What I Learned Making a Short Film on an iPhone

Screenshot from the Closet. Photo by Jonny Eberle.

When I started making short films more than 15 years ago, a decent, mid-range consumer video camera was about the size of a brick and recorded either to miniDV tape or mini DVD, which was good for 60 minutes of recording. Tapes got chewed up during playback, DVDs got scratched, and in the general the process of making a film was tedious and technical.

In the time before YouTube, once you had finished your film — provided that you hadn’t lost footage to the magnetic tape gods — you had to connect to a tape deck to transfer your finished film to another format that could be easily shared. Somewhere in a box, there’s a stack of old VHS tapes with handwritten labels documenting my early filmmaking efforts.

I bought my first digital camcorder when I was 18. It was a hot rod red Canon FS200. It fit in the palm of one hand and recorded video in 720p to an SD card. To me, it was magic — like the leap forward from horse and buggy to the automobile. Suddenly, my media was reusable and my footage could be easily edited and shared from a computer. It was revolutionary. It fundamentally changed the way I made movies and allowed for my film studio, Obscure Studios, to really take off in my early college years.

Then, a few weeks ago, there was another revolution. Stephanie and I made a short film for Halloween entitled “The Closet.” Instead of breaking out my trusty Canon, I decided to take a risk. We filmed the entire thing with an iPhone 6. Not only were we able to film in full HD, an astounding 1080p, but it acted like a real camera. In low light conditions and noisy rooms, it outperformed my old camcorder handily.

What’s most amazing to me isn’t just the fact that I can now carry a high quality video camera around in my pocket, but the way technology has allowed the technical difficulties of filmmaking to slowly take a backseat to the creative difficulties. When filmmakers don’t have to spend time and money on expensive cameras to achieve good looking film, they are freed up to tell a great story. No longer are amateur filmmakers in a different class than the professionals. Now, we all have the power to tell beautiful stories without needing a $20,000 camera to do it.

The easy availability of inexpensive video equipment means that anyone with a story to tell can tell it. And that’s amazing.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer and filmmaker in Tacoma, WA. You can find him on Twitter at @jonnyeberle.

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