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The barrier for entry into filmmaking is lower than it’s ever been thanks to the technology available in your pocket: in 2020, you can make movies using just your iPhone and a few key accessories. And iPhone cinematography isn’t relegated to indie directors — Steven Soderbergh shot his films “Unsane” and “High Flying Bird” on an iPhone and even told IndieWire in 2018 that he would likely keep doing it.
“I think this is the future,” he said at Sundance that year. “Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.”
Thanks to the iPhone’s ability to shoot 4K ultra HD footage, it’s a game-changer for the director, who has also said he’s done with major studio films.
“I’d have to have a pretty good reason not to be thinking about [shooting on iPhones] first” as he moves forward, he said. “There’s a philosophical obstacle a lot of people have about the size of the capture device. I don’t have that problem. I look at this as potentially one of the most liberating experiences that I’ve ever had as a filmmaker, and that I continue having. …This is, to me, a new chapter.”
Want to channel your inner Soderbergh? We’ve rounded up a few gear choices below that will help make your indie film or documentary or whatever you’re planning to shoot look as polished and professional as possible. Check out our choices below.
You likely already have an iPhone, but if not your best bet is the most recent release. The iPhone makes our list of the most affordable cameras for filmmakers, thanks to its ability to record in high-quality formats (from 720p HD at 30 fps up to 4K at 60 fps, depending on the model of your device) and its pro-level telephoto lenses.
Price: $14.99 in the app store
You’ll also want an app that can capture your high-quality footage — Filmic Pro is unsurpassed, used by Sean Baker on “The Florida Project” and “Tangerine,” the Netflix pandemic-produced anthology series “Social Distance,” and many a music video (including Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love”). Baker’s groundbreaking work on “Tangerine,” which was shot with three iPhone 5s smartphones, has earned him and the film a spot in the upcoming Academy Museum — it officially acquired one of the iPhones Baker and cinematographer Radium Cheung used to film the groundbreaking 2015 indie hit. And along with the use of Filmic Pro to better control the focus and aperture of the iPhone camera, Baker and Cheung used an anamorphic adapter to shoot in widescreen and a Steadicam to capture tracking shots.
Now that you have your camera sorted, you’re going to need a portable power situation if you want to film for a long duration. Grab yourself a couple of these solar power banks to make sure you’re covered. They’re rain-, dirt-, and shock-resistant, and compatible with all smartphones, tablets, and other USB devices. The attached carabiner makes them eminently portable, and the dual USB means you can easily charge two smartphones simultaneously or a tablet at full speed. (The primary way to charge is via USB, but the solar is a nice backup.)
More than 400 users give this Anamorphic lens attachment for phone cameras a 4.5-star rating. Using a Moment case (just $39.99 on Amazon) or an m-series lens mount ($29.99 on Amazon), attach this lens to your iPhone for a wide-screen (1.33x and 2:40:1 aspect ratio) look on your phone camera. It comes with a lifetime warranty and 100% satisfaction guarantee along with your lens, lens cap, and microfiber carrying bag.
Amazon’s choice for “iPhone lens kit,” this package comes with a 0.36X & 0.63X wide angle lens, a 20X & 15X macro lens, a telephoto zoom lens, a 198° fisheye lens, a CPL filter lens, starburst lens, and a kaleidoscope lens for all of your lens needs. The clip-on design means you don’t need an additional mount, and the carrying case means you can keep them safe and dust-free when not in use.
You’ve got the visuals taken care of, now it’s time for the audio. This wireless microphone system has a regular 1/4″ plug that works with mixers, PA speakers, and amplifiers, but can be converted to use with your iPhone using a lightning/type-c adapter cable (not included). The package includes three adapters (two TRS adapters and one TRRS adapter), three mics (a headset mic, a handheld mic, and a cavalier lapel mic), a multi-functional tripod, a windproof fur shield, and a charging cable. These mics can transmit up to 300 feet without feedback or distortion as long as there are no obstacles in the way (less if so).
For a seamless experience with your iPhone, these clip-on mics have a 30-foot range and pair directly to your phone or tablet. The rechargeable battery lasts for up to nine hours of usage, and can be paired with an external battery pack.
Depending on what you’re looking for in terms of stability and camera placement, we have a few different tripod and rig recommendations. This 51″ tripod is a good all-purpose tool, and it comes with a built-in cell phone mount holder and a smartphone Bluetooth remote. It supports smartphones and small cameras up to 2.2 pounds, is easily folded to 16″ for transport, can adjust from 16″ to 50″ in seconds for fast setup, and has separate lock controls for smooth panning, tilting, and movement from horizontal to vertical camera orientation.
This rig is 100% compatible with all new smartphones and made with professionals in mind — there’s room for external lights, microphones, monitors, and more. It’s a modular system so there are plenty of options for custom setups depending on your task, and is compatible with most other photo/video extensions and supports (including dollies, moving platforms, jibs, pan-stabilizers, grips, and more). It’s got a detachable 37-17mm threaded adapter to provide compatibility with a wide range of eternal lenses (17 and 37mm thread), optical accessories including DoF adapters (37mm thread), filters and hoods (52 and 37mm thread).
If you want stability on the go, this rig comes with three standard shoe mounts and two universal 1/4″-20 threads which means you can mount LED lights and mics alongside your smartphone.
Speaking of lights, this LED ring light comes with its own tripod and three different color lighting modes: warm light (3000K), day light (4500K), and cool white (6000K). It can be powered via USB or AC/DC adapter, and the tripod extends from 15.7″ to 50″.
This flexible option is perfect if you’re on the go — it’s got a high-grade metal ball joint to support even the heaviest phone, and the wireless remote control helps with remote shots. You can use with iPhones and Samsung phones, or, with the help of an adapter, digital cameras and GoPros.
Okay, so you’ve shot your footage — but you’re going to need somewhere to store it. This Rugged drive uses a USB C connection (and comes with a USB 3.0 adapter) for quick file transfer, backups, and image browsing — and it’s drop-, crush-, and rain-resistant. Plus, it comes with a two-year limited warranty, rescue data recovery services, and a complimentary one-month membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Plan.