The iPhone 11 can capture a really great image, but to use it to actually make a film, you’re going to need a good rig.
The new iPhone can actually provide a decent image, but when you attempt to shoot something, the limitations of such a small, thin camera become very apparent. It is hard to hold and move the phone without getting your hands in the way of the camera lens. In this article we’ll look at different ways to rig, move, and hold the iPhone so you can get the kind of shots you see in TV and movies.
1. To Have and To Hold
A iPhone bracket (also called a cell phone clamp) is a great way to start rigging the camera. It provides at least one standard 1/4″-20 hole that lets you rig the phone to any number of arms, tripods, or grips. If the clamp has more than one mount, you’ll find it easier to shoot both horizontal and vertical video (which you might need for Instagram and other social media applications).
A clamp (or bracket) is a good first step in rigging your smart phone for filmmaking. (Image via Manfrotto.)
Once you have the bracket in place, you can add any accessory designed for a regular DSLR or mirrorless cameras, but be aware that the lack of weight might cause the iPhone to act differently. Pans and tilts won’t be as smooth unless the head of the tripod is fluid balanced to create resistance and a gradual (rather than a jerky) motion.
2. Any and Every Angle
A small ball head adaptor is another invaluable accessory for iPhone shooting. These are tiny versions of ball head tripod mounts — only about an inch tall. The cheaper ones can fail or are hard to tighten, but the reputable ones can secure a surprising amount of weight. Giottos and Manfrotto both make excellent mini ball head mounts that will get you the tilt you need.
Mini ball heads can give you the tilt you need. (Image via Giottos.)
The Friction arm, sometimes called an Israeli arm, is a two-piece tension-locking arm that clamps an iPhone to a stable anchor, like a tree, post, or window. Make sure to keep the load on the right-hand side of the clamp so that the weight of the phone tightens the arm instead of loosening it.
A friction arm is a great tool for securing your smart phone to an anchor point. (Image via Manfrotto.)
4. Get a Grip
A grip cage is a simple and effective accessory that lets you mount the iPhone. This simple frame gives you a good hold on the camera to move and manipulate it, and it usually costs less than $100. It has 1/4″-20 holes not only on the bottom but also on the top (for monitors or lights) and sometimes on the sides as well.
A grip cage is a great way to secure your smart phone for filmmaking. (Image via B&H.)
5. Smoother Movement
The grip cage will let you move with and control the phone effectively, but if you want professional smooth motion, the next stage is a dedicated smart phone gimbal. We used the 3XS by Benro. It uses 3 brushless motors to negate small movements caused by the operator’s hands, and it yields super smooth footage, even when you’re walking. There is a small learning curve when using any gimbal, but the smart phone variety is by far the easiest to get up to speed with.
However you rig and operate your phone, you’ll get a better result if you come prepared. Bring more, rather than less, accessories than you think you might need.
Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?
Looking for more smart phone filmmaking tips and tricks? Check these out.
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