Fundamentals of
Mobile Phone Filmmaking

by Kerric Harvey

 For years recording technology has been getting smaller and smaller, simpler and simpler, cheaper and cheaper, driving towards a democritisation of the filmmaking process (although we all know that technology, per se, does not a successful story-teller make).
Now an explosion of video-ready mobile phones has opened up an entirely new of possibilities for “indie” filmmakers. Making your film without conventional commercial support was always only half the battle. Getting it seen was the other half. Distribution remained the province of a few powerful gatekeepers, nailing a lid on both potential financial returns and audience size for even the most resourceful and festival-friendly independent filmmaker. Here’s the good news.
Those days are long gone.
Marrying the enormous distribution opportunities of the Web with the fast-improving video capabilities of the ubiquitous mobile phone means that every one who wants to make movies now has the means of doing so....literally, right in their pocket.
What does it take to get started? Less money and equipment than you’d think.
Here’s what you need to start making movies good enough to distribute online, sell to Internet content vendors, and enter into the growing number of mobile phone film festivals around the world....or to just share with friends, family, and personal fans.

Make Money With Mobile Movies1. A video-capable mobile phone

Especially good for mobile phone filmmaking are workhorses like the Nokia N82, N90, N6102, N80, Nokia 8GB, and N96, the Motorola RAZR phones and the Z10 (which offers some in-camera special effects and editing and wjhich uploads wirelessly to the Web), Samsung’s “Blackjack,” MM-A900, “Memoir” and “Memoir SGH-929, and several of the Sony Ericsson phones, including the W900is.
Video-capable Blackberries devices include Blackberry Storm, Curve 8900, and Bold 9000.
Whichever phone you use, it should offer at least 1.3 megapixels and as close to 30 frames per second shooting speed as you can get. A useful website for browsing camera-phone purchase options is

If you want to carry around a 2nd hand-held device, then substitute the excellent FLiP camera.

2. You’ll need a way to format your footage for Web upload

Once you’ve shot it you will need to prep it, to encode it for the web. Some of the more common formats for this are:  MPEG-3; MPEG-4, Quick-Time, Windows media Video, Flash File, Real and DivX

3. Upload to the web

After you’ve collected your video and formatted it, you have to find a way to upload it to the Web, often looping it through a computer first (although some of the new phones can by-pass this step using Bluetooth wireless technology).
There are five “most common” ways of getting your stuff out of your camera-phone and onto the Web so that you can share it, edit it, and otherwise work it:  using a USB cable (often included in your phone package), using a wireless connection (like Blue Tooth), “posting” or “friending” your video to a social networking space (even if its your own), burning a DVD and uploading that (not recommended), and via E-mail sharing.

4. Editing packages

A good editing package will provide post-production tools so you can make your mobile phone movie look like the “real thing.” A surprising number of these are free – pretty much every Apple laptop, for instance, comes with a basic editing package called “iMovie,” and YouTube (and good old Google) offer video manipulation packages several layers “down” in their services pages (like where you go to click on “Email” for your Google account. Higher end editing software is also available from a variety for providers for anything between the cost of a good meal and the price of a small motor scooter.

5. Hosting site or distribution network

Social networking media like YouTube, FaceBook, Flickr, as well as more professionally-oriented hosting platforms like Jaman, Revver, Atom Films, Dailymotion, Vlidder, and many others can fill this niche for you.
And, of course, you’ll want to check out, our very own “next generation” of film distribution.

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About The Author

Kerric HarveyKerric Harvey doesn’t really sleep very much. As a full-time university professor, a working playwright and screenwriter, an exuberant free-lancer in the online universe, and a consultant in new technologies and media anthropology, she’s resigned to a life of adrenal overload. Fortunately, she loves it.
A Canadian Permanent Resident, American citizen, and cheerful addict of international travel, Kerric can usually be found at 37,000 feet writing adventure movies and plays about magic, or plotting her next research project on the best way to make film and television for very small screen (VSS) media or the cultural implications of vampires, wizards, and pirates.
When she’s not teaching, writing, or plotting, she spends as much time as possible crawling through megalithic ruins, exploring old castles, and getting afloat in all kinds of watercraft. She’s also the founding director of Aldebaran Drama Group and of the OxDocs Institute, found at
Her degrees are from McGill University (Montreal), Cornell University (New York), and the University of Washington (Seattle). She’s tenured faculty at George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) and also teaches in Continuing Studies at Emily Carr University of Art, Design, and Media (Vancouver, Canada).
She thinks of her life as treasure-hunt in every way possible.

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Mobile Movie Fundamentals