Make movies using phone? Here's what you need to know

Make to-do list of shots, keep video brief and don't move your camera around, says expert

SPH video creative director Jonathan Roberts explaining the basics of preparing, filming and editing movies on smartphones at yesterday's askST@NLB session.
SPH video creative director Jonathan Roberts explaining the basics of preparing, filming and editing movies on smartphones at yesterday's askST@NLB session. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

The movie-making functions of modern smartphones are so good, even 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 yesterday.

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," Mr Roberts said at the talk, which was titled Making Movies On Your Phone.

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

Yesterday's session, filmed on an iPhone XR, was streamed on ST's Facebook page.

Mr Roberts said movie-makers should prepare a simple to-do list of shots to ensure that 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 handy rules to abide by to get the best results.

"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 the Ebscohost Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text database, which the NLB subscribes to.

Resources can be found by searching keywords such as "digital storytelling", "storytelling", "video", "video production" and "video games" at: eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ Main/browse/resource/1331

A myLibrary ID is required to access this database.

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• In the next askST@NLB talk on Feb 26, at 7pm, ST Food Online editor Hedy Khoo talks to food columnist K.F. Seetoh about Unesco's recognition of Singapore's hawker culture and its implications for Singapore. Submit your questions at https://str.sg/JKLs

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2021, with the headline 'Make movies using phone? Here's what you need to know'. Subscribe