Video contests are kinda my thing. When Providence’s 48 Hour Horror Film Project was announced, I automatically signed up.

But when you’ve completed 14 contest videos, you’ve got to keep things interesting. As a result, I decided to shoot my horror video entirely on my iPhone.

I wanted to challenge myself — but I also wanted to see just how well I could expect the iPhone to hold up when compared to the equipment other teams would be working with. After all, more and more people rely on their smartphones to take video, because their phones are everywhere.

The resulting video, Foo Goo, clocks in at 5:32.

An iPhone and a Little Bit More

How did I do it? I used an iPhone 5 with a 16 gig hard drive — but I only actually had 3 gigs free. That turned out to be less than ideal, since video files are huge. If you’re planning to shoot a lot of video with your smartphone, I’d suggest either clearing off some files or buying an iPhone with a big hard drive.

As useful as I found my iPhone for this project, I did need a few more resources in order to complete this video.

  • An actress: Diana Porter was incredibly helpful — not only in her willingness to work with such a small crew, but in so many other ways. Since we completed Foo Goo with just the two of us, having an actress who knows what she’s doing and is willing to pitch in was invaluable.
  • A shotgun mic: The built-in microphone on the iPhone (or any smartphone, for that matter) just can’t keep up. I used shotgun mic and a Tascam interface to get sound into my computer.
  • A laptop: The particular latop doesn’t matter all that much, but I relied on Adobe Premiere to edit the film. I did notice that the previews had some weird grain on them that didn’t render out — whatever codec Apple uses for the video, it’s an odd one.

A Real Learning Experience

There are some issues that I noticed while using my iPhone. These aren’t major issues, but they do require some planning ahead when shooting your video.

You will always need more light. iPhone footage will get very grainy if you don’t have enough light. I used the overhead lights or a clamp lamp for most shots.

The lens on the iPhone is surprisingly good: I used it for when the woman gets sucked into the tub and it worked great. However, it doesn’t work in all situations. The Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens Solution gave me a lot more options while shooting. It makes some wacky shots, but it slips off easily, so be aware.

Sound is always tough. Using an iPhone takes the question of sound to a whole new level. Next time I decide to shoot a video on my iPhone, I’ll change out the sound equipment a bit. I’m thinking that Zoom H4N Recorder will be the best bet. Having PluralEyes software to synchronize audio makes the whole process a lot easier.

Compared to the equipment I usually work with, the iPhone weighs nothing. This fact makes keeping your camera steady very difficult. You need either an incredibly steady hand or a good tripod.

Using a small camera totally has its moments! We fit into difficult-to-shoot spaces (like the bathroom) quite nicely.

The render time seemed very short. I only needed about twenty or thirty minutes, compared to about an hour when I shoot with my usual equipment.

Making Your Own Video?

If you’re considering shooting a video — whether it’s your very own horror story or an ad for your business — I’ve pretty well proven that you can do so using your iPhone. Of course, the more budget you have available to invest into your video, the better the results you’ll get.

Got the money? Here’s where to spend it to get the best value:

  1. Rent the sound gear. You’ll be surprised how cheaply you can get it from places like LensProToGo, especially if you’re going to shoot over the weekend.
  2. Hire a videographer. Experience does count for a lot and a trained videographer can get the best results out of whatever equipment you use.

Got some time to invest, as well? Write out your script and rehearse it. Rehearsal may seem like such a little thing, but it can dramatically improve your video. Even better, if you only have your equipment or a videographer’s help for a set amount of time, rehearsing beforehand guarantees you aren’t wasting any of the minutes you may have to pay for.