5 Tips for Better iPhone Movie-Making

Film: London BMX Race(shot on iPhone 7) from Declan Taaffe on Vimeo.

Do you like this short 4K movie about two BMX riders racing through London? It was shot by Declan Taffe and friends entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus using only the native lenses.

I spoke with Declan and he shared a few tips he’d picked up while working on the project that he thought might help other aspiring iPhone movie makers.

Filmic Pro

“We used the Filmic pro app to control frame rate. Changing the frame rate from 30fps to around 24fps will make all the difference in achieving a more filmic image. The app will also allow you to lock the exposure and shoot at higher bit rate which is going to give you a much better image.”

Movement problems

“The iPhone produces a fantastic picture but you do need to watch out for rolling shutter if you are moving the phone rapidly while shooting,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of videos talking about how easy it is to clip your phone to a car, bike etc,” he explained. “That’s true but if you’re not careful you will end up with a serious rolling shutter problem. We tried mounting the phones on the bikes but even the minor shaking from the bikes created unusable, jelly images.”

Hacking the grips

“We used cheap handlebar style grips to mount the iPhones on. I used a spring clamp from a selfie stick to hold the phone then screwed that into the handlebar mount. The handlebar mounts can be picked up for next to nothing and are surprisingly stable. This makes a huge difference in stability compared to holding the phone in your hands.”

Get a mic

The one issue major issue I didn’t have to deal with on this film was recording dialogue. Which is good because the phone’s microphone is nowhere near good enough. It’s fine for guide track but that’s all. I recorded the sounds of the bikes and general location noise separately on a sound recorder and mixed them in post.

Low light challenges

The phone doesn’t do well in low light. Even when the morning light was a little dim we got noise in the image which needed to be cleaned up afterwards in postproduction. The bright parts of the image do tend to lose detail if you push them too hard although it handles the darker parts better.

Also, when filming you are mostly stuck with a wide depth of field (which is a look we tend to associate with video as opposed to the shallow depth of field we tend to associate with a “filmic” look) and the camera’s ability to pull focus (change from one area in focus to another) is still very limited (excuse me if I’m over explaining terms).

Why?

“I decided I was going to film something that weekend. It would all have to be shot on my iphone only. No renting gear, if I couldn’t borrow it or cobble it together in my living room, we weren’t using it. We would find out whatever limits the iPhone had and find ways to work around them.” The Google Maps sequences were added later to the film.

Do you have any other useful tips for iPhone movie makers? Please share them in comments below.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Ronald Quint says:

    Patience and composition. I struggle with myself, to put aside my b.s., to get a shot right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.