How Long Until A Feature Length Movie Is Filmed Entirely With Smartphones?

from the we're-getting-there dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the (very, very cool) publicity stunt pulled by the band Atomic Tom, where they performed one of their songs live on the NYC Subway using only iPhones as instruments. Of course, they also filmed the whole thing with iPhones as well and that's actually becoming more popular. Jeremy points us to a story at Mashable covering ten music videos filmed with the iPhone and most of them are pretty damn good. Here's one that was produced and edited by Emmy Award-winner Alen Petkovic for the band Vintage Trouble:
As you watch these videos, you realize that in a lot of cases, if you didn't know they were filmed with a smartphone, you'd probably never know. We've shown how filmmakers can make a pretty high quality film with a standard DSLR in the past but I'm beginning to wonder when we'll see the first released "feature film" filmed entirely with smartphones. I would imagine it can't be that far away.

And, if you think about it, this is pretty damn exciting. I remember when I was a kid, the idea of being able to make movies was a really cool idea but it involved saving up a ton of money to buy an expensive video camera or hoping that you could find some friends whose parents had a video camera (which they never really wanted us kids to borrow). But when you get a super high quality video camera included in the phone you already bought anyway... well, suddenly some pretty powerful things can be enabled.

At a time when the movie industry is whining and complaining about how there are supposedly going to be fewer movies made, I'd argue that they haven't paid much attention to how much the tools of film making have been getting ridiculously cheaper over the past couple of decades. And no (before the Hollywood apologists step in and falsely claim this), I'm not saying that just because you can take decent videos on an iPhone, it means that we don't need professionals or higher end cameras and such. This is just to point out the extreme end of the spectrum and to recognize that some of it is definitely filtering back to other parts of film making as well. A professional film shot on a tight budget might actually be able to do a few more things because they can go with cheaper cameras. I've been listening to Kevin Smith's podcasts about his upcoming film Red State, and at one point, they mentioned that in order to fit things in their budget, they ended up borrowing a Red Camera (which is a high quality, but relatively cheap camera) from a guy in exchange for letting him hang out on set. But imagine what more people could do if they could devote less of their budget to things like cameras and make existing budgets go further.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    " I'd argue that they haven't paid much attention to how much the tools of film making have been getting ridiculously cheaper over the past couple of decades."

    Much like music having 5 million bands on MySpace its only a matter of time before this trend happens on the Video side. If you know anything about economics and supply and demand you know this will cause the studios to start hemorrhaging money as competition grows.

     

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  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    How Long?

    -1 year, if memory serves. Give or take a few months. Of course, it was shot in bits and pieces in ye aulde .3gp video format (if you don't know, don't ask... just ick!) and edited together after the fact.

    Of course, it wasn't quite 'feature film' quality. But I believe you are correct, we should be seeing it soon.

     

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  3.  
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    Jay (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    Best part? As the younger people don't need the larger ones, it makes the market more competitive, and you just can't blame piracy if you can't employ the people using the technology in innovative ways.

     

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  4.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:47am

    DSLRs are one thing--they're freaking awesome and once there's a couple major issues with them they will flat-out become the standard for high-quality video capture. But the idea of any major production shot on an iPhone or any other auto-everything device gives me the willies.

     

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  5.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Re:

    And yeah, that video was pretty cool, but those extremely heavy filters were covering up shoddy imagers, lack of exposure/focus control, the kinds of things you'd get with a DSLR. Cool gimmick, but god I hope it doesn't amount to a feature.

     

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  6.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    Re:

    I could see it working, but in vary specific situations. Like cloverfield was shot with the shaky cam because it fit with the story, something like that could be done with an iPhone.

     

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  7.  
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    Freak, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re:

    My first thought on reading the article was "Blairwitch".

    So yes, definitely.

    But I think Mike's point was that camera technology is becoming cheaper and more common all the time, so perhaps it won't be that long before our 'does-everything device' is major motion-picture capable.

     

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  8.  
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    crazo, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    "But imagine what more people could do if they could devote less of their budget to things like cameras and make existing budgets go further."

    The cost of equipment rental is truly one of the cheapest parts of a feature film budget. Those budget line items have been dropping steadily ever since the first broadcast HD cameras became easily available 10 years ago. Paying people for their time is the thing that costs money...

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    As long as everyone is willing to accept the old shaky cam on the big screen, they are good to go. The current pixel resolution for higher end phone cameras / video recorders is good enough to pass the stink test.

    Just don't shoot another Cloverfield.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/249299

     

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  10.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re:

    Oh, definitely, I've actually written a paper on how ridiculous it is that Cloverfield was shot in HD on a 4000 dollar camera. Even so, I think that would work better as an episodic, maybe web-only release. Watching a feature like that in a theater would be a waste of the theater space and the jarring effect of watching video like that shown on a huge screen where you usually watch crisp, well-taken images would be a lot more than you might think.

     

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  11.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:10am

    Re: Re:

    Mikes post strikes a cord with me. I am filming a series of videos of possible solutions to the worlds energy problems on a Blackberry cell phone and a $100 USD 1080 video camera. If I wanted to do this 5 years ago it would have cost me $2,000 USD for the same quality video cameras, now its just some crap electronics I carry with me.

    "As the younger people don't need the larger ones, it makes the market more competitive, and you just can't blame piracy if you can't employ the people using the technology in innovative ways."

    The competition is what is going to kill the TV and movie studios not infringement. Currently we have a ton of video being done and uploaded to YouTube. Mostly its crap but two things have changed in the past month. The first is that YouTube is allowing longer videos. The second is that the next installment of "Pioneer One" has come out turning it into a series. Both are game changers.

     

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  12.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:10am

    Re:

    As long as everyone is willing to accept the old shaky cam on the big screen, they are good to go. The current pixel resolution for higher end phone cameras / video recorders is good enough to pass the stink test.

    These days are simultaneously the best and the most frustrating for videophiles.
    Just don't shoot another Cloverfield.

    Dear filmmakers and potentials: please, please PLEASE take this advice.

     

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  13.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, my first thought was Blair Witch too. I imagine there are already student films done this way and it'll just be a matter of time before one graduates (heh) from the festival circuit.

    (BTW, Kevin Frakin' Smith had to borrow a Red Cam? WTF?)

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Nice video.

    When you have the creativity really, it doesn't matter what the tools you use, but the results.

    I see some people focusing on hardware when they have no creativity whatsoever and think that somehow hardware will make them better, which I don't understand because if you can't draw it doesn't matter if you have a thousand dollar wacom you ain't gonna produce nothing on it that you couldn't do with a pencil.

    Same thing for video people keep forgetting that a camera is just a lens and a capture media in this case a photo-sensor all that other stuff can be corrected or modified post-production and with some many cameras people actually can do some very impressive stuff.

    Hugin and Photosynth(open source now people) can show what can be done with a lot of video. Heck people keep getting those old footage and doing cool things with them and they were horrible.

     

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  15.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re:

    "Paying people for their time is the thing that costs money..."

    Gotta love unions, guilds, and over paid actors. What does charlie sheene get paid for each episode of 2 and 1/2 men?

     

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  16.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Re:

    That would be great if resolution was the only thing that was needed to pass the 'stink test' as you say.

     

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  17.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps so, but I think the real point is that with such widespread access to these tools (even if they are limited tools) we are going to see tonnes of innovation. You can't rule out the possibility (I would argue the likelihood) that a group of clever young filmmakers will come up with an idea for an iPhone film that is so new and different nobody has anticipated it.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    “Beyond Belief” by The Turnback

    and

    “Cascades” by Flakjakt

    Are the 2 a like most, but not going to said anything about them until I see some open licenses.

     

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  19.  
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    Bob, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 10:10am

    Monkeys & iPhone

    So a thousand monkeys in a room with an iPhone would eventually produce a digital version of Cloverfield?

     

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  20.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    (BTW, Kevin Frakin' Smith had to borrow a Red Cam? WTF?)


    They had a *super tight* budget on this flick, and they had a Red Camera, but wanted another one for additional work, and couldn't fit it into the budget until this guy came along and let them borrow his. If you listen to the podcasts he's done, it's really fascinating how they did all sorts of things to stretch the budget to keep it within their investors' limits.

     

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  21.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Dammit. I already have a hard time keeping up with the 'casts I currently subscribe to.

     

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  22.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 10:35am

    Re: Monkeys & iPhone

    "So a thousand monkeys in a room with an iPhone would eventually produce a digital version of Cloverfield?"

    Two monkeys, 1 iPhone, 20 minutes and it would be a better movie to boot. Monkey pooh and all ...

     

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  23.  
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    thublihnk (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh definitely. If someone approached me with an iPhone project that I thought wasn't just some budget-dodging that should be shot on a higher quality DV cam, I would jump on it in a second. That's the first thing they teach you in film school. Don't shoot with the highest quality cam for the sake of shooting on the highest quality cam, choose a camera that will properly tell your story.

     

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  24.  
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    Ben (profile), Dec 20th, 2010 @ 10:50am

    Already been done, partially.....

     

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  25.  
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    Rekrul, Dec 20th, 2010 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re:

    Gotta love unions, guilds, and over paid actors. What does charlie sheene get paid for each episode of 2 and 1/2 men?

    Half the budget?

     

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  26.  
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    nasch (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    No need for shaky as long as there's an extra $14 in the budget.

    http://littlegreatideas.com/stabilizer/diy/

     

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  27.  
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    Glen Lerner (profile), Sep 3rd, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    This would open up my commercial contest to a much larger audience- I'd like to see that.

    ~Glen Lerner

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2012 @ 4:01pm

    Never

    Sorry, but the physics just don't work out, the resolution one can achieve is limited by the behavior of light.

     

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  29.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 11th, 2012 @ 8:05pm

    Re: Never

    Sorry, but the physics just don't work out, the resolution one can achieve is limited by the behavior of light.

    I don't think your response is germane. The question was how long will it be until a feature length movie is filmed entirely with smartphones. That question has nothing to do with resolution.

     

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  30.  
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    Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon, Jun 12th, 2012 @ 3:59pm

    With the new technology, I wouldn't be surprised

    CMOS cameras have come quite a ways since the first flip phones arrived. Other than zoom I think it could be done if they had a high enough resolution camera.

    - Las Vegas Plastic Surgery

     

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  31.  
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    John Bettle, Nov 5th, 2012 @ 4:30pm

    This Would Be Awesome

    Who knows? It sounds unlikely, but as a Las Vegas personal injury attorney, when I think about how quickly technology has grown and improved - even in the past ten years in my office - it definitely seems like we could have high-quality movies shot by a phone in 20 years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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