For the first time ever, Forbes Magazine held a short film festival aimed at talented under 30s, the results of which were announced earlier in the month. Whilst this, in and of itself, is not particularly noteworthy, their decision to include a ‘Shot on a Cellphone’ category was, bringing to the fore once more just how important emerging portable technologies can be to the filmmaker on a budget.  The category was won by Kosovo’s Kushtrim Aslanni, 26, whose film was called a “touching portrait of a child’s fight with litter illustrated one microscopic instance of a global issue.” Small scale films such as this, involving just one actor and one concept, are ideal for iPad and iPhone filmmaking and a great place for filmmakers on a budget to start developing new stories.

Learn About Film best sums up the appeal of iPad and iPhone film production, when they wrote: “If you own an iPhone, you’ve always got a small, easy-to-use camera in your pocket. It’s great for filming where other cameras would attract too much attention. Video quality can be excellent, so they’re increasingly being used for news and documentary. People have even shot feature films with them.”

Understanding the Limitations

Of course, the filming potential and range of the iPhone or iPad is never going to be as great as the one you could achieve by hiring or purchasing expensive specialist camera equipment. They are certainly limitations to their camera technologies that filmmakers should be aware of, including the ‘noisy’ images they produce in low light, the lack of zoom and perhaps most difficult, the severe limitations of its microphone when challenged with background noise or adverse weather conditions (such as wind or rain). However the challenge of incorporating these restrictions and limitations into your story development and film planning could actually help you to focus your film and sharpen its development. When you understand the limitations of filming on an iPad or iPhone, you can actually make surprisingly good and sharp quality films on them. And for filmmakers with low or no budget, the financial benefits of choosing to film on a tablet or phone that you already own should by far outweigh the limitations you have to wrestle as a result.

Post Production Potential

Whilst some filmmakers may be turned off by the idea of filming using iPhone/iPad camera technologies, there is no denying that these devices, particularly the iPad are ideal for editing, particularly if you are editing as a group, because of their larger screen sizes. iPads are often generally cheaper to buy and cheaper to protect and insure than their mobile phone counterparts, making them a more affordable option for filmmakers that are counting every penny, and they are also easier to handhold and work with. The post production potential of the iPad makes it a device that every budget film maker should consider having in their armoury. Airdrop makes it easy to film your sequence on a mobile phone, or on a series of mobile phones if you wish to work with several different angles, and then transfer them to one iPad for fast editing and viewing.

A Strong Precedent

Perhaps the most famous film made entirely using mobile phone or tablet technologies is Tangerine, which was shot entirely on three iPhone 5S handsets. When premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2015, the film was picked for distribution by Magnolia Pictures, cementing its success.  Sean Baker, the director of the film, is very open about the fact the decision to film using iPhone technology was based on budgetary constraints, and in an interview with Mac World Magazine he shares that he believes any amateur filmmaker could achieve the same results using their own phone or tablet technology. He shared: “I think [any amateur filmakercould achieve the look of Tangerine with their iPhone]. I’m not going to say I did anything special. There were very basic steps we took that can be achieved by anybody. We did use professional sound. Young filmmakers interested in doing this, don’t think you can get away with using recorded sound on the iPhone. You have to record it separately.” This should provide motivation and inspiration for young filmmakers on a budget: you don’t need to spend money that you don’t have on expensive equipment to make a great film.