How to make a movie on iPhone
Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh shot Unsane using only three iPhone 7 Plus mobile devices. This isn’t to say he was working without resources. The man has directed 28 feature films that have made more than two billion dollars.
Working with a crew of a dozen or so, Soderbergh shot during the day and edited at night. In all, the movie took around two weeks to shoot, edit, and release. It’s been said that the film was ready for viewing at the wrap party.
It helped that the movie took place over a 24-hour period and was filmed almost entirely in one location. This cut down on travel, the need for costume changes, or having to break down the equipment and set up at the next locale. And because it was shot inside of an abandoned hospital, the crew could shoot at any time of day.
Will you have open access to crewmembers, locations, and the experience of an established director? We don’t know you, but it’s probably unlikely. You may not even have access to three iPhones but there is equipment you can get your hands on to help you shoot like a pro.
After that, making a movie with an iPhone is no different than using a larger piece of equipment. You’ll still need a compelling story, to plan your shots, to scout locations, and so on. The only thing that’s different is the size of the camera.
Get The Gear
Unsane wasn’t even the first feature-length film shot with an iPhone. Uneasy Lies The Mind is regarded as the first feature film to be shot with the mobile device. Tangerine followed a few years later and was met with wide acclaim. In fact, one of the iPhone 5s used on the film is now a permanent fixture of the Academy Museum.
The smaller camera made it easy for many busy or crowded location shots. Without the need for heavy equipment, the iPhone even offers a bit of a disguise for the filmmaker. They look just like everyone else in a restaurant taking selfies or otherwise spending time on their phones.
Photo apps such as FiLMiC Pro to shoot in 4K definition, motorized iPhone gimbal stabilizers, and other accessories (lights, lenses, mics), will give you the necessities. If the conditions are right, the iPhone can be used without special add ons. Just make sure it’s in landscape mode, hit record, and use the play button to review the scene.
While editing can take place on an iPhone and iPad, the smaller editing screens can limit what an editor sees at any one time. When trying to lay in cuts, transitions, and film, the best bet is to use a laptop or desktop computer. Touch screens are nice, but a mouse offers greater control.
Using an iPhone to Shoot Scenes
You’ll still need to figure out the technical aspects of working with such a small device. We mentioned FiLMiC pro earlier, but there are several apps you can download that will turn your iPhone into a highly capable camera for film. Free apps like Mavis give you a good base for using your iPhone as a camera without having to spend money.
Other apps, such as the Lumu Light Meter, will let you know when you have the exposure you need to shoot a scene. The Lumos Sun and Moon tracker will show you where the sun will be at any given point during a shoot and even approximate the length of shadows created from your position.
Just like other software, we recommend understanding the basics before dipping into the bank account to buy apps. You want to make sure you’ll know what they are for and how to use them. That being said, FiLMiC seems to be the standard for many iPhone filmmakers and can be had for less than $20, so let’s take a quick look at how it works.
From the start, your camera will have a bunch of icons to choose from on the screen. First, you’ll want to set up some initial settings for the shoot, so click the cog and choose your resolution, frame rate, and more. Under resolution, you’ll choose an aspect ratio (such as 16:9 or 2.2:1), quality, and resolution (such as 4k).
Once you’ve set up the film, stabilization, and other modes, you can save them for later use. If you’ve found a combination you like, save it as a preset and you won’t have to keep choosing the settings. Now you’re ready to shoot a scene!
Well, almost. You’ll still want to set the exposure (the circle on the screen that you can move to change the light exposure) and work with your focus settings. FiLMiC offers several options for checking for focus with the exposure, allowing you to set the effect you need for a specific shot.
You can also play with white balance and color profile. This app is a very powerful tool, so spend the time to learn what each setting affects. Unsure what light exposure is used for? Do the research instead of blindly guessing. Any time you spend on it now will save you double the time in the future.
At this point, you’re ready to start shooting. However, there are some issues that you may need to deal with, especially in warmer climates. With long-term use, the iPhone can get extremely warm. When that happens, the phone will shut down. Additionally, it may be hard to see exactly how the shot looks on bright days unless you are able to shield all light from the screen.
If you’re determined to make a movie, a film video, or even a short vlog, you’ll find a way to overcome these shortcomings. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Professionals have been using iPhones for years to shoot video – so it can be done. You may need a little bit of guidance, though.
Learn The Craft of Filmmaking
You have the gear, know how it works, and have seen it done before. However, there’s still something missing: actually making the movie. If you don’t know how to establish blocking, how negative fills are created, or how to create a storyboard, making a movie can be an exercise in frustration.
Let Film Connection be your personal trainer. From the start, we’ll place you in a production company alongside an experienced mentor. Showing you the tricks of the trade, you’ll get a hands-on education that just can’t be replicated with YouTube videos or online tutorials.
We offer Cinematography as well as Film Production & Editing Programs to get you a feel of what it’s like to get behind the camera (no matter what that camera may be) or how to edit video clips. The Film Connection Screenwriting Workshop will pair you with a remote mentor to learn what makes a Killer Script, how to develop it, and how to shop it around.
You’ve taken photos and videos with your iPhones and researched short and featured length movies made with the technology. We’re here to give you the foundation to start your own projects – but success depends on your willingness to work. If this is your dream, apply today.