How To Film A Music Video With An iPhone

10 Tips For Filming Music Video With An iPhone

Keith Stancil on set filming Vespa scene for Holly Starr “Umbrella” music video.

After reading an Apple Insider article about Steven Soderbergh filming his latest film, Unsane, with an iPhone, the desire was planted in me to learn how to film a music video with an iPhone. Soderbergh, known for his Best Film Director Academy Award for Traffic, Erin Brockovich, the Oceans trilogy and other groundbreaking films thrives on unconventional filming methods. Like Soderbergh, I am an early adopter of technology but unlike Soderbergh, I had never filmed a scene outside of birthday parties and family vacations. My video experience drastically changed in the last couple months as I ventured into directing two music videos using my iPhone 8.

All great music videos begin with an incredible song, and I knew I had the perfect song for my experiment. Holly Starr’s “Umbrella” knocked me out from my first listen of her original songwriting demo. “Umbrella” was birthed from one of Starr’s first writing sessions with artist/producer/writer, Matthew Parker. Starr & Parker’s writing/recording relationship has sense blossomed into a string of beautiful fresh pop songs found on Starr’s latest album titled HUMAN.

The second thing most great music videos possess is a compelling story. The story hit me immediately but capturing the story would take some creativity. I wanted the story to represent two people falling in love for life beginning at childhood and moving through their senior years as a married couple. The element that would give my story uniqueness would be an umbrella serving as the central character of the story knitting the three stages of life together. My wife and I purchased a Totes® umbrella with loads of character a few years back at the Marks and Spencer store on the Oxford University campus in the UK. That umbrella, without a doubt, was the perfect umbrella for the starring role.

As I began crafting the story board for “Umbrella,” I simultaneously ran across the SMOVE MOBILE gimbal which served as a great tool for capturing the story. Amazingly, the $159 SMOVE MOBILE purchase gave me the ability to capture “jib type” shots I never dreamed possible with an iPhone. For $25, I then purchased a monopod stick from Walmart and a small Joby GorillaPod ™ from Best Buy for $25 to round out my video director tool box. Google searches for filming with an iPhone led me to FilmicPro , an app most iPhone video enthusiasts recommend.  Excluding the iPhone 8 which I already own, my new video filming kit cost a total of $225. Not a bad price to set up as a music video director!

While researching articles and Youtube videos on framing and shooting video with an iPhone, I discovered the “Rule of 3rds” and the “Golden Spiral,” two concepts that serve as the foundation for framing great shots. I would highly recommend educating yourself on the “Rule of Thirds” and the “Golden Spiral” before beginning to film a music video with an iPhone. Those concepts drastically changed the way I look through a camera lens making everything I shoot look much more interesting, beautiful and appealing.

“Umbrella” presented the challenge of filming in the rain but how could one possibly film a music video about an umbrella without rain? Most articles on filming in the rain are discouraging but I wasn’t deterred. The biggest challenge for me was having flexible actors ready to go when the weather app predicted rain. I found finding the perfect window of rain to be a bit tricky as rain without severe storms is quite rare during the Middle Tennesse Spring season. Overall, filming in the rain proved to be a fun challenge for me.

The “Umbrella” music video was filmed entirely with an iPhone 8 and edited in iMovie. I performed the role of story writer, producer, director, cinematographer, choreographer and editor. My wife, Diana, stepped in to keep an eye on wardrobe, set continuity and overall stress management. Our film budget was $30 which included twenty $1 umbrellas from the Dollar Store, a case of water and a few snacks to have on set for the talent.

Fortunately, we secured some beautiful talent including singer & film actress, Jaci Velasquez, and her husband Nic Gonzales. Jaci & Nic fell in love with “Umbrella” while on tour with Holly and were super excited to be a part of the video and help however they could. I’m quite proud of the talent diversity represented in the video which includes Latino, African American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Asian, Australian, South African, Caucasian American and an former FBI agent.

If you are thinking about filming a music video with an iPhone, I’d encourage you to go for it! While the music video I filmed with an iPhone isn’t perfect, I’m quite proud of the outcome of my first video directing venture. Below are 10 tips that will make the process better. But first, give the “Umbrella” music video a look.

10 Tips For Filming A Great Music Video With An iPhone

  1. Create an interesting story board
  2. Plan out your scenes/locations in advance
  3. Ask permission when filming on private locations and be extremely courteous to bystanders and passers by 
  4. Purchase & learn to use the FilmicPro video app
  5. Capture 5x as much footage as you think you will need
  6. Use an iPhone gimbal like the SMOVE Mobile to capture smooth shots
  7. Use a tripod for still shots
  8. Shooting outdoors in overcast or late afternoon makes lighting easier
  9. Practice shooting in advance to master focus, white balance and framing techniques
  10. Take your time editing and save every good edit in a file so you can experiment without worrying about loosing good work  

Great Resources For Filming With An iPhone 

Filmic Pro Tutorial – https://youtu.be/GzD1JMezNw0

Crane shots with SMOVE Mobile – https://youtu.be/2jB_IuDdX48

Photos with focus – https://iphonephotographyschool.com/iphone-camera-controls/

Cinematic Filming w/ iPhone – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SLGQsL9MC8

Filmic Pro – night or low light – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx2trCa0edk

Film School: Framing Techniques – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myxiMMa2u_g&feature=youtu.be

D4Darius  Mastering Composition + Cinematography With Will Smith – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIvGRytmRaw