In Part 1 of this blog, we introduced the trend of smartphone filmmaking – the growing number of Hollywood directors who have tried it, and how exciting it is that the same powerful tools they’re using are also available to the masses. It’s a very well written article. And yes, I’m saying that because I wrote it. But that doesn't make it untrue.
Still, after completing that unforgettable piece of writing, it immediately became clear that there was still much to discuss on the subject. After all, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood showbiz isn't the only motivation to become a filmmaker. What about the self-made video entrepreneurs of today? What about full-time video marketing agencies like ours? Here in Part 2, we wanted to take a deeper dive into the unique and novel functionality that smartphone filmmaking tech adds to our profession.
Generally, we’ve found our full-size professional cameras and equipment to be more than capable. However, as with many other well-established industries, sometimes the most significant innovations come from elsewhere.
Many of the most seismic advances in filmmaking tech have come from non-filmmaking industries. Drones, 3D printing, and facial recognition are all currently playing major roles in propelling video production into the future, but none of them were initially developed with filmmaking in mind.
Similarly, since the smartphone craze began about a decade ago, the devices have hardly been marketed as "the perfect tool for video production". Mobile video capture has undeniably improved by leaps and bounds over the years, but the camera is still one of many features of a smartphone. And when those other features include AI voice assistants, Augmented Reality, and paying for stuff by scanning your face, it's easy for video capture functionality to take a back seat.
But regardless of how your average smartphone is marketed, as long as it comes with a decent camera, you can turn it into an agile and effective filmmaking tool. Smartphones are like modern Swiss army knives – numerous useful tools in one package. But they go a step further, in that the user can customize and supercharge whichever tools they want with additional accessories and apps. A full-service video crew like ours may not be able to rely completely on smartphones, but their versatility, portability, and cost-effectiveness make them an easy and sensible tool to add to our arsenal.
In most of the Hollywood smartphone projects we covered in Part 1, the phones actually had extra help from third-party apps and hardware augmentations. In the case of Searching For Sugar Man, director Malik Bendjelloul had already filmed most of the documentary on an 8mm camera, and switched to his iPhone 4 after running out of film. He then used an app called '8mm Vintage Camera' to give the iPhone footage the same black & white vintage feel as the actual 8mm footage. And when Steven Soderbergh shot 2018's Unsane on the iPhone 7 Plus, he not only used a video capture app called Filmic Pro to give him more fine-tuned control over the camera, he also used Moment lens attachments for better image quality, and DJI Osmo stabilizers to keep the camera movements silky smooth.
The exciting part is, the main brain that drives these accessories is already in your pocket. So all you really need is a couple hundred bucks, and suddenly you're working with exactly the same equipment as Soderbergh. There are plenty of resources on the web for deciding which accessories might fit your aspirations, but one of the best we've found is a site called SmartphoneFilmPro.com – a site dedicated solely to smartphone filmmaking tools and tips. They have articles that explore different video capture apps, lens attachments, handheld gimbals, and so much more.
Accessories like these may seem unnecessary to the average consumer, but when you consider the numerous ways to earn a living by capturing and producing your own videos – travel vlogs, tutorials, commentary, lifestyle vids, pranking, etc. – the idea of spending a little extra money on a few accessories to make your work easier isn't so far fetched. Especially when the alternative is hiring a cameraman, or buying a pro-grade camera for thousands of dollars. If you're a home chef who produces your own cooking videos for YouTube, do you really need a full-size camera with a full-size tripod? Why not buy a small desktop tripod for your phone, and take advantage of the camera you already have?
Now we've referenced iPhones a lot here, mainly because everyone at FCM owns one (you know, because they're shiny). But the Android app ecosystem is equally stockpiled with useful camera apps that unlock further video functionality. And while the iPhone X camera was ranked #1 when it came out last November, it was quickly surpassed in capability by several newer Android phones, including the Pixel 2 and the HTC U12+, both of which have plenty of camera accessories of their own. And with several device makers implementing triple-lens cameras, it's anybody's game.
This gives you an idea of just how fast mobile camera tech is developing. And don't forget, the camera is not the only relevant component here. The newest smartphones represent the bleeding edge of mobile processor development, and that makes them capable of things that even high-end pro cameras can't do. Apple's newest mobile processor, the A11 Bionic, actually outperforms many of Intel's latest laptop and desktop processors. And with many phones reaching internal storage capacities of 256 GB or more, not to mention Cloud integration, it's easier than ever to capture to your heart's content without running out of storage space.
And if you need more proof that smartphones with souped-up cameras are increasing in demand, RED Digital Cinema is gearing up to release their very first smartphone in August, and it's a wild piece of technology. RED has never made anything remotely like a smartphone before. They're a high-end camera company whose products are expensive, powerful, and highly sought after. This new smartphone of theirs may be a sizable gamble, but the way trends are currently moving, it's a gamble that just might pay off in a big way.
The phone is called Hydrogen One, and it's a modular smartphone with various interchangeable filmmaking accessories that give it far greater filmmaking capabilities than any other smartphone on the market. You can even attach it to RED's pro cameras and use the screen as a viewfinder. Oh, and it also happens to have a 3D holographic screen that doesn't require glasses. I know it sounds like I'm making this up, but I swear I'm not. This thing is stranger than fiction.
There are plenty of creative smartphone owners out there who already have the skills and vision they need to run a business and earn a living using smartphone video. All they need are the tools. And the takeaway here is, those tools are often quite cheap and easy to use. If Logan Paul can get famous on YouTube, anyone can.