It’s been a little over 20 years since the introduction of the first phone with a camera. Kyocera VP-210, the phone in question featured a groundbreaking 0.11-megapixel camera. One could take “up to 20” images before the phone ran out of internal storage. Over the past 20 years, technology has progressed at an unprecedented pace to help phones achieve a number of remarkable feats. Some of the notable ones include surpassing compact digital cameras back in 2003 to really killing that segment. In fact, camera smartphones went ahead to surpass both digital as well as film cameras in terms of sales.
Evolution of the smartphone camera
Phone cameras have grown from 0.11-megapixel as mentioned above to a massive 48-megapixel in terms of resolution. The companies are even preparing smartphones with a whopping 61-megapixel camera sensor. In fact, one camera module has multiplied into multiple camera sensors in the quest to improve. Smartphone makers across the globe are trying to match that elusive quality that a standalone digital camera provides. Given the number of practical scientific limits, smartphone makers have decided to add multiple special sized sensors. These range from the usual telephoto lens to ultra-wide lens, to monochrome and even Time of Flight sensors.
Smartphone makers are not just relying on hardware in their quest to achieve the ultimate photo and video quality. They are also taking help of software algorithms for portrait images or images in absolute darkness. Software giants such as Google as Huawei have been successful in cracking the puzzle behind images in low-light conditions. A mix of software processing and decent camera hardware has resulted in a monumental shift for photographers and filmmakers.
Rise of the casual filmmaker
The gradual improvements in technology and increased quality of phone cameras has completely changed the equation for content creators. This ripple effect is not just limited to photos but instead, it extends to the land off moving images. “Tangerine” (2015), a movie completely shot on iPhone 5s, Time to Pay off Debts (2016), a short film shot on iPhone 6s have given us a glimpse of camera smartphones. Stop us if you have read this, Smartphones are democratizing the process of film making, and digital content creation. It is more than likely that you have read something along similar lines in the past couple of years.
The idea of camera phones as a game-changer in digital content creation is nothing new. Increase in capability, quality, storage, and numerous other features have turned smartphones into the default “go-to” device for content creation. There are a number of reasons behind this shift and here are some of the important ones. The increasing importance and accessibility of phones in our lives, ease of use, and compact design work in favor of smartphones. If we add the rather economic investment needed beyond a camera smartphone, the proposition of phone-shot videos becomes more attractive. One can shoot, edit and upload a video from a smartphone. We have seen numerous music videos, short films, advertisements, and more being shot on smartphones. The rise of the casual filmmaker was only a matter of time.
Apple aims at the mainstream industry
Beyond the creative market, camera smartphones are gradually creeping into mainstream content production. However, in the context of India, things have been rather slow when we compare the scenario from the west. To level, the playing field, Whistling Woods International (WWI) has decided to collaborate with Industry giant Apple. The institution wants to push mobile content creation into the mainstream by training the upcoming generation of media professionals. WWI is one of the top-most Communication and Creative Arts Institute across the globe. Apple conducted a “Shoot on iPhone” workshop while roping in seasoned mobile filmmakers to train the batch of students.
I attended the initial workshop where the brains behind the TV Mini series “The Creative Indian” Manil and Rohit Gupta guided the students about shooting on the iPhone. The workshop included snippets from the upcoming season that is set to launch on Netflix in coming months. They also revealed that the upcoming season of “The Creative Indian” has completely been shot on iPhone devices. Manil and Rohit Gupta also shared a number of behind the scene footage regarding the shooting process uncovering the magic. In the end, WWI announced that it was planning to integrate the “Shoot on iPhone” workshop in its curriculum.
The Vice President of WWI, Chaitanya Chinchlikar stated that this is part of a continuous effort to explore the latest and greatest that technology has to offer. Chinchlikar also revealed that WWI reevaluates its entire curriculum “every six months” to stay ahead of the curve. The revaluation and inclusion of new technology ensure that the graduating class is “six months ahead of the industry”. The shift to the mainstream is likely to be inductive where different production units will follow the lead of trained students.
Your next Netflix movie may likely be shot on a smartphone
Manil and Rohit Gupta shared a great deal of insight behind the production of the upcoming season of “The Creative Indians”. They also confirmed that they will showcase an additional episode to demonstrate the making of an episode using multiple iPhones. Manil said that it was interesting to see that they no longer needed a specialized person to shoot in the production unit. Anyone with base-line skills and a Gimbal could go ahead and shoot which lead to an abundance of footage.
They also stated that shifting to the iPhone changed their workflow by decreasing the storage needs. This also increased the production speed as one could directly see what they were shooting without much post-processing. Rohit concludes that the behind the scene episode will show that world that mobile filmmaking is a real, achievable thing. This is likely to inspire and push a number of aspiring filmmakers to just go ahead and make their next movie on an iPhone or any other smartphone.