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The promise of shooting a movie on your iPhone is often irresistible for filmmakers. Film is a very capital intensive art form, leaving countless great story ideas unmade due to financial or logistical hurdles. So any time a barrier to entry is removed and the medium finds itself a little more democratized, movie lovers’ eyes get a little wider and we all start to plan our masterpieces. The idea that the phone you already carry in your pocket can be used to pursue your Hollywood dreams is exhilirating. And in many ways, it’s also true! Stories like Sean Baker shooting “Tangerine” on his iPhone and taking it to Sundance prove that you are only limited by your creativity and talent.
An iPhone can be a great foundation for a film kit, but it can’t do the job on its own. (To be fair, neither could a RED Dragon). There’s a lot of extra gear required, from lenses and microphones to tripods and stabilizers. And a lot of this equipment needs to be designed specifically for use with mobile phones, so you likely can’t use any of your camera accessories. Plus, relying heavily on phones requires some tools that would probably never cross your mind on a conventional film shoot, like wireless chargers.
That said, shooting a film on an iPhone is still much cheaper than buying a camera and the accompanying equipment. If you’re looking to hone your craft on a low budget, this is a great path to take. And mobile filmmaking accessories don’t need to cost a fortune! Spending less than $100 can make the difference between your footage looking cinematic or resembling a video your dad took at a birthday party. To prove our point, we’ve rounded up eight of the most useful tools for iPhone filmmakers. Even if some of these things don’t cross your mind in pre-production, you’ll be grateful to have them on set. IndieWire covered the best budget sound equipment last week, and many of those tools can be used to record audio for an iPhone film. But if you’re looking for tools that actually attach to your phone to turn it into a film camera, keep reading. Whether you’re looking to keep your iPhone stable, expand its focal range, or keep it charged, this list has you covered.
This no-frills tripod is great for any amateur filmmaker looking for a cheap way to keep their iPhone steady. It’s a reliable tripod that gets the job done, which should be appealing to anyone who is trying to keep their budget to a minimum. Which, if you’re shooting on an iPhone, is probably you.
If you want to upgrade your iPhone tripod to something a little more professional, look no further than the Joby GripTight Pro TelePod. It’s stronger, more durable, and will almost certainly hold up over years of serious film shoots. It features three modes, and can be used as a full sized tripod for filmmaking, a smaller phone stand for vlogging, or a selfie stick. And though its large size can lend some heft and legitimacy to your mobile film shoot, the tripod is extremely compact and can easily be thrown into your briefcase.
Most smartphones have very impressive cameras these days, but filmmakers still need to supplement the lenses to achieve cinematic quality images. This 18mm lens from Moment is a fantastic wide-angle lens that can be mounted on the outside of your phone to expand its focal range. If you are looking to capture landscapes that are significantly larger than what fits in your iPhone’s camera frame, you’ll want this one in your kit. And since almost every movie features wide shots, it’s definitely a lens that you’ll use over and over.
While the iPhone is capable of great things in the hands of a seasoned artist, there is still a clear difference between the aspect ratio you see at the movie theater and what comes from your phone’s camera app. That’s where an anamorphic lens comes in handy, distorting your footage into a widescreen aspect ratio that matches your favorite films. Like the Moment 18mm, this anamorphic lens from Kase can also be mounted externally on your phone. It allows your small phone to shoot in the proper cinematic aspect ratios, so anyone who wants their iPhone films to show on the big screen should pick this up. In the grand scheme of things, $134.95 is a small price to pay to ensure your film can be presented at Sundance!
Tripods are great, but if you plan on shooting any handheld footage on your iPhone, a stabilizer is a necessity. This one is made by DJI, best known for their camera drones, so they know a thing or two about hardware that stays stable while in motion. The three-axis, motorized gimbal keeps your phone from shaking, resulting in cinematic images that look like you shot them on something much more expensive. iPhones are obviously lighter than most cameras, so it doesn’t require as much hardware to stabilize them. That means the Mobile 3 takes up less space than other stabilizers on the market, making your equipment bag a little bit lighter.
You can’t shoot a movie on a dead phone, so make sure you have a good power source. This MagSafe wireless charger from Apple is cheap, cool to look at, and easy to use. You might use it to charge the phone you’re using as a camera, and then everyone else on set can set their phones on it all day long. It’s the kind of small purchase that will make everyone’s lives on set just a little easier. And on the days you’re not filming, you certainly won’t regret having one around the house or office.
Filmmakers rarely limit themselves to doing one thing at a time. Even while crafting that perfect shot, you’re likely thinking about how much time you have at the location, or when the next actor will show up, or any other number of logistical concerns. Which means that odds are good you’ll need to charge more than one device. This wireless charger from Logitech is up for the challenge. It can handle an iPhone, a smart watch, and AirPods at the same time. So no matter where the shoot takes you, you can be ready. Grab one now while it’s on sale for $30 off!
When you’re focused on directing, the last thing you want to be doing is fumbling with your gear. So filmmakers looking to release their phone’s full cinematic potential might want to consider building a rig. This kit from DREAMGRIP can help you with that. Attaching your phone (or two of them, if that’s your thing) to this durable rectangular frame gives you a lot more real estate for bells and whistles. You can add lenses, microphones, battery packs, or even lights, giving you a more complete filmmaking experience. It gives you something you can hold in your hand that feels almost as tangible as a camera.