Famed Korean Director Shoots Movie With Just iPhones

from the getting-closer... dept

Just last month, we wondered how long it would be until a feature-length film was shot solely on a smartphone. We’re not quite there yet, but Ross Pruden points us to the news that famed South Korean director Park Chan-wook, who did the movie Oldboy, has shot a new film entirely with iPhones. Of course, I’m not sure it really qualifies as a “full-length” film, since it’s only half an hour. But we’re getting there. I would imagine it won’t be long until we get a real feature-length film filmed entirely with smartphones. While it still may feel gimmicky at this point, think of just how empowering that can be to filmmakers. In the past, just the idea of making a film represented too huge a hurdle for most people. But these days, a huge percentage of people now carry one of the key tools in their pockets every single day. That’s a tremendously disruptive technological shift.

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Comments on “Famed Korean Director Shoots Movie With Just iPhones”

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PaulT (profile) says:

I read this yesterday, and went from “that sounds like a bad idea” to “Chan-Wook Park? Really? Might be interesting”, to looking forlornly at my iPhone 4 and wondering why I’m wasting my life…

Of course, some of the industry sycophants here will probably dismiss this movie as it’s not a $250 million blockbuster of the kind they insist are necessary. Assuming this gets proper distribution (likely given that’s it’s Park), it’s bound to be a financial success based on the novelty and name alone. If it’s creatively successful as well, it will be very interesting to see what else becomes inspired by this…

Anonymous Coward says:

I think this is more a threat to would-be Hollywood-‘knighted’ Independent Film-makers who parade about at the Sunddance festival than to film-making as a whole.

The power of a motion camera in your hand is no substitute for a skilled cameraman who understands lighting, aperture, framing and movement as well as the expertise to use a fully-equipped motion film camera. Shooting a movie with Iphones – at best – will pose a threat to shaky-cam genres inspired by films like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ or ‘Paranormal’ – and yes, perhaps you might see a few cult dramas or horror films…but a disruptive shift?? Nope.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

For what? A generation to stop drinking redbull and coffee long enough to get a stable hand? For someone to some up with a multi thousand dollar “Iphone steadycam” rig that will allow you to shoot more stable video?

It’s just silly. In times when reasonable HD camcorders are cheap as chips, using an Iphone is one of those “film maker challenges” that usually just wastes time. If your movie idea is great, and the actors are willing, isn’t a couple of dollars for the right equipment sort of a the right place to start?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It wasn’t that long ago when people thought someone carrying a camera in your pocket that has the resolution of film was nuts. How long until technology advances enough to have stabilizing tech built in? Hell, they have software now that can take a shaky video and fix it. How long until someone just builds it into the camera.

The iPhone itself will not change the movie industry, but it is a sign post on the path.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Okay, clearly you are trying to be thick.


Please try to get that through your skull. Then, if you can manage that, try to understand that all we are saying is it’s going to be interesting to see what happens as this sort of technology gets cheaper and more ubiquitous.

The simple fact is, a hell of a lot more people have decent video equipment in their pocket than have had it at all at any other time in history. If you are going to stand here and insist that that’s meaningless and will have no impact on the world of film, it tells me you are so caught up in your own preferences that you haven’t even stopped to think about this objectively for five minutes.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wow, stereotypes and ignorance again from another AC?

“For what? A generation to stop drinking redbull and coffee long enough to get a stable hand?”

Because apparently flat surfaces and iPhone holders are yet to be invented, and everybody under the age of 30 looks like they have Parkinson’s when handling a camera…

“For someone to some up with a multi thousand dollar “Iphone steadycam” rig that will allow you to shoot more stable video?”

When he couldn’t afford to even rent a standard Steadicam rig while shooting The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi came up with a number of solutions that worked just as well, if not better, utilising wheelbarrows and planks of wood. The film became one of the most influential horror movies of the 80s. Just because you’re not imaginative enough to think outside of the box when faced with financial pressures, that doesn’t mean others won’t be.

“It’s just silly. In times when reasonable HD camcorders are cheap as chips, using an Iphone is one of those “film maker challenges” that usually just wastes time.”

Some people said the same about digital, colour, sound and other innovations. Besides, even “cheap as chips” DV cameras can still cost a few thousand dollars, while many wannabe filmmakers have iPhones or their equivalent already in their pocket. Why shouldn’t they try something new with what they have?

“If your movie idea is great, and the actors are willing, isn’t a couple of dollars for the right equipment sort of a the right place to start?”

For some, yes. Yet, some of the most influential filmmakers in history have started by using cheap, knock-off equipment and learning their craft from outside of the established norm.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

First of all, where’s your filmography? Park Chan-Wook has at least 4 excellent movies and a couple of decent ones under his belt. Hardly a posturing fanboy, unless you have other cites and a similar record to perhaps compare to?

Whatever, this is an experiment with new technology. HD camcorders are nothing new, but I’d be willing to bet that you’d dismiss any movie shot on a camera with lower specs than a RED camera to be a gimmick, right? Those hardly cost a few hundred.

If it proves to be successful, this could easily lead to a bunch of people with smartphones (not necessarily the iPhone) getting together to experiment in similar ways without having to blow hundreds or thousands of dollars on new equipment. It might be a spark for new experimental filmmakers to create new art with the equipment they happen to have in their pocket every day. I fail to see the problem here.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Wow you really don’t get it.

Yes, those who want to go buy an HD camcorder can do so. The point is that now everyone, even those who never thought of it, have that camcorder in their pocket.

Think of that! Anyone who even has an inkling, once in their life, to play with film can pull the tool out of their pocket and give it a whirl. Yes, there is absolutely a whole world of skills and knowledge standing between them and becoming a true expert – but with potentially millions of people engaging in a form of creativity they haven’t had access to before, of COURSE you are going to get disruption!

How do you know that the next Scorcese isn’t a 13-year-old who just got his first iPhone for Christmas? Maybe his first movie will be weird, shaky junk – but maybe it will also strike a chord with the medium.

But actually I’m getting tired of explaining this – do you really not see how having HD video cameras in everyone’s pocket is a disruptive and exciting change to the world of film? Really?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Yes, those who want to go buy an HD camcorder can do so. The point is that now everyone, even those who never thought of it, have that camcorder in their pocket.

That’s the revolution I see coming. It has already happened in photography. It is happening in music. It will happen in film. Technology lets everyone be creative. The wall between “amateur” and “professional” disappears.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

One can build $14 camera stabilizer or use the tricks that photographers have been using for ages, like brace the camera on yourself, use a elastic attached to the camera hold down by your feet to create a down force that will stabilize the camera, you don’t need to get a thousand dollar rig to make it, you need the knowledge of how does it work and you then could do it with anything even a iPhone.

Is not the equipment that makes something good is the execution behind it.

John Doe says:

Siesmic shift

As technology opens the door to more and more people to become content creators the established industries are doing all they can to close that door. Same with the government. As more people are able to get their voices heard on the internet through blogs, forums, etc, the government is doing what it can to stop it.

It is getting much harder to hold the masses down so we are going through some growing pains now. Hopefully the masses win out soon.

Da Guy dat sed da first ting says:

Exactly – if the Iphone is going to ‘revolutionize filmmaking’ that why now when inexpensive (and better) equipment has been made available to the consumer for so long? Answer – because this is just a gimmick for Apple fanboys to swarm over. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jobs put Chan-Wook up to this.

Kacela (profile) says:

It's the software.

Hardware technology is only limited by software – novel uses for devices such as these will constantly be developed and discovered. Take the LA band THE 88 – they recorded the entire song “Love Is The Thing” on an iPhone, a feat made possible only by an App. The end result was incredible (albeit with a little help from gifted audio engineer Chris Roberts for the final mix) http://www.the88.net/love.htm .

One poster here says that ‘a multi thousand dollar ‘iPhone steadycam’ rig” will be needed if movies such as these are to be taken seriously – I call BS – I’m 100% sure that there will eventually be “an App for that.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's the software.

“Hardware technology is only limited by software”
– lol, ooops, wrong…sorry. Until they start producing Iphones with 35-70mm lens apertures, changeable colour and polarization filters and physical zoom depths, we are in no danger of seeing Iphones take over the movie industry.

Iphone will do well at challenging the Consumer cam-corder market, yes – but that’s about as far as its going to get.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's the software.

Nobody is saying iPhones are going to take over the movie industry, but you would have to be a fool to deny that they are going to impact it. Do you really think that having HD cameras in everyone’s pockets isn’t going to have an effect on the next generation of filmmakers? Because it will.

And as far as all the other hardware you call for, you’d be mistaken to think that those things will never happen. In fact, if lots of people are experimenting with iPhones for filmmaking, you will almost certainly see the quality of the video technology improving.

Just think: it wasn’t that long ago that a 5 megapixel point-and-shoot camera cost several hundred dollars and there was no such thing as a camera phone. So take what you just said, push it up by a few years and it becomes:

“Until they start producing phones with HD resolution, decent storage space and high quality displays, we are in no danger of seeing phones take over the point-and-shoot industry.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's the software.

You’re missing the point – this article makes out as though the IPhone has introduced something new – it hasn’t. The ability to shoot HD film conveniently and cheaply has been around for a number of years (and for less than the iphone)- and the ability to do it with something in your pocket is not exclusive to Iphone.

What IS new is a recognized (well somewhat recognized) filmmaker CHOOSING to shoot a film with Iphones. This is an artistic choice that immediately slots his film into a genre. I’m not disputing that Iphones and similiar devices will open opportunities for new filmmakers – but any professional including the filmmaker in question will prefer proper cameras with proper cameramen and proper equipment. What is amusing is how hard people here (who can only be Apple fanboys) are trying to play down the significance of having professional filmmaking equipment at your disposal. It is no different than comparing a 16-year-old with a modified Honda Civic to a professional driver in an F1 Ferrari racecar. No one is saying that the F1 driver may have started in a Honda Civic (or even likes to try one now and then) but a Civic is not an F1 Racecar regardless of how much gadgetry, hype and nonsense people surround it with.

I applaud the filmmaker for trying something new and inspiring young would-be directors – but I’m hardly going to pop a gasket about a film created by Iphones.

uuser (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's the software.

I second this.
Also: especially youtube influenced the creativity of the masses in the 00s. this news post promotes a marketing driven decision of a famous director.
especially the expensive iphone is not a creativity driver for hobbyist filming. filming for the masses is there since the 1980s and VHS.

the iphone and the apple brand represent digital creativity because of an intelligent marketing strategy. this might be the reason for the director’s decision and its public announcement. it is like saying “this film is a tribute to the digital (brand polluted) livestyle”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's the software.

Your bias is showing.

“a recognized (well somewhat recognized) filmmaker”

He’s one of the most successful movie makers of all time (I believe) in his home country and has a global cult following. I’d trade his credentials ahead of yours any day of the week.

“What is amusing is how hard people here (who can only be Apple fanboys) are trying to play down the significance of having professional filmmaking equipment at your disposal.”

Huh? The only people I see trying to play down the significance are the ones attacking Apple. Most here seem to be applauding the move, regardless of the manufacturer.

“It is no different than comparing a 16-year-old with a modified Honda Civic to a professional driver in an F1 Ferrari racecar.”

What about a professional driver in a Civic, on public roads where the F1 can’t drive? That’s a better analogy for what Park is doing here.

At the end of the day, it’s an experiment but a very significant one. It’s significant because it’s an established and extremely talented director who’s doing it, but you’d have to be a fool to think this isn’t going to open up some new avenues. Not showing at you local multiplex in the near future, perhaps, but not everybody think that’s the benchmark for great cinema to begin with.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m the last person to say anything positive about the IPhone. I absolutely wear an “I hate Apple” opinion on my sleeve. However, even I’ll admit that this is innovation in its purest and most exciting form. There are pros using the iPhone for more than just snapshots. Some of these photogs even use it in the studio. There’s a guy who has a book out titled “The best camera is the one that’s with you” that was shot entirely on an iPhone.

But that has to be tempered with the idea that this is only innovation on a hardware level. The guy with the iPhone book is a pro photographer with years of experience. A pro with an iPhone will always shoot better than an amateur with a Nikon D3 (or Red if you’re talking video), so while it certainly makes the hardware vastly more accessible, the brain behind it will always be the limiting factor.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m amazed (but not truly surprised) at the anti-Apple comments flying around here from people who choose not to address what the story’s really about. The fact that it’s been (correctly) reported as being iPhones makes no difference to the actual story – a world famous director is using smartphones to make his new movie. It would be the same story if it was an Android or Nokia phone, but in this case it happens to be Apple.

Thanks for at least offering a sane POV on this, AC. I would say, however, that you have at to the very least think about how you get from “amateur” to “pro”. A lot of it is practice, and I don’t think that lowering the bar from “you must have a few grand for a RED” to “you already have the camera in your pocket” is bad thing, no matter which company made the model currently being talked about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well there are solutions for that Secrets of Amazing HDR Photography

Since video is just a series of photographs you can use the same techniques to create incredible images with one or more iPhones, besides you can lower the amount of illumination in a post processing phase that is simple to do it you just need to keep the lighting constant to achieve great results.

teka (profile) says:

And for all the people who assume this article is trying to say that dedicated cameras are dead and quickly point out the costs of camera vs iphone.

Firstly, the retail costs of the iphone are meaningless to most people. They are not paying retail, they are paying some pittance plus contract costs forever. Also, an iphone (phone, apps, camera, everything) can be seen to have more utility.

Someone who would never go out and spend 400 on a camera might spend that on a combination phone device, and then Discover the camera function (and then go out and buy a dedicated piece of equipment)

So, yes.
more people have creative technology is good.
no one is claiming all camera ops will be fired/cameras smashed due to this amazing breakthrough.

Zacqary Adam Green (profile) says:

I have a three year old HDV camcorder. On purchase, I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever shot with.

Last year, I worked with a filmmaker whose Flip Cam made me envious. My thousand dollar camera’s footage looked like shit compared to this. It was actually beautiful video. And it could do this all on flash memory, instead of aneurism-inducing DV tapes.

Filmmaking has never been more democratic. Ever.

donovan COOK says:

Wow opinions flying around like crazy here. I for one think it’s great any and all experimentation is good. I also say congrats to Chan Wook Park on joining the clan of iPhone filmmakers. Check out RIDESHARE the first ?full-length? feature film shot entirely on iPhone. http://www.facebook.com/ridesharethemovie. http://www.twitter.com/ridesharemovie. And on IMDB.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What a gimmicky thing to do. Or did this clown think the iphone is a technical marvel compared to real movie equipment?

Yes, it probably was something of a gimmick. But at the same time, a lot of creativity comes out of limitations. Some artists intentionally constrain themselves to see what they can do. So the challenge may have been how to create something with a particular tool. And as more people push the envelope with an iPhone, that opens up the process to people who may have never tried to make a film with more expensive equipment.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's the software.

your bias is showing, I am in Korea, and never heard of him, unless you are “into” film making and who the director is, the majority of the people and most of the world, have no clue who he is, so this comes off as a complete gimmick, the same way the first films/shorts were shot with the beta max camcorders back in the day, no different, he has done nothing special, it isn’t significant at all, and open’s no new avenues, if it did, where are the great classic movies made on the beta max cameras???? VHS??? oh yeah , they don’t exist

PaulT (profile) says:

It's the software.

Huh? Everything I’ve every read about him suggests he’s very well-loved in Korea and very successful:


“Despite extreme violence in his films, Park is regarded as one of the most popular film directors in Korea, with three of his last five feature films (Joint Security Area, Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) all drawing audiences of over 3 million. This makes Park the director of three films in the thirty all-time highest grossing films in South Korea. (9th, 29th, 26th respectively as of January 2007).[7]”

For his last movie release:


“The film earned ₩1,174,224,500 on its first day of release and gained more than ₩5,612 million on that three-day weekend. On May 3, Thirst debuted at number one at the South Korean Box office and grossed ₩6,786,388,000 with more than 1 million tickets sold nationwide.[11]”

Looks like you need to brush up on your Korean film knowledge, because it appears to be lacking. Why should I take you seriously on the subject of filmmaking when you can’t even recognise one of your country’s top directors?

“if it did, where are the great classic movies made on the beta max cameras???? VHS??? oh yeah , they don’t exist”

Well, first of all the enabling factor here is the portability. Compare the size of an iPhone to the size of a late 80s VHS camera, you might see what I mean.

As for other movies, it depends on your definition of the word “classic”. A few titles that come to mind are the Japanese Guinea Pig series, some sections of The Blair Witch Project, the infamously bad Redneck Zombies, etc. Not necessarily high points of cinema but they were commercially released and largely successful in a financial sense.

But, there’s the wider picture as discussed above. Are we going to see a slew of iPhone releases playing next to Transformers 5: Bay Needs To Buy His Own Island? Probably not. But, it may inspire a new generation of creative filmmakers, just as Super 8, VHS and other increasingly cheaper and more portable formats have inspired current filmmakers.

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