Six fantastic kit pieces everyone needs for making great smartphone films.

The latest smartphone will help you make a great film, but to really get the best, it’s worth investing in extra kit. I’ve got a rundown of six fantastic kit pieces that I personally use to help me achieve my award-winning films.

When making a film a lot of people think it’s enough to just point and click. But this will only get you so far. Doing a deep dive into your camera settings will help you get the best possible start for your film.

First up, make sure you’re recording at the highest possible frame size. My iPhone goes up to 4K. Click 24 frames per second as that is the standard frame rate (fps) for cinema. If you are recording slow motion, I prefer 1080p at 120 frames, which achieves an easy to watch smoothness. You can record at higher frame rates, but remember the higher the rate, the slower the film. 

Now pop your grid on, this’ll help with your composition (rule of thirds etc) Make sure ‘mirror your camera’ is turned on. This is for when you film with the front camera.

With the phone camera set up, we can look at some kit that will help you to make amazing cinematic films. But remember, buying kit won’t automatically make you a great filmmaker, you still need to practice to push your craft to new heights.

1 – Lens

Your smartphone will come with at least one built in camera lens, although many models now have up to 4. These are designed to simulate different lenses from wide angle for capturing landscapes or establishing shots to a tele lens for getting close ups. You can also combine lenses to create a bokah effect – which is a shallow depth of field that simulates the effect high end lenses are known for. 

I have an iPhone 11 which has two lenses; a standard and a wide, which gives me a lot of options, however for a true cinematic style I have needed to purchase extra lenses. This style of film needs to be shot with an anamorphic lens with the aspect ratio 2.39:1. I personally use Moment lenses. Their anamorphic lens is beautiful and comes with either a blue or gold flare, mine is blue. These are well built and retail at around £130. Add in a Moment case to your purchase, the lenses clip into this which makes it more stable while filming.

2- Tripod

Having a decent tripod is a must for any filmmaker, even when using a smartphone. I have a small Manfrotto tripod that I take everywhere with me. Using a tripod will enable you to get a really steady shot. If you are a photographer then tripods are perfect for capturing light trails or motion. They also double up as a selfie stick when creating films which require direct talking to camera. A Manfrotto mini tripod costs between £27 – £50. 

3 – Microphone

In my opinion, smartphones can be weak when capturing audio. If you are in a controlled environment the inbuilt microphone works fine, but in outside areas audio capture greatly lessens. Having a good flexible microphone that you can use to catch dialogue, or ambient sounds is a must when making films. This is my number one item you should invest in.

I use an external audio recorder called a zoom, which also forms part of my non-smartphone filmmaking kit. There are different styles of microphones for smart phones. Use a lapel mic which fits onto clothing or a shotgun mic which sits on top of a camera or boom pole. The Movo PR-2-PM comes highly recommended by industry professionals and costs around £50. It comes with a mini hand held rig.

4 – Lighting

I use the Manfrotto Lumimuse 3 LED Light when the existing light source in the area I am filming in is not strong enough to make my shot look good. The Lumimuse retails at around £45. When choosing extra lighting for your smartphone camera, first take test shots in different lighting sources. Always use natural light where possible to attractive shots.

5 – Cage

Extra equipment needs to be mounted in order to be used, and for this we use a cage which wraps around your smartphone. I like the Smallrig Universal Cage which is around £44. Using a case keeps all your equipment in one place and offers you the flexibility to move around with your subject and the action in your film.

6 – Steady cam

Tracking shots, where the camera smoothly follows a person or a vehicle, are achieved using a steady cam. A full size one for professional filmmaking will set you back thousands of pounds but thankfully the smartphone versions are much more budget friendly. A steady cam is fantastic for getting a cinematic sweeping shot. I use the DJI Osmo Mobile although it is not always as smooth as I would like. I am considering the Feiyu SPG Plus Gimbal Rig. If I do purchase this I will also need some extra weights to offset the balance of the lens, but these only add a couple of pounds to the overall cost.

This is everything I use to make films on my smartphone. There will be times when you need one piece of kit but not the other. Try to avoid using all six pieces together as your smartphone may crash. While you do not need to buy all this kit, even investing in one piece could make a substantial difference to the quality of your filmmaking. For further advice, check out my course Smartphone Filmmaking.

All prices are correct as of 2021. No affiliate links are used in this post nor do I earn any commission from recommending these products.

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