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Shooting a Feature Film on a Smartphone

Ralph Franklin Posted by Ralph Franklin in Features December 27th, 2011

(Filmmaker Hooman Khalili shot a feature film, Olive, on a high-def  Nokia N8 cell phone. The quality of Olive is amazing. Ralph Franklin tracked the picture down and wrote this report.)

I was there for one reason—not for the story, nor acting, lighting, camera work or editing. I was there to check out quality of a theatrical release film shot “100 percent with a cell phone”—a High Def Nokia N8. The film: Olive.

There was sharpness, good color and depth. Most shots were static and any pans or tilts were quite slow.

I did notice some strobing effect on the background—and it usually occurred as the camera-phone would pan with a subject. Would I have noticed it had I not been looking for quality rather than story? No.

When you think of a cell phone you think of something you carry in your shirt pocket.  You couldn’t with this one.The Olive Nokia had a 35mm lens attached to the front of the phone to add depth for the majority of the shots.

However, for the aerials the cell phone was strapped to a mini manually controlled helicopter without that extra lens.

The movie cost less than $500,000, which is a far cry from the $230 million to the nearly $500 million for Avatar.

Olive is billed as a film about a little girl who transforms the lives of three people without speaking one word. The story kept me seeking answers, some sort of explanation for what I was seeing. At the end, however, I did say, “Oh!”

We all pride ourselves—or try to—on the production equipment we use, which has always been the best we could afford.

Today, many stories we see on the news, or those getting a “million hits” on YouTube, have been shot with a cell phone.

Olive says, “Hey, guys, we’re taking this to a new level, we’re going after an Oscar.” It opens the doors to anyone with imagination and a good story.

Here is a link to see a clip from the film. Scroll on down Olive site for a behind-the-scenes clip. Cellphone Camera


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