another window into features that mobile filmmaking can take advantage of.

Zoom iQ iPhone Mic?
There are several other out-of-the-woodworks benefits to mobile filmmaking¡ªactors aren¡¯t intimidated by a phone because they see phones all day; passers-by aren¡¯t as curious and leave you alone sooner; and you can get in almost anywhere, as long as you leave your MoVI behind.