Gear doesn’t matter: here’s how to shoot a high-quality movie with your smartphone
“Gear doesn’t matter.” You may agree with this statement or not, but it’s definitely the case if you have a good idea and an engaging story to tell with your photos or films. Sure, expensive gear can make the job easier, but what if you don’t have a high budget? Well, in that case – just shoot with what you have in your pockets – a smartphone.
Ryan Connolly of Film Riot gives you some guidelines how to shoot a high-quality video using nothing but your smartphone camera. He gives his own example of a very file-looking sketch he filmed with an iPhone, along with the advantages and challenges you’ll have with this approach.
Ryan says that the app you use for shooting is a very important part of the process. In his case, he uses Filmic Pro. It’s available for both Android and iOS, so you can use it if you don’t use an iPhone. It lets you choose various shooting settings, such as quality, frame rate, audio, focus, exposure and so on. You can lock focus and exposure, and from what I see – it seems intuitive and easy to use. He sets the quality to 4K, and many modern smartphones have this option.
You should also provide proper stabilization. Ryan uses DJI Osmo gimbal, which you can synch with Filmic Pro app. When you’re done with the shooting, it’s good to know that you can fix a lot of issues in After Effects or the editor of your choice. It won’t be all sunshine and roses to shoot with a phone, so you’ll need to spend some time in post. And while we’re at it, let’s see some of the challenges you’ll be facing.
You can certainly get great results on a smartphone, but of course – it will take you more time. Expensive gear isn’t essential for storytelling, but it does save you a lot of trouble when it comes to technical aspects of filming.
As for the iPhone, in Ryan’s case, it happened that it produced shots a with different exposure, quality, and color profile, even though he set everything up and locked the exposure and focus. At the same time, it was difficult to see the screen in the bright sunlight, which made it harder to see whether the settings were correct. If you plan to shoot with a smartphone, these are some of the issues you may face as well.
Another problem is overheating. When iPhone overheats, it just switches off. If this happens in the middle of shooting, you’ll lose the footage you’ve been filming. This can be a source of frustration, but keep it in mind so you can prevent the phone from overheating.
Basically, Ryan did the shooting without preparation to see how intuitive it would be to shoot with a smartphone. If you rely on his experience, prepare well and take the measures against overheating, you may spend less time shooting and post-processing the footage.
Frankly, I can’t say gear isn’t important. Professional equipment gives you stellar image quality and saves you time, because it’s easier to work with. But, if the lack of pro gear stops you from expressing yourself and your ideas – that’s what you need to overcome. If you have good ideas and not so good gear, who cares? Express yourself and shoot away, even if it’s just with your smartphone. If you invest some time and skill in it, it will sure turn out great.
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Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.