Smartphones are incredibly useful for documentary filmmakers as they are excellent cameras for “cinema vérité”: an increasingly popular style characterised by its realistic capture of events, often as they are happening – a la improvisation. In fact, there is somewhat of a revolution happening in cinema with smartphones, as discussed in another one of our articles.
However, one major challenge faced by smartphone filmmakers is the limited hardware; how can you keep shooting with limited battery life and storage space? This may sound paradoxical, and it kind of is. If you need more battery life and storage then just use a ‘proper’ camera, right?That’s not always an option though, as those who choose smartphones often do so because of how cheap and lightweight they are – so they wouldn’t want a bigger camera anyway. Luckily, there are now plenty of accessories sold which resolve, as well as stuff to super-charge your smart-phone: rigs, apps, and lenses.
The Helium Core is one such rig; a chassis for customizing your iPhone camera rig, which when used alongside the Moondog Labs lenses, can produce a result that is visually appealing and costs only a fraction of a DSLR rig – especially if you follow our guide on how to get a cinematic look to your smartphone footage. Take a look at the results!
As far as fixing storage space and battery life, you can also follow these smartphone filmmaking tips to optimise your device:
- Use a Portable Charger
This is a necessary for everyone thinking of filming on a smartphone. You can quickly and easily pick up these, they usually charge via a USB port, and the high-end ones can actually store 5 or more of your phones full battery life.
- Clean out your Smartphone!
This is less obvious, but if you’re serious about filmmaking, then you’ll need to remove a lot of the baggage from your phone. Whether that be old iMessage conversations, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms which suck up your storage with their caches, games of course (apart from maybe Sudoku for your coffee break), and so many other unnecessary apps you have.
It is also a good idea to export your camera roll before each day of filming – not only freeing up space, but allowing you to better organise your dailies, and avoid the catastrophe of ever losing footage.
Nb. Also make sure your phone is updated! Sometimes there is just half GB updates sitting in your storage, taking up space, waiting to be installed.
- Bring your Laptop and External Hard Drive
This helps with both previous points, you can charge your phone off your laptop if necessary (although only as a last minute thing), and export your footage to it or your external harddrive.
If you use an android then luckily you will likely be able to use microSD cards to store everything in, although it is still advisable to bring something with TBs of memory – you don’t want to have lots of microSD cards everywhere, unorganised and easily lost.
- Record what you can ahead of time
If you are forced to record the interviews and B-roll all in one day, then you don’t always have to record the full interview. It will take up a lot of storage space on your phone.
Instead you can record just the audio of some of the interview (using the voice memo app most smartphones have) and edit your B-roll footage over it in post-production.