5+ Best Tips To Make Your Smartphone Cinematography More Cinematic

5 Tips for Making Your Smartphone Cinematography More Cinematic

When it comes to filmmaking on a budget, finding the proper filmmaking camera at a reasonable price might be difficult. The good news is that you can start filming projects with just your smartphone as a camera.

You might be wondering how smartphone cinematography compares to the best 4k filmmaking cameras from Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Sony, but there are several tricks to make your smartphone cinematography stand out.

I recently participated in a smartphone filmmaking competition, and while shooting a film on a smartphone has its obstacles, I learned how to overcome them and make my smartphone videos more cinematic.

9 Great Filmmaking Pro Tips on How to Film By Yourself

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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.

My friends have worked as director of photography’s on many independent feature films using Red and Arri cameras, that the thought of shooting anything with a smartphone is ridiculous. 

Sure it great to brag about shooting a feature with an industry-leading camera like RedArriPanavisionSony, etc., but like the great BobDylan sang “The Times They Are A-Changin‘.”

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.

Steven Soderbergh, director of Ocean’s 11 and Traffic shot a feature-length film called “High Flying Bird” using an Apple iPhone. The equipment used to shoot this film was the following:

Choosing The Right Frame Rate

To create cinematic video footage on your smartphone, you need to understand frame rates. 

High-end smartphones from AppleSamsungHuwaeiGoogle, and Sony have a few different resolutions and frame rates to choose from. 

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.
b&H photo/video
Shop All Filmmaking Equipment Deals At B&H Photo/Video

Play Around With Your Camera Settings

The more you learn about the camera’s settings, just like with a mirrorless or DSLR camera, the better your movie will be. Understanding your smartphone camera settings will help you improve your smartphone cinematography and make it more cinematic.

Adjust your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO on your smartphone video to help you get the appearance you desire in any situation. When viewing smartphone videos on the internet, we may see that some of them lack the depth of field that a cinema camera can achieve.

So, to create that gorgeous bokeh that most smartphone filmmaking lacks, try altering the depth of field while filming.

If your smartphone camera doesn’t have custom settings, consider installing an app like FiLMic Pro, which transforms your phone camera into a professional-level camera. 

All settings will be unlocked, allowing you to select and lock exposure, focus, white balance, and more! 

Many Hollywood directors, like Zack Snyder and Steven Soderbergh, utilize FiLMic Pro for all of their smartphone footage.

filmic pro video camera
FiLMiC Pro features cutting-edge capabilities and is the most responsive manual filming app available on mobile.

Smartphone Lighting Kits

vlogging lighting

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.

Maybe adding Reflector/diffusers and LED light panels to your smartphone lighting kit, can make all the difference in the world to your smartphone video footage.

Stabilize Your Footage With A Stabilizer

dji

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

Moment Smartphone Lenses

While the latest high-end smartphones from AppleSamsungHuwaeiGoogle, 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.

Related Article: 5 Moment Smartphone Lenses – Best Gear For Shooting With A Smartphone

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.

Most smartphone attachment lenses include fisheyesmacroswide-angle, and even anamorphic

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.

Summary

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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