askST@NLB: How do I make movies with my smartphone?

Video creative director Jonathan Roberts giving his online AskST@NLB talk on making movies on the smartphone.
Video creative director Jonathan Roberts giving his online AskST@NLB talk on making movies on the smartphone.PHOTO: ST

SINGAPORE - The movie-making functions of smartphones are so good, Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh used an iPhone 8 to shoot his 2019 Netflix film High Flying Bird, said video creative director Jonathan Roberts at an askST @  NLB session on Friday (Jan 29).

Mr Roberts, who is with the English/Malay/Tamil Media group at Singapore Press Holdings, explained the basics of preparing, filming and editing movies on a smartphone, and the equipment required.

One key principle of filming with the device is brevity, he said.

"You'd be amazed at how much people can pick up just from a few seconds of footage," added Mr Roberts in the crash course on "Making movies on your phone".

The talks, which began in 2016, are a collaboration between ST and the National Library Board (NLB).

The session on Friday, which was filmed using an iPhone XR, was streamed on The Straits Times' Facebook page.

Mr Roberts said movie-makers should prepare a simple "to-do" list of shots to ensure they get all the footage they need.

They should also source for the right equipment. For example, an external microphone to mitigate unwanted background noise.

But there is no need to break the bank with the latest high-end gear.

"The best bit of kit I ever bought is a flexible tripod," he said.

"It cost me just over $10 from a Challenger store... It can be used as a grip, but it also allows you to position the phone in a variety of places, even hanging it upside down."

While shooting on a phone might seem simple, there are some rules to abide by to get it right.

"Hold your shots, don't move your camera around. Let the action happen within the frame," said Mr Roberts.

Other common errors he highlighted include filming with the zoom function on, which may result in undesirable pixelated shots.

Shooting under strong light can also cause heavy shadows on a subject's face.

Those searching for more advice on filming with a smartphone can refer to resources from EBSCOhost Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text database, a database subscribed by the National Library Board.

Find them on this website, using the keywords "digital storytelling", "storytelling", "video", "video production" and "video games". A myLibraryID is required to access this database.

Suggested titles to read

- When Should You Upgrade To A Professional Video Camera? by Sean Berry, in Volume 34 Issue 10 of Videomaker

- Hey Siri, Tell Me A Story: Digital Storytelling And AI Authorship by Sarah Thorne, in Volume 26 Issue 4 of Convergence: The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies.

In the next askST @  NLB talk on Feb 26 at 7pm, ST Food online editor Hedy Khoo talks to food columnist KF Seetoh about Unesco's recognition of Singapore's hawker culture and its implications for Singapore. Submit your questions here.