Smartphone Cinematography – When it comes to filmmaking on a budget, it’s tough to find the right filmmaking camera at a price you can afford. But, the great news is that the only camera you need to start filming projects is on your smartphone.
Now, you might be wondering how does smartphone cinematography compares to great 4k filmmaking camera’s from Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Sony, but there are tips to make your smartphone cinematography pop.
I recently was part of a smartphone filmmaking challenge and there were challenges of shooting film on a smartphone, but I found out how to overcome these challenges and make my smartphone videos more cinematic.
5 Tips for Making Your Smartphone Cinematography More Cinematic
Why Shoot Films On A Smartphone
When I first mentioned to my cinematographer friends that I was shooting a short film on a smartphone, they laughed harder than I thought they would.
With smartphone technology always constantly improving, the ability to shoot in 4k is becoming the new normal. Now with the latest Samsung Galaxy S20 | 20+ | S20 Ultra, camera sensors have been upgraded to enable the shooting of 8K video.
Plus, with apps like FiLMic Pro that you can add to ios and android phones, any filmmaker can shoot cinematic video footage whenever they wanted to.
Not convinced that you can shoot a cinematic-looking film from a smartphone? Check out my article on the best smartphone for filmmaking here.
Choosing The Right Frame Rate
To create cinematic video footage on your smartphone, you need to understand frame rates.
Choosing the best movie frame rate for your smartphone video can be difficult considering there are a lot of factors to consider.
Watch the video below to understand frame rates better.
Frame rate cheat sheet for video:
- >16 FPS: recreating the appearance of the silent era movies
- 24 FPS: the cinematic look we see today
- 30 FPS: excellent for live sports
- 60 FPS: walking, candles being blown out, etc.
- 120 FPS: people running, nature videography, etc.
- 240 FPS: balloons exploding, water splashes, etc.
- 480 FPS: skateboard tricks, skiing, surfing, etc.
- 960+ FPS: Hyper-slow motion. Like the opening of Zombieland and the explosion scene in The Hurt Locker.
Play Around With Your Camera Settings
Just like a mirrorless and DSLR camera, the more you learn about the settings of the camera, the better your footage can be.
To improve Smartphone Cinematography and make it more cinematic, understand your smartphone camera settings.
Test out your smartphone video by adjusting your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to help you achieve the look you want under any conditions.
When we look at some smartphone videos on the net, we may notice that some of them lack the depth of field that a cinema camera can produce.
So look at adjusting the depth of field while filming to get that beautiful bokeh that lacks in most smartphone cinematography.
If your smartphone camera doesn’t allow you to adjust the custom settings, think about adding an app like FiLMic Pro that allows you to turn your phone camera into a professional-level camera.
This will unlock all settings, allowing you to control and lock exposure, focus, white balance, and much more!
I use FiLMic Pro for all of my smartphone footage, and many Hollywood filmmakers like Zack Snyder and Steven Soderbergh do as well.
Smartphone Lighting Kits
When I had a conversation with the Director of Photography of a Netflix production, I was working on, I asked about shooting a feature on a smartphone, and the response I received was “make sure you have good lighting.”
When it comes down to filmmaking, it doesn’t matter how good your camera is, if you don’t have the right lighting on the set, then your footage will never look cinematic.
Sure when trying to make your smartphone footage cinematic, you want to incorporate camera movement, tweak the Filmic pro settings to the max, have a great set design, and amazing performances, but having the right lighting tools makes all the difference to your smartphone footage.
One lighting tip I suggest when you are outdoors with limited lighting equipment to make sure you shoot during Golden Hour.
What is Golden Hour in filmmaking? Golden Hour is the time right before sunrise, and right after sunset. What it does for your video footage is it makes a warm glow on your subjects. See the video below for examples.
When it comes to film lighting equipment, it can be costly and cumbersome to use, plus it takes a lot of practice to get excellent results. But having a simple lighting kit can make your smartphone footage more cinematic.
Stabilize Your Footage With A Stabilizer
In my article Gimbals / Stabilizers: Best Smartphone Filmmaking Accessory, I discuss how important it is for a filmmaker to stabilize his/her video footage.
While I understand that Smartphones are not as large as Mirrorless, DSLR, or cinema cameras, but even when holding your smartphone while filming, there is still quite a bit of shaky footage that can occur.
If you are serious about taking your smartphone cinematography to the next level, then you need to invest in a great mobile camera stabilizer/gimbal.
What these accessories do is stabilize your film footage to look smooth and cinematic.
Plus, you can perform many different types of shots that will fool your viewers into thinking you had a large budget behind you.
Attachment Lenses For Your Smartphone
While the latest high-end smartphones from Apple, Samsung, Huwaei, Google, and Sony have powerful camera systems, there are ways to improve the smartphone video footage even further with the right accessory.
The accessory you need to add to your smartphone filmmaking kit is an attachment lens kit.
Just like mirrorless and DSLR cameras, adding separate lenses for your smartphone can help you achieve impressive cinematic film footage compared to built-in smartphone lenses.
If you’re looking for ways to make your smartphone footage more cinematic, an attachment lens can make all the difference.
Click here for great smartphone lenses from Moment.com to improve your smartphone cinematography.
Color Correct Your Footage
Another tip for accomplishing a cinematic look with your iPhone is an important one and that is to color grade and color correct your footage.
Color grading involves adding an artistic flare to your video.
Color correction is ensuring that whites are white and all the colors look as they should. Plus, the ability to add color adjusting filters to your footage.
You can color correct your footage manually by editing your video footage to add, remove or change colors. Plus, You can also manually edit the darkness and brightness settings and contrast to achieve the color you want your footage to have.
If you are looking to add professional flare to your color correction and color grading, I suggest using a video editing tool like Adobe Premier Pro.
Maintaining a consistent white balance and exposure for every shot requires time and effort that easily pays for itself in the final product.
And that’s a wrap folks, I hope you enjoyed our smartphone cinematography guide, with tips to help you make your smartphone videos fantastic!
And if you don’t mind sharing the love, a tweet, stumble, pin, or Facebook share would be much appreciated! (Full-sized pins available by clicking the share bar on the left).
Do you shoot films on a smartphone? Which smartphone do you use? Let us know in the comment section below.
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