Why Mobile Filmmaking Isn't Reliable Enough (Yet)
Let me start by saying I'm probably one of the biggest proponents of mobile filmmaking on YouTube or the Internet or maybe even the planet (not sure, but sometimes it seems like it!), however, even as someone who constantly touts the amazing abilities of mobile devices - as a professional filmmaker I can't rely on these tools on a daily basis.
Yeah, it's true. However, I'm not being critical here, just realistic.
Before I go on though please listen to my podcast episode where I specifically discuss this topic, er uh, rant on this topic. :) It's only 15 minutes long, so go listen! Really, go listen before reading any further...
Okay, you went and listened I hope, RIGHT? Good. So let me now go into a bit more detail.
The main thing I want to get across is that I LOVE mobile filmmaking tools, but I want them to get more reliable for the kind of work I do. Again, I'm a professional filmmaker. I make my living with a camera and a computer.
Quick side note: Even if the tools were more consistently reliable I obviously wouldn't use my phone for every shoot. I always recommend and try to use the "right tool for the job". So I'm not saying that I would like or even want to use my phone for everything (for example, client work or commercials, etc. - but for YouTube I would!). I know some folks do, and that's great, especially for short form content - but for much of my work it wouldn't make sense. However, I would like to use it a lot more and on a consistent basis as a main camera.
The biggest thing for me is I don't want to worry about the gear. That way I can simply focus on the story I'm trying to tell.
If you have to constantly be restarting an app because orientation lock gets stuck and the interface is upside down (yep, this happened recently) or the white balance unlocks and ruins the footage or the app crashes and so on... Then you're not concentrating on telling your story.
Now of course this happens with traditional filmmaking gear too. There will always be tech issues to deal with as that's just part of filmmaking. But typically speaking, I can let my Sony a6400 just roll and roll while I'm doing a tutorial and not worry about it stopping or messing up.
Will an iPhone do this? Sure. It can work perfectly. And especially the iPhone 11 as it is a very solid device.
But then sometimes it won't work or will hiccup. And that's the problem. You just don't know and for someone depending on my gear day in and day out it's just not reliable enough yet.
Again, I want to stress... I love mobile filmmaking. My YouTube channel is dedicated to it and so I'm not saying in the least not to use it. I use it all the time (primarily as a second camera or for b-roll). I just want it to get better. I want to get more consistent results. And I don't want to have to worry about the gear.
Does this make sense? I hope so.
As you probably know if you follow this website and my YouTube channel... I push this technology to the limit. What we're doing with smartphones is NOT what they are designed to do. So some issues are not surprising. But on the flip side, there are now enough of us using these devices in professional environments that I want them to perform in a more professional way.
By the way, this could also be said about early DSLR and mirrorless cameras too. I often compare these to where we are right now with smartphones.
DSLRs were not intended to shoot professional video. This was an accident that started with the Canon 5D MK2. The story goes that they added video to the camera so newspaper photographers/journalists could shoot some "web video" for their websites. Made sense.
But then indie filmmakers were like, WOW, this video is amazing using a full-frame sensor! And the rest is history.
However, these cameras were (and in a lot of ways still are) hard to work with and unreliable. Overheating issues plagued them. I have a Canon 7D and shooting outside it always overheated (I got to where I wouldn't use it on paid gigs if they were shooting outside). Sony was particularly bad (not anymore though, and that's the point - they got better over time). RED cameras too - horrible overheating issues where we would actually put ice bags on the cameras (they're much better now as well).
And today of course look at the recent Canon R5 and R6... New mirrorless cameras that have major overheating issues even in 2020. Granted, yes, they're pushing these cameras to shoot 8K raw and more, but still - the gear isn't completely reliable and I personally would NOT currently use one as my main setup.
And it's the same right now with smartphones for me.
And yes, I get that the aforementioned cameras are much more expensive and professional. No question there. But the issues are the same regardless.
You simply want your gear to reliably work without having to think too much about it.
So will we get there with smartphones? I don't know.
I think there's a very good chance we will though with awesome companies like FiLMIC Pro and LumaTouch working on it. Along with Apple and other phone manufacturers of course, too.
Another side note: LumaTouch makes LumaFusion for iPhone & iPad - a whole other conversation I touched on in the podcast - great app, but the overall editing experience isn't quite there yet for me and largely because of Apple's limitations.
So yes, I am hopeful for the future - and definitely thankful for what we have now (even though I want it to be better). I very much look forward to seeing the next gen hardware advancements along with app upgrades.
It's amazing what we can do today with a device you carry in your pocket, so maybe I'm just spoiled and expect too much, but I don't think so. I really believe we're on the verge of seeing even more amazing things from our smartphones and who knows, maybe even an "iPhone Pro" for us professional filmmakers?
It could happen. :)
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.
Happy (mobile) filmmaking!