How To Shoot A Movie On Your iPhone

Watching Unsane in the cinema, I quickly forgot the entire film was shot on an iPhone 7 Plus and proceeded to turn myself into a human pretzel of discomfort and terror.

It's good. Real good.

It also highlighted what is possible with one of the most common devices in the world - your phone. Keen to make your own "shot on iPhone" film? Here are some tips to get you started.

But first, a bit of background. Unsane wasn't the project to be shot with a smartphone, of course.

Tangerine was shot entirely on iPhone 5s, picked up by Magnolia Pictures, and star Mya Taylor made history at the Spirit Awards in 2016, becoming the first transgender actress to win a major film award (best supporting actress) for her work. Sean Baker recently used iPhone for The Florida Project to create a "rolling shutter" finish to give his scenes a "very different, jarring feel."

The opening number for La La Land was created on director Damien Chazelle's phone. Maroon 5's music video for Wait was shot entirely on a smartphone. You can even add an episode of Modern Family to the list.

But why are filmmakers going down this path? We asked around, and here are the most common ones (note: most are specific to iPhone).

Immediacy and intimacy

Directors say they’re able to shoot scenes quickly and move forward with production without the cumbersome logistics of a large production when shooting on iPhone. Additionally, it is much easier to capture authentic and intimate scenes because the intimidation factor is removed given the comfort level most people have with a phone.

Impressive colour accuracy

iPhone doesn't oversaturate images but instead focuses on letting customers shoot what they see, making post-production faster.

Video capture flexibility

For shooting in various resolutions and frame rates.

With iPhone 8 and iPhone X, you can also shoot, edit and export in 4K at 60 fps, which is being used more and more in the industry to capture incredibly high-quality content.

Cinematic video stabilisation

Helps smooth out your shots — so even if you’re walking or your hands shake a bit, iPhone compensates so your shots look smooth.

Focus Pixels

Built into iPhone, you can focus incredibly fast on any shot so there’s no need to tap to focus or worry about contrasting focus which can over and undercompensate as you shoot. Instead, the focus is automatic and incredibly fast.

Third party ecosystem

The ecosystem of professional grade filmmaking apps and products built just for iPhone is huge (lenses, lighting, mics, stabilisers, etc.). Filmmakers have pushed the industry to create great products that work with iPhone so it can be used in a whole range of situations.

Filmmaking with iPhone

Ready for the tips? You got it.

iPhone-specific camera tips

  1. Slo-mo: In iPhone X, Slo-Mo provides the option to shoot 1080p HD at 240 fps. Slo-mo lets you adjust the start and end point of the effect so you can crank up the drama and, sometimes, the humour.
  2. Optical Zoom: With the dual-lens camera on iPhone X, you can now get videos with optical zoom so you can get that perfect shot no matter where you are.
  3. Smoother Time-lapse video: Video stabilisation in Time-lapse mode lets you take a smooth video even if your hands aren’t steady. Just swipe to Time-lapse in camera, press the camera button, and start recording. Whether you’re standing still or on the go, your Time-lapse videos will look even smoother than before.
  4. 4K Video With iPhone X videos will look remarkably better, enhanced by Dual optical image stabilisation and the ƒ/1.8 aperture on the wide-angle camera and ƒ/2.4 aperture on the telephoto camera. To record 4K video go to Settings -> Camera -> Record Video -> Select 4K at 60 fps. Once you’ve selected 4K at 60 fps, when you record video you will notice a 4K badge in the Camera app when you’re recording.

Apps filmmakers love

  1. Filmic Pro: An advanced video camera for mobile allowing users to change frame rates, image quality, audio meters and more.
  2. Mavis Pro Camera: MAVIS is a pro filmmaking and broadcast camera for iPhone. It provides professional level filming tools including focus peaking, waveform monitor, vectorscope, false colour and zebras. It gives you audio controls, audio metering, custom resolutions, framerates and recordings formats. It also brings a natural interface to give you full flexible manual control while shooting.
  3. MovieSlate 8: Provides Slate, TimeCode, Clapper and Note information

Accessories to take your filmmaking to the next level

  1. Gimbal for super smooth video: DJI OSMO Mobile 2 Gimbal for iPhone Only at Apple
  2. Tripod for stability: Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod
  3. Microphone: Shure MOTIV MV88 Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

Happy shooting!

Unsane is new to Blu-ray, DVD & Digital. Get it here on iTunes.

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