Reel Technical: Can I Make a Movie With My Phone?

Reel Technical:
Can I Make a Movie With My Phone?

by James Rosario

The short answer is yes, you can make a movie with your phone. The real question you may want to ask, however, is should I make a movie with my phone. And the answer to that is an enthusiastic maybe.

Here’s where the trouble starts. You still have to know how to make a movie.


When I was a youngster in the late 80s and early 90s, my friend’s parents had a big old VHS video camera that we used to make movies on. We were very careful in our emulation of shots from our favorite movies, but it never looked right, and it certainly didn’t sound right. We had no idea what we were doing, of course, but if 28 Days Later, The Blair Witch Project, and most recently, Tangerine have taught us anything, it’s that you can make a compelling film using just about any camera.

The Look

28 Days Later

Let’s face it, video looks like video, and film looks like film. Video may look a hell of a lot better than it did when my friends and I made Even Younger Guns in 1989 or so, but the type of camera you use, and the media to which you are shooting will affect how your footage looks. But hey, don’t get discouraged! I’m a big fan of the adage “the best camera is the one that’s with you,” so if an iPhone is what you’ve got, then an iPhone is what you should use.

Moondog Labs is a company that makes some really cool stuff for your phone. Their anamorphic Adapter Lens for iPhones allows you to shoot in full widescreen glory right from your phone. Right off the bat this will help differentiate your footage from the shots you got of your buddy falling in the pool on the 4th of July.

Miller's Crossing
Don’t forget to play around with and get to know your camera’s aperture settings as well. Depth of field is very important and you’ll want to have a strong grasp on both how it works on your phone, and how it can help your shots look more professinal. It isn’t wise to just shoot on the default settings. We’re trying to make it look like it wasn’t shot on a phone, remember.

The Feel

Crimson Peak
After you’ve got your footage, you’re going to need to do color correction and color grading. This is a must. I’m partial to the tools that come with the Adobe Creative Cloud for my color work, but you can use whatever software you like, or can afford. Oh, and did I mention, you’ll need some editing software too.


And people, seriously, you might take your selfies in portrait mode, but please, shoot your movie in landscape. Which brings me to…Cinematography! The best way to master cinematography is to watch as many movies as you can and study how the camera moves, and how the shots are lit.

In addition, lighting can be an extremely complicated subject, but I encourage you to learn as much about it as you can, and use it to your advantage. It can really make a huge difference in how your film is received by audiences.


The Equipment

Since you already have your camera, you may want to consider what equipment you may need. Unless you’re going for a found footage horror feel, you’ll want to consider a tripod and some stabilizing rigs. The shaky cam look is right for some projects, but not all, so make sure you give careful consideration to how you want your movie to look.

I’m pretty D.I.Y. so I recommend building something yourself. The internet is overflowing with great ideas on how to build your own equipment for next to nothing, so use that resource to its fullest.

The Sound

Star Wars

This is the area where most D.I.Y. filmmakers fall short, no matter what they’re shooting on. You have to have good sound! There is no room for argument here. Your phone does not have a good microphone, therefore you will not be able to get good sound with your camera alone. You will need to record your sound separately and sync it up in post-production. Sorry, but if you’re shooting with a phone, this is simply a fact. In fact, no matter what you’re shooting with, this I pretty much a fact. Lucky for you, once again the internet offers lots of explainers and tutorials to help you through the process.

Are phone movies the future of the business? Probably not. But, like I said, there’s no reason for the D.I.Y. filmmaker not to use every weapon they have in their arsenal, right? When you’re working on a very small, or non-existent budget you are pretty much forced to use what’s on hand, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you’re serious about being a filmmaker, I would encourage you to work towards getting yourself a decent camera. The further you delve into the art, the more you’re going to appreciate why they make cameras the way they do.

To put it simply, you’re going to want your camera to be a camera first, not a phone with a camera attached to it. That being said, you have to use what you have available, and if what you have is an iPhone, then use learn to use that iPhone the best way it can be used, and tell your story to the best of your abilities. The camera doesn’t make the movie, you do.

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