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Smartphone Cinematography: Viable Gimmick?

Making its way on the festival circuit since last fall’s Raindance is a film called I Play With The Phrase Each Other, which purports to be the first-ever feature comprised entirely of cell phone calls. It is, rather fittingly, shot on an iPhone and rendered in attractive black-and-white hues that belie its format. In addition to serving as a nice narrative tie-in, the filmmakers choice of camera was also likely dictated by budgetary constraints (or, perhaps as more likely, an Apple tie-in.) Still, it’s remarkable that a lucrative automobile giant like Bentley Motors would shoot their latest ad campaign on a consumer phone like the iPhone 5S.

Beginning at the 3:15 minute mark, a behind-the-scenes video reveals that the sleek commercial was shot on two rigged smartphones, and edited on iMovie, on an iPad, inside a Bentley. Marketing stunt? The iPad as edit bay makes it certainly seem so, and I wouldn’t be writing about the video otherwise. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see commercial filmmaking going for the low-cost option (though the stabilizer fetches for $5000) without significantly sacrificing visuals.

Does smartphone cinematography stand a chance at infiltrating the market? Not really, given the alternatives, though it does present yet another accessible, digital mode of storytelling.

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