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Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?

Posted on Tuesday April 8, 2014, 11:15 by Ben Kirby in Empire States
Are iPads And Smartphones Changing The Face Of Filmmaking?

When shooting Lawrence Of Arabia, one of the biggest challenges David Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young faced was operating the camera and the film. Sand, unsurprisingly got everywhere, the film was warped by the heat, and most of the rushes couldn’t even be viewed until the crew had returned to London. Thank God, then, for technology. Today, we live in a world where not only can a whole Empire videblogisode be filmed on a mobile phone, but so can an actual, proper, honest-to-goodness film.
 
Sally Potter’s Rage (2009) had the conceit of being filmed on a mobile (even if it was, in reality, a digital camera), and was even released simultaneously in the cinemas and on phones in the UK. Yet in 2014, this is seeming like less of a gimmick. In the last few years, we’ve had plenty of short films – like 2011’s ‘Framed’ – that were shot on a mobile, and 2014 sees the release of what may well be the first ever full length narrative film shot entirely on an iPhone: Uneasy Lies The Mind.
 
Admittedly, the phone didn’t quite do it alone. Director and cinematographer Ricky Fosheim didn’t shy away from enhancing his equipment, with the help of additional lenses and miniature camera stands. Adorably tiny gadgets like these helped give it a more professional look (and avoided making viewers queasy through shaky-cam overkill), as well as eliminating the need for enormous Steadicam rigs or lengthy tracks.
 
There’s a proud tradition of down and dirty filmmaking, from Robert Rodriguez undergoing medical testing to finance El Mariachi to Quentin Tarantino getting a boost from Harvey Keitel to get Reservoir Dogs made. But these former enfants terribles had no choice but to embrace physical film, and all the costs tied up with that. Nowadays, it’s different. Gareth Edwards directed and filmed Monsters himself, before famously constructing all the CGI single-handedly from his bedroom. As he reflected afterwards, today “you can buy a laptop that’s faster than the computers they made Jurassic Park on.”
 
With modern smartphones, you can do some rudimentary focusing with a few quick taps, as well as whipping out a retro-style zoom or a bit of fancy slow-motion running (especially useful if your film’s running a bit short). Add in a few additional apps, and you’re a one-man-or-woman crew: Filmic Pro lets your adjust the frame rate, Storyboard Composer lets you set up, err, storyboards, and Movie Slate offers the ability to log footage and make notes while you shoot. In fact, if you’re using a tablet like the iPad, it’s possible to film, edit and do the effects for a movie all on a device the size of a book.
 
If you’re planning on shooting with an iPad, there are even more possibilities available to make your film look and feel like the real deal. In particular, unless you’re planning on investing in an iPad Steadicam rig (which totally exist, by the way) you can use apps like Horizon, which uses your tablet’s in-built gyroscope to ensure you always record horizontal, steady videos. If you’re using an app like the iOS version of iMovie, you can edit your rushes on the same tablet you filmed them on, before sending them straight to your TV via AirPlay. And for the really lazy filmmakers out there, apps like Magisto do all the heavy lifting, automatically editing together a photo stream or video sequence for you (though hardly to BAFTA-winning effect).
 
With all these possibilities, imagine if Freddie Young had had a smartphone – admittedly, Lawrence Of Arabia turned out pretty well, but Young’s job would’ve been a lot easier if he could’ve seen what he was doing. Today, young filmmakers don’t need any funding to realise their vision, meaning they’re only benefiting from technology. Festivals like the iPhone Film Festival are promoting new talent, and even well known film dynasties are getting in on the action: Ridley Scott’s son Jake recently directed an Apple advert, just like his father, but this time using only an iPhone.
 
Still, is there a downside to all this? Will we be subjected to a fresh avalanche of found footage films in the near future? And can a smartphone ever compete with the real thing? It’s hard to imagine Terrence Malick shooting Tree Of Life on a Nexus, or Martin Scorsese lensing Goodfellas on a Galaxy 5. Cheap and cheerful, or the future of film? Tell us your thoughts below…

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