iPhones aren’t a filmmaking tool? Tell that to Steven Spielberg. The director who needs no introduction recently shot and directed his first music video and he used a phone.
Now, a phone is far from an ideal filmmaking tool. There are a lot of issues with the form factor and you’ll need some extra bits and pieces to actually get the maximum quality and control from the device. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
At iPhoneographers there is a detailed breakdown of the video and a rundown of how they think Spielberg pulled it off, including a list of some helpful accessories.
There are a lot of opinions on the “Cannibal” music video from Marcus Mumford. So, they are going to do a breakdown to see how they might’ve shot it since there aren’t too many public details on the shoot.
It was a very much DIY shoot without much, if any, real equipment.
Right away you’ll notice that they made the video black and white. This was likely done to create a more artistic look and to cover the fact that phones aren’t always the best at handling colors in mixed lighting.
It also shows off how Spielberg loves oners, or long takes. This video is one take.
He uses a DIY dolly effect using an office chair that is pulled by someone else and the gymnasium they found looks great.
Not So Great
There are some things you can see that aren’t exactly great.
In the initial shot you can see the crew’s shadows show up on the face of Marcus.
Some strong lighting is coming from the side windows and there is potentially some light source from behind and that is likely what is being blocked by the crew in this shot.
Another odd choice was the use of slight zooms in the middle of the take. Not necessarily bad, but weird.
Looking closer at things like the zooms and exposure they can tell that it was unlikely that the stock Camera app was being used. It does some weird things with tone mapping and doesn’t allow you to easily separate locking exposure and focus.
With it being a single take with some dramatic moves this would’ve caused an issue for the final product.
Maybe Filmic Pro?
During the DIY dolly with an office chair the footage is very stable. Phones have made significant progress in this area and the shot looks good.
Even playing back a little faster showed some of the more natural bumps but it still did a great job.
With the dolly back in he again uses some zooms. There are some weird double takes with the zooms so it may have been a quirk of zooming on the phone or specifically done in post.
If it was done in post there may have been some extra stabilization added. This is because there is a bit of that odd warping effect which is more common with post effects.
Noise or Grain
Looking at some of the darker areas of the video you can see a lot of noise and/or grain. It could be just some natural video noise from the smartphone or it could’ve been a little bit of grain added in post.
A couple reasons for adding the grain would be to hide noise and give it a more classic look. Considering the bright areas are very noisy it would lean towards being added in post.
It’s great to see well-known directors taking on smaller DIY projects and using gear that the rest of us have in our pockets.
It makes filmmaking seem a lot more accessible. This has been getting even easier and easier as things like smartphones have gotten so much better.
What do you think about the video?
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