Techniques for Mobile Movie Making

Your job as a Movie Maker is to be true to your theme. When you are filming, you are always trying to get the best angle / light / background to help the viewer follow your story. When you edit there are lots of options for effects and transitions and the like. But dont do things just because you can, instead make every little detail work for the theme.

1 – Aspect Ratio & Framing

This just means the shape of your screen. The big screen in the cinema is much wider than it is tall and so are modern TV screens. So you need to shoot in a 16×9 ratio and make sure your orientation is correct. In other words hold your device on its side (landscape). 16×9 ratio is also known as wide screen.

Framing your shot is a vital part of movie making. It helps you direct the viewer’s focus. You have a wide screen ratio to fill. You dont need to have your subject in the middle all the time. The widescreen can help enrich the story by showing location or other dramatic details.

If you would like more camera options than the inbuilt controls get Filmic Pro. Available for iOS and Android, the app allows you to have much more creative control over the camera.

2 – Lighting

Lighting helps create an important sense of atmosphere and place. So be careful to consider how your subject is lit. You may have to experiment or change your angle.

The camera lenses in mobiles are very small and don’t do a very good job in high contrast situations. This means scenes that have areas of bright light and dark shadows. Cloudy days are often better for filming than sunny days. Early morning and late afternoon can have rich but softer light.

If you are in a shady area to escape bright sunlight be careful not to have bright light behind your subject. We call that ‘backlit’. The classic bad example is filming someone indoors with a bright window behind them. If you cant avoid some light behind move closer to your subject. In harsh sunlight you can add some reflected light to any dark area of a face with reflective material, for instance a white cardboard sheet or a professional fold up reflector.

In the opposite situation, most mobile cameras do not handle low light very well. So you might have to move your subject closer to light sources such as a window or a lamp, or near a bright wall. Look for the best situation.

Cameras dont like a mix of light sources such as fluorescant and sunlight. So try to have mainly one or the other.

3 – Sound

Your mobile camera can record high quality sound however it often needs some help. If you are using a built in microphone then you will mostly need to be closer to your subject. Otherwise the sound might be too soft or too influenced by the space you are in. So you may need to use an external microphone. When interviewing people a lapel microphene is very useful and can be hidden on the clothing. For picking up more distant sounds a shotgun style external mic might be the answer.

You may need more than one microphone and thus a small audio mixer. But for this festival the sound must be recorded on the mobile, whether it be the internal mic, or external mic or a mixer with more than one mic.

You will be able to add other sounds and music when you edit. You will need written permission to use other people’s music or audio.

There are many sound making and recording apps available for mobiles. With a little bit of experimenting you can create excellent mood music and sound scapes. And you are legally able to use your sound creations in your movies.

4 – Pan and Zoom and Lenses

Smartphones and Tablets dont usually have high quality zoom, so it is generally better to move closer to your subject.

Panning is an art in itself. Whilst it can reveal more about the locality or storyline, you may have to practice the pan a few times to get it to start and end where you want and be free of distracting bumps and wobbles.

Additional lenses can add more flexibility and drama to your framing. There are inexpensive lenses for extra close up detail, and wide angle so you can see more of the scene. There are special lenses such as the fisheye effect and a variey of filters as well. These can be purchased on ebay and usually clip onto your camera or attach magnetically. Many cost only a few dollars.

5 – Holding the Camera

Camera shake, unless it is intentional can easily ruin the look of your film. If hand holding your mobile, try and lock your elbows in and form a triangle with the top of your body and eye. Holding the camera straight out in front of yourself usually causes unsteadiness.

If there is a handy tree or post, or the bonnet of the car on a chair then steady yourself on that. Other wise invest in a tripod. The tripod should have special mounts for smartphones and tablets so they can clip into place. A small one for placing on a bonnet or a table is handy and also a standard height one for standing behind.

An old wheelchair or a skateboard can provide a smooth rail effect for moving and panning shots. Maybe you have an old car or truck toy lying around the house. Rest your hands on it and roll the camera along a table top. You don’t have to spend much money – just use your imagination.

6 – Editing

Movies for this festival must be filmed AND edited on a mobile device. There are a number of excellent video editing apps for phones and tablets that will help you put together an excellent movie. They vary in price and quality so check them out in the app store and check out reviews. iMovie for iOS and Power Director for Android are popular editors.

When you join shots together to make a scene, you can choose between different transitions. If the shots are closely related you probably need straight cuts to keep the pace going. If time is meant to pass between the scenes then a dissolve is a traditional and effective way of letting the viewer know. Fast paced wipes and slides can keep interest and surprise going, especially if there is a lot of detail to see.

Sometimes you might choose some sort of effect such as a colour change or distortion of the image. But only use it if it helps your story.

 

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