Make movies worth watching with expert advice on smartphone videography from Murray Suid of Mobile Movie Making magazine…
“Filmmaking, like cooking or golf, can take a lifetime to master,” says Murray Suid, cofounder of MobileMovieMaking.com. “But thanks to the simplicity of mobile devices and apps, even a novice can create movies worth watching.”
We couldn’t agree more, so we asked for his top tips. Here’s how to wow watchers with your next mobile movie…
1. Make a plan
We know you’ve heard it before: failing to plan is planning to fail. But when it comes to movie making, it’s absolutely true. Murray mentions a couple of key points when it comes to planning. The first? Choosing a genre. The second is creating a shot list.
“Among the most popular genres are travelogues, music videos, biographies, documentaries, instructional videos, news, fictional movies (such as comedies and horror movies) and commercials,” Murray says. “If within a few seconds of your movie beginning, your viewers say to themselves ‘Aha! This is a music video’ or ‘Aha! This is a comedy’, you’re well on your way to a thumbs up.
“The best way to learn how to make any type of movie is to study examples. You’ll find plenty on MobileMovieMaking.com. And, when planning your films, while you don’t need to write a detailed script, they will come out better if you prepare and jot down the key actions you hope to capture.”
2. Keep it short
According to Murray, the sweet spot for most prize-winning mobile videos is between three and five minutes. So, try to aim for a run time of 10 minutes or less. Like this one from filmmaker Justin Escalona:
Murray also recommends keeping each shot between 5 and 10 seconds in length, as short shots strung together tell a more gripping story than one long shot by itself.
“There are two major reasons to go short, especially when you’re a novice,” Murray says. “Firstly, it’s easier to make a good short film than a good long film. Also, audiences are much more likely to watch if you ask for just a few minutes of their time.
“After shooting a subject for a few seconds, if there’s more to show, move to another position – closer or a different angle – and start shooting again. This will add interest,” he says.
3. Surprise viewers
Unusual perspectives and candid shots also add interest. If you’re filming a garden party, Murray suggests shooting a scene from an upstairs window or while standing on a ladder.
“A worm’s eye view – taken while you’re crouching or lying on your stomach – can be a dazzling way to film an infant just learning to crawl,” he says, “And, if you’re on vacation, instead of asking your travel companions to look directly into the camera, try capturing them shopping or staring at a landmark.”
4. Pay attention to audio
Murray says, if you’re filming a project that involves people talking, you need to pay close attention to the audio track.
“If what your subject says is indistinct or interrupted by traffic or other noises, even if your visuals are beautiful, the end result will seem amateurish,” he explains.
“When recording speech, it’s best to use an external microphone, like one that attaches to a person’s clothing. If an external microphone isn’t available, bring the camera as close as possible to the subject so the built-in mic picks up an acceptable level and quality of sound.
“However, whatever device you’re using, if the place is too noisy, move to a quieter location.”
5. Borrow shots
Unable to capture an essential scene? You can always draw on stock footage. Stock footage is video taken by someone other than the filmmaker, and Murray says incorporating it into your movie is a regular Hollywood occurrence.
“Incorporating stock footage into your movie is a regular Hollywood occurrence.”
“Suppose you’re making a biographical video of your grandmother who has fond memories of riding on a steam-driven train, for example. If you don’t have a shot of such a train you might be able to find one online and splice it into your movie.”
6. Edit and share
“Editing is such a big topic. But it’s worth doing because it can make the difference between a ho-hum video and one that stands out.”
Thanks to simple software like iMovie on iOS, Murray believes editing is something even young children can now master, and he boils it down to six tasks:
• Choosing the best shots
• Trimming your shots to capture the best moments
• Reordering your shots to best tell a story
• Bringing in music or other sounds
• Including a project title and other explanatory titles throughout
• Adding special effects, such as slow motion.
Once you’ve edited your masterpiece, make sure you share it! But remember: sharing a video is about more than just boosting your ego.
“The way people react to your movie will give you important clues about how to do better with your next production,” Murray says. “But remember, feedback can be negative too. When the Wizard of Oz came out, Russell Maloney of the New Yorker wrote that the film displayed ‘no trace of imagination, good taste or ingenuity’ – he labelled it ‘a stinkeroo’.”
There’s just no accounting for opinion…
Access even more advice to make your mobile movies shine… With these tips from iPhone Film Festival co-founder, Ruben Kazantsev.