Samsung manufactured the first cell phone with a built-in camera in 2000. However, it wasn’t until Nokia released the N95 that camera phones started going mainstream and could record video. Even as smartphone camera trends took off, it was crazy to think that we could one day replicate professional style photography and filmmaking with a phone.
But by 2005, we saw the world’s first mobile film festival that celebrated smartphone filmmaking. The Pocket Film Festival was among the world’s first celebration of smartphone, and mobile filmmaking. Today there are dozens to choose from, including the Toronto Smart Film Festival and Cinephone. Sundance and other world-renown festivals also are welcoming smartphone shorts and features to their line-ups. And these aren’t films that look pretty good for being shot on a smartphone. Some are award-winning shorts that rival Hollywood filmmaking.
The following are some of the best shorts films made with accessible technology:
The Painter of Jalouzi
Among the world’s first smartphone documentaries is “The Painter of Jalouzi,” which was filmed in the slums of Haiti. The film follows the story of Duval, who is determined to paint the entire town to bring color to the area and transform the community. Filmed by the RYOT Foundation, the film was shot in 4k on an iPhone 6s Plus. The filmmakers relied on SLR lenses and adapters to capture the cinematic feel of a traditional film. The documentary also created a time-lapse sequence by using the smartphone’s 1080p feature.
“Tangerine” proved to be a contender at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 with a focus on transgender prostitutes. The Verge reported that it was the first movie at Sundance shot almost entirely on an Apple device. The filmmakers used a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio and used the “Filmic Pro” app to control the focus, aperture and temperature. The filmmakers said they were concerned about the handheld shakiness, so they used a Steadicam rig to keep it stable while filming through the streets of Los Angeles.
Life and Death of an iPhone
See the life of an actual iPhone from the factory to when its screen shatters and dies in this documentary. Fitting for its title, the “Life and Death of an iPhone” was shot entirely on an iPhone. Filmmaker Paul Trillo used the video editing app “Cameo” to shoot the film and capture every moment of a smartphone addict’s day-to-day life. The free iOS app uses clips from the camera roll and edits them together. The director also relied on the app’s video filters to create a cinematic look that is worthy of a film festival.
In a City
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s production company HitRecord and Samsung teamed up to shoot a film entirely on the Samsung NX1. Like many other shorts filmed on smartphones, “In a City” was shot in 4K Ultra HD. The NX1 features built-in HEVC Code (H.265) to compress videos without compromising the quality of the footage. Samsung features the film on its YouTube channel, which now offers 4K streams. However, according to Deadline.com, many viewers do not have a computer or screen that shows the video in the high-quality resolution.