Following on from our Oxford House Video Agency Film School blog, here we will highlight the relationship between the professional camera and the consumer phone camera.
Your phone will have ten times the features of the cameras we use. But it's not about that. In fact, the better the cinema camera, the fewer features it has. It simply focuses on being the best at what it does, and when in the right hands… well… It's the knowledge that really pushes things to the next level.
A cinema camera has a large sensor designed to be used with cinema lenses. All of this, in the hands of a pro, enables a director to get the exact shot they want, full of depth and contrast. Not just light contrast but also colour contrast and a more nuanced contrast using depth of field. This all comes together to create a cinematic composition. Below is a cinematic wide shot of a soon-to-be-released production that demonstrates the above really well. The way the light moves through the frame, hitting and contrasting just what it needs to, combined with the framing and depth of field, not only subtly pulls the eye to where we want it but creates a moody cinematic image — one you can really get sucked into.
A phone limits your control as a pro, but enables users to take a decent photo - instantly. Simply touch the screen on the area you want exposed/in focus, and there you go. But this doesn't mean the photo is genuinely good. Give an amateur a cinema camera and a cinematographer a phone and the chances are that the cinematographer will get the better shot.
Phone cameras are too realistic, they literally take a pristine shot of what you see and capture it as so. In photography and film we don't want this. The whole point is to manipulate the world to portray the emotion you wish to do so. This is why we grade footage and shoot in stylised ways. We're always playing with the light.
This, I feel, is partly why Instagram became so popular, it enabled you to use filters to take the edge off the reality of your phone photo, and it was a hit. The filters are just a band-aid. It's actually reality that you use in order to shape reality. You find the appropriate angle and position to get the most desirable shot wherever you are.
Let’s think of an example… Imagine you're sat by a fire in a warming and cosy environment. If you whip out your phone and take a snap, the resulting image will rarely capture the scene appropriately. This is why we need to shape the scene and the frame in order to portray that desired result. You can do this and take the snap on a phone - hence why the pro will always win! It’s not just about the camera, it’s about the implementation of knowledge that goes into the frame.
So even though the sensors are smaller and the lenses are limited, you can still get some brilliant shots on your phone. If you're going to post them on socials, then a phone is the perfect quick content creating companion when you combine it with the right knowledge.
Most of our daily story posts at the Oxford House video agency are shot on a phone. We can get some lovely shots and with a little editing we can get a grainy, filmic aesthetic that sympathises with an old film camera.
Speaking of filmic, on the left you'll see a point and shoot of a proper 35mm camera.
I hope this post has been somewhat insightful, as part of the Oxford House Film School we're starting to teach social content creators all about the above. If you're interested to learn more, simply ask and we can set up a consultancy day.