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How to make a short film with your smartphone

How to make a short film with your smartphone

With phones becoming smarter, the embedded cameras too are acquiring HD and Full HD recording capabilities along with the power needed to process these files.

The best moments in life often come unannounced and you want to store them somewhere more than just in your memory. Since you can't always carry a camera to capture the occasion, you will have to fall back on that often forgotten, often unappreciated, tiny pin hole, gazing at the world from the back of the phone.

With phones becoming smarter, the embedded cameras too are acquiring HD and Full HD recording capabilities along with the power needed to process these files. From creating a short movie to reporting an important event, today's smartphones can actually come close to the video capturing capabilities of a camcorder. But while all phones can record videos, not everyone can capture them noise-free. Fortunately for us, companies like Apple and Nokia are constantly working on improving the camera optics by using bigger sensors that can capture more light.

A perfect example of what phone cameras can do today is the much-acclaimed stop motion video Dot, shot by Aardman Animations on the Nokia N8 - a phone which can capture video only at 720p resolution. While creative teams use high-end equipment not easily accessible to many, there are some tools and techniques that can help you make great videos without burning a hole in your denim pockets.

"There are some simple things to follow," begins Gaurav Raturi, filmmaker and co-founder of Filmbooth, a collective on short films, "storyboarding the idea and making sure you have the right footage to edit and come up with the final film. Pre-planning should be perfect as then the whole process of shooting on location becomes a simple process."

Let us look at other things that will help you in becoming an auteur.

1. Homework: Watch and study some videos captured using mobile phones. Once you have finalised the location, see which time of the day offers the best light for your shoot. showcases some of the best videos shot by amateurs and professionals. Study how the subject has been placed for the best effect. The short movie Apple of My Eye on Vimeo is a perfect example of how professional videos can be captured using a smartphone. This video has been captured using the Apple iPhone 4.

2. Storyboard: All great filmmakers think of a storyboard first. There is no thumb rule here, but shooting with a phone has its limitations and one should stick to the work at hand and not get carried away by the surroundings.

Buying a high capacity camera phone is no rocket science. Here's a look at the best options in the market. Independent filmmaker Sakshi Bhatia during her travels to European countries noticed many fellow filmmakers and directors using the latest iPhones to shoot their short films. In her own words, "The iPhone 4 comes very close to the Canon 5D when it concerns video capturing capabilities, if one can live with a slightly low depth of field."

1. APPLE IPHONE 4S: The Apple iPhone 4S is the best camera phone around for capturing high quality images and videos.It can be used for capturing stunning Full HD videos at 1080p resolution at 30frames per second. Apple has used an advanced backside illumination sensor and a large aperture for capturing more light. There is also an improved auto white balance that makes colours more accurate and reduces noise, therefore, helping in taking good videos even in low light situations.

The recently announced smartphone from Nokia claims to offer the best imaging and video experience. The phone can capture Full HD videos at 1080p resolution with up to 4x lossless zoom. With voice recording being the biggest concern, Nokia has worked on combining a unique digital microphone with algorithms that records distortion-free audio at levels of up to 140dB. The company claims the stunning TV ad of the 808 PureView has actually been shot using the phone.

3. HTC ONE X: This flagship Android smartphone from HTC captures quality 1080p videos and is capable of capturing good videos in low light conditions as well. The One X also has an F2.0 aperture and 28mm lens. Video stabilisation removes shaky motion and can also capture slow motion videos neatly. It also let's one capture a photo while capturing video. The company also brings out a tripod built especially for the smartphone.

4. SONY XPERIA S:  Sony has always been good with cameras and camera optics in smartphones. Its latest smartphone in town is the Xperia S boasting a 12.1 MP camera with a CMOS sensor. It allows Full HD video capture at 1080p resolution and has a f2.4 aperture. It has a a fairly large internal storage of of 32 GB, which accommodates the videos in the 3GPP format.
3. Airplane Mode: Make sure you either remove the SIM card or turn on the airplane mode of your phone. You do not want an incoming call in the middle of a shoot.

4. Orientation: Never use a smartphone in portrait mode. Always shoot in the horizontal mode as it not only gives you a better grip on the device but also aligns the video orientation for viewing on the PC or TV. In vertical mode, the video has to be rotated while editing, which leaves some black bars on the side, popularly known as pillar boxing.

5. Ambience and lighting: Proper lighting is vital for any video shoot. That is why experts say you should always shoot in bright light. But this doesn't mean you can only shooting around noon when the contrast can be harsh. If this is unavoidable, shoot from an elevated angle so that the sky is mostly out of the frame. Alternatively, you can choose to shoot on a cloudy day; under shade; or even during early morning or evening hours. The sensors used in camera phones are not able to capture drastic variations in light in a single frame. While you can manage good shots outdoors, shooting indoors is trickier, as both low light and high light can be a bit of a spoiler. Gaurav Sabharwal, Executive Director, Prem Studio, suggests that without burning too much money, you can use black cutters (sheet or piece of cloth) to avoid reflections off an object. Similarly, while shooting outdoors, especially in bright light, these white sheets/cloth can be used as diffusers to control the lighting. They are an easy option for home moviemakers.

6. Distance to the object: Zooming in on your subject using the digital zoom on the phone is a big NO if you want to shoot quality video. Explains Gaurav Sabharwal: "Though we have video stabilisation in smartphones, they are not that effective when you are zooming in on an object. Even a slight vibration can leave the video all shaky and blurred. Instead, you should move closer to the subject, but slowly."

7. Basic editing: Once the footage has been captured, edit it using iMovies if you have a Mac OS. Else you can use the Windows Live Movie Maker. There are also some professional software that can be used-like FCP or Adobe Premier, which may set you back by a few thousand bucks. If you still feel like something's missing, there are a few accessories that will ensure professional quality videos.

You will need more than your phone cover to shoot high-end video

1. TRIPOD AND SLIDERS: Holding a small and lightweight smartphone still can be tricky. To avoid blurs and shaky videos, place the phone on a tripod. You can easily find tripods in the market that are specially designed for phones.

Mobislyder: Meant for both Android and iPhones, this is the among the world's first portable sliders. This ultraportable compact slider holds the phone tightly and allows one to create captivating cinematic videos. $135

Grif by Studio Neat: Those who have a tripod and still can't mount the iPhone 4 should consider getting a Grif. This is a simple tripod mount made of rubberised plastic that can also be used as a tablet top stand for the phone. $20

Gorilla Mobile from Joby:
Gorillapods from Joby are among the most flexible tripods available in the market. The company has introduced a wide range of Gorilla Mobile tripods for iPhone and regular handheld devices that allow you to attach a camera phone almost anywhere. $14.95

2. AUDIO: Unless you are a The Artist fan and want to shoot a silent film, embedded microphones in the smartphones will do you no good. "Using a clip-on microphone that can be attached to the actors' clothes will mostly do the trick," says Aneesh Bhasin, an independent photographer who used his iPhone 4 to create some time-lapse videos.

3. BATTERY: Another issue that crops up while shooting videos is the battery. Always ensure that the phone has a full charge or carry a portable charger that you can plug in on the go to power-up your smartphone.

4. STORAGE: HD videos consume a lot of space. So ensure you have enough memory in your smartphone. If short on memory, stop shooting and transfer the videos to the laptop.

5. SD CARD READER: We all have struggled a little while transferring data from the iPhone. Now, the camera connector kit for iOS, priced at Rs 1,790 takes away this pain, as you can simply plug and connect the iPhone to the card reader and your iPhone is a tamed animal, transferring data at simple commands.

6. FLASH LIGHT: An additional flash for the phone is easily available in the market. Priced between $10 and $50, you can choose the flash light suited to your requirements. iFlash LED flash can be either attached at the bottom of the iPhone or individually used in a torch mode. Price: $13

7. APPS: If your are unhappy with the limited features and video options in your smartphone, consider downloading movie making apps. iPhone users can download FiLMic Pro from Cinegenix for just $3.99. It will offer three separate shooting modes, four selectable resolutions, 26 different variable frame rates, audio monitoring levels, stereo recording support and much more.

8. ADDITIONAL LENSES: Looking to capture videos beyond the boundaries of the digital zoom in your camera? Don't worry; here are a few options for detachable lenses for your smartphones.

OWLE Bubo: This is a solid aluminium iPhone camera mount that not only stabilises the grip but also adds an interchangeable 37mm wide angle macro lens, four tripod mount points, a microphone and an accessory mount. Available for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPod Touch, prices start $160.

Kogeto Dot: A snap-on accessory that can be used for capturing 360 degree panoramic video from iPhone 4/4S. This accessory is accompanied by a free application downloadable from iTunes App Store. The Dot also comes in black, green, pink and red colour. Price: $79

Photojojo lens: Available for iPhone, Android and other phones, Photojojo offers three special lenses including a fisheye, macro/wide angle and a 2x telephoto lens. These use magnetic rings to match with the camera's built-in lens but has to be handled with care. Price: $49

Courtesy: Gadgets and Gizmos

Published on: Jun 06, 2012, 12:00 AM IST
Posted by: Surajit Dasgupta, Jun 06, 2012, 12:00 AM IST