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  • iPhone as a cinema camera

  • Scott Witthaus

    February 12, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    OK, the word “cinema” may be a bit much.

    Teaching the basics of production and post production this semester has been more challenging than last as our university has gone totally remote for the foreseeable future. That means students have no access to video labs, limited to no access to cameras, lights, tripods, mics. etc. So it’s lemons to lemonade time.

    One thing I am trying to do, while teaching visual storytelling, is show my students how that 4k camera in their pockets (cleverly disguised as a phone) can do some pretty good stuff and record nice images. We’ve been through the basics (landscape mode, AE/AF Lock, panning and tilting versus “twisting”) and I have also sent them the links to No Film School and the like, but I am looking for more resources that may be of some help. Any ideas on low to-no budget Covid-era production resources? I figured I would tap the brain-trust here to see what you all might know of. Thanks in advance.

  • Bob Zelin

    February 12, 2021 at 9:47 pm
  • Oliver Peters

    February 12, 2021 at 10:52 pm
  • Tim Wilson

    February 13, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Links aside, I’m curious what you folks THINK about what you read at those links.

    And I’m especially curious if any of you have experience using an iPhone as a cinema camera, so to speak, in your own productions.

  • Oliver Peters

    February 13, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    I’ve worked with productions where iPhone footage (and other smart phones) is part of the edit. That’s always tough, because the people using it often don’t know much about setting up cameras nor do they use any software outside of what the camera comes with.

    Naturally in this past year, where you end up cutting material that was recorded remotely at home, iPhones have been used more often in those scenarios. It works, because we are willing to excuse the look.

    It can be a great additional camera, just like a GoPro or a drone, but it would be hard to recommend it as the primary camera if there is a choice. Quite frankly the original video-enabled Canon 5D will give you better material to work with. And, if you are learning about cinematography, then that type of DSLR will also teach you more.

    If you really want to work with an iPhone in somewhat of a cinematic manner, you need extra software, filtering, and external hardware.

  • Oliver Peters

    February 13, 2021 at 10:49 pm

    OTOH, as a teaching tool, it will quickly show the deficiencies of not paying attention to the basics.

  • Scott Witthaus

    February 14, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks Oliver and Bob – these links will help out. Again, this is not the normal way I would teach. We have a bunch of Canon XC15’s, Sony FS100’s and Canon C100’s for students to learn on. They just can’t get to them easily or if at all right now. Enter the iPhone.

    I agree with Oliver. I think the iPhone is a nice tool as a “pick-up” camera for extra shots, shots that were missed, etc. And quite honestly, done correctly, the shots can look very nice.

    I cut a couple of spots and social videos for a client in Arkansas 11 months ago, all shot on iPhone 11’s. One was operated by a DP that has shot on pretty much everything over the past couple decades. He had Filmic Pro and a couple of lens adapters. Color correction was easy as it was monochrome. The end product was fine. Like you said, sometimes people are willing to excuse the look. And even mores for (vertical) social media material.

    I feel the iPhone 14 will be a camera, texting, email device and the “phone” part will become an option! 😉

  • Tim Wilson

    February 16, 2021 at 2:13 am

    @scottwitthaus2 wrote:

    I feel the iPhone 14 will be a camera, texting, email device and the “phone” part will become an option! 😉

    Isn’t it that way already? For every phone. Heck, phone cameras do more to drive my buying choices than pretty much anything else.

    At this point, unless it’s my wife or the people I work with, the only thing the PHONE part of my phone is good for is catching spam. Pro tip: when you move, keep your old number, and be guaranteed that every call from your “old” area code is spam. 🤣 It’s uncanny.

    There’s certainly a lot to be said for using phones to teach guerilla filmmaking, including to kids — but I also love the notion of using phones specifically to teach young filmmakers the hazards of not attending to the basics.

    I really am interested to hear more stories about people actually using iPhones in professional production, and hey, maybe it really is limited to the handful of links above. But I also appreciate being in a community that still respects the Ancient Ways — framing, lenses, exposure, motivated movement, and all that jazz.

  • Ann Bens

    February 16, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Did some filming on a Iphone 12 pro max and did not like the image quality at all.

    Beside I so dislike vertical video.

  • Bob Mowen

    February 16, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    I recently retired from my high school job teaching TV production. Covid was the reason, as my district insisted that I return to the classroom in person. Back in the Spring I had to scramble to continue to engage my students who were all learning remotely. The first thing was to eliminate one of my classroom rules: No shooting with phones (excluding newsworthy events witnessed by students who didn’t have a school issued camera at the time)

    My 2nd rule: The word “film” is the F word. Students were not allowed to use this inaccurate term. There’s no “film” inside a video camera I would say, while showing an actual reel of 16mm film, and holding it up to the light to show the individual frames.

    I told students they could shoot with their phones and to my delight I received many creative and well produced videos. Some were edited using in phone apps, and others used free editing programs such as iMovie, Resolve, Avid, and WeVideo

    Yes the videos sometimes contained shaky cam, vertical video, rule of thirds errors,etc. But I was happy just to receive submissions from a student body in an urban public school where engagement is always an issue. Music video was a very popular assignment. Also, I always had links to tutorial videos on my Google Classroom that the students were required to watch and then comment on.

    As a professional who worked in production and post for 26 years in nyc, I wasn’t the typical hs teacher with no real experience who is usually thrown into teaching video. I met many of these teachers in my district during PD (professional development) days. They were in awe of the output from my classes: Daily morning announcements, including weather and sports, shot in studio and edited the day before; plays, concerts, and other events shot with 4 cameras and edited using multicam; periodic newscasts with student produced packages, etc.

    Yes it’s tough to teach a hands on course without access to equipment, but with a bit of outside the box thinking I think a teacher can still keep their students engaged, interested, and participating. If I was still teaching this year I would be sending school announcements to students to record themselves speaking, and then edit into a weekly show.

    Good Luck

    Bob Mowen


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