The Rise of Mobile Videography

When audiences at the Sundance Film Festival were told that "Tangerine" was filmed entirely on an iPhone 5S, people were not sure if they believed it. It soon became clear that this was a fact, and that mobile videography had reached a new plateau in the film world.

A few months later, Mark Duplass stated in a keynote at South by Southwest, "We are at a place right now where technology is so cheap, there is no excuse for you not to be making movies on the weekends." Duplass understands the mobile revolution that is occurring not only in the film industry, but also within smaller markets. Given the emergence of GoPros and the praise Apple and Samsung mobile devices have been given for their cameras, it was only a matter of time before people started shooting feature-length films on their mobile devices. We also featured an article a few months back that talked in-depth about a entire video shot on an iPhone 6 Plus.

Recently I ran across a Vimeo Channel curated by Philip Bloom and Vincet Laforet dedicated to mobile cinema. It features videos from all over the world that were shot exclusively on mobile devices. Here's one such video:

These videos have come a long way from what they used to be, which was the equivalent of later 80s and early 90s home movies show on VHS. Given the technology now in our pockets, filmmakers now have access to two key native features that were relatively out of reach three years ago.

Time-lapse

This feature is great and easy to use on most devices. The only downside to time-lapses is that you cannot set the intervals on most of mobile devices. For example, Apple uses what they call "dynamically selected intervals" which bases the interval time on how long the time-lapse was shot for. It does all of this in the post-processing internally on the device. 

Slo-mo

Most devices will allow for video to be shot at up 240fps at 720p. The great thing is that if you choose to shoot at 240fps you can tweak the speed in a variety of ways. Given the compression that most videos go through when posted to YouTube and Vimeo, the loss of detail is not completely lost.

Granted theses are just two features that most pro cameras and DSLRs have. However, considering that when the Canon 5D Mark II was released you needed to buy an external intervalometer and it could not shoot 60fps unless you hacked it says a lot about how much technology has advanced. Given these advancements it's no wonder we are finally seeing people using their mobile devices as full-fledged video cameras. 

I guess this begs the bigger question, are you shooting movies on the weekends?

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9 Comments

Louis Leblanc's picture

Don't let gear stop you from creating. At this point, I think at this point everyone caught on to the fact that the camera is probably one of the least important aspect of telling a story. From what I can see, most of the videos on that channel are travel videos. People using the tools they have at hand to tell a story, great.

With that said, if you're going to invest so much time and effort to make a video, why not get your proper gear out if you own it? That's my peeve. A lot of these projects seem to use a phone for no apparent reason other than bragging rights and the publicity that comes with it. Tangerine presumably had paid actors, writers, gaffers, food, editors, colorists, make-up artists, wardrobe... would 300$ for a Canon t2i or 2k$ for a gh4 really broke the bank? - I'd actually be surprised if the operator himself doesn't own a half-decent camera of his own...

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Louis, I could not agree with you more on the gear comment. Far too often everyone gets caught up in the gear vs the story they want to tell. I agree most of the videos on the channel are of the travel variety, but given that it shows that people are comfortable leaving their big gear at home and working exclusively with their mobile devices.

I do agree with your comments on Tangerine, it was revealed later that it was shot on an iPhone for that "shock and awe" effect. However, I think mobile devices are becoming the gateway for people to shoot video. The same way they still are with photography. Given that tech has come so far, I believe it's much easier for people to dabble in video than ever before.

Fletcher Clay's picture

Great article, its awesome what people can make with their phones. Im thinking about getting a iPhone 6 Plus just because of the camera, so I can still get great shots even if I don't have my DSLR with me. I would love to see an article on mobile photography and where it currently stands in the industry, especially with the increase of companies heading to instagramers to producer photos for them, which are largely iPhone only accounts.

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Fletcher I could not agree with you more and is something I will look into for a follow up post. I with you on the iPhone 6+ train. The footage I have seen from that has been stellar and given apps that you can download plus the grading available in programs like Da Vinci, FilmConvert, and soon Premiere it only looks better and better.

I took a recent trip down to Miami and shot the entire video on my iPhone, it was an eye opening experience for how to utilize my camera.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Since my phone (OnePlus One) if far less expensive than the EOS 6D, i'd might give it a try and produce a video of my own, using 4K resolution and some propper 13mpix timelapses using lapse it Pro.
My cellphone has become quite a tool, if it was watterproof i'd forget the idea of buying a GoPro HD 4 Black.
Maybe i should search for something like it....

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Paulo, go for it! Phones have become some of the go to cameras for folks. Check out this video by Sven D, https://vimeo.com/111996704

he shot the entire thing on his iPhone, and clearly used a waterproof case for it. I know Pelican Products makes some. They may be worth checking out!

Paulo Macedo's picture

Woah thanks man. I'll check it out. What scares me the most is color grading on H.264 video. Maybe shooting 4K and then make it 1080p will hide the artifacts created by Color Grading the shots.

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Potentially. I know when I shot one of my videos on my iPhone, 120FPS so it was 720, it looked alright after grading. Passible to most, but to a seasoned veteran they could spot it easily.

Paulo Macedo's picture

True! Bought the waterproof housing for my OnePlus One today, i'll make the most out of the summer season. Beaches here in Portugal are beautiful. 2:29:1 here i go!