Professional stop motion filming with an iPhone (you can!)

by Joost | Last Updated: June 26, 2022
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The title of this article alone will infuriate some readers. No, we are not going to claim that an iPhone is just as good as a RED camera, and that you should shoot every cinema film with mobiles from now on.

That does not alter the fact that cameras in mobile phones can indeed deliver neat results, for the right stop motion project, for the right budget, a smartphone can be the best choice.

Stop motion filming with an iPhone

Tangerine

This film was a hit at Sundance and subsequently played in a number of theaters. The entire movie was shot on an iPhone 5S with an Anamorphic adapter from Moondog Labs.

Afterwards, color filters were used in the editing and image noise was added to give a “film look”.

The film doesn’t look like the new Star Wars (despite the lens flares), which is also due to the handheld camera work and the mostly natural light.

It does show that you can tell stories worthy of the cinema with a smartphone.

Playmobil petting zoo stop motion
Playmobil petting zoo stop motion

Software and Hardware for your iPhone

Sorry Android and Lumia videographers, for the iPhone there are simply more products available to film better.

Fortunately, there are also universal tripods and lamps for all smartphones, but for serious mobile work you will have to move to iOS.

If you’re still tied to Android, we can definitely recommend Pocket AC!

Record

FilmicPro gives you all the control that the standard camera app can’t give you when shooting stop motion. Fixed focus, adjustable frame rates, lower compression and extensive light settings give you much more control over the image.

FilmicPro is the standard for iPhone videographers. I personally prefer MoviePro. This app is less known but offers similar options and is very resistant to crashes.

Update: FilmicPro is now also available for Android

To process

When recording, turn off the stabilization and do that afterwards via Emulsio, a remarkably good software stabilizer. VideoGrade is highly recommended for editing colours, contrast and sharpness, but the bit rate may be a bit higher.

iMovie for mobile is more versatile than you might think, and Pinnacle Studio gives you even more editing options, especially on an iPad.

Additional hardware

With an iOgrapher you place the mobile device in a holder on which you can place lamps and microphones.

I myself am not very pleased with my iOgrapher, but it does offer advantages, especially if you want to work from a tripod (best choices for stop motion here).

The Smoothee is an affordable steadycam solution, you can also opt for the Feiyu Tech FY-G4 Ultra Handheld Gimbal that electronically stabilizes over three axes and makes a tripod almost unnecessary.

And buy some LED lamps with battery, you never have enough light.

There are also different lenses that you can place in front of the existing lens. With this you can, for example, make anaphoric shots, or film with a smaller depth of field.

Smartphone lenses often have a very large focus range, and that eye is not “cinematic”. Finally, you can use external microphones, good sound immediately makes a stop motion production much more professional.

iographer for iPhone

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Filming stop motion doesn’t get any easier

The question remains whether an iPhone is the best choice for making a movie.

If you can’t get a video camera in any other way, or you are looking for a certain artistic style, a smartphone can give a specific “look” that gives your project a recognizable style.

A “cinema verité” style for example, or when you film in places without permission. If you want to make professional films, you will quickly run into the limitations of these cameras.

An iPhone is a wonderful device, a computer in your pocket that can do almost anything. But sometimes it’s better to use a device that can do one thing really well, like a video camera.