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[Weekender] Filmmaking in the palm of your hand

2011/07/28 | 850 views | Permalink | Source

A girl records a video using a smartphone at the Olleh Media Studio in Mok-dong, Seoul, on July 18. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Learn how to make movies using smartphones

By Lee Hyo-won

Filmmaking is a costly, time-consuming endeavor involving massive teamwork.

But now it is possible to make surprisingly high-quality projects alone in a matter of days with just a few hundred dollars - using smartphones equipped with not only HD cameras but also editing applications.

In February, filmmaker Park Chan-wook and his video artist brother Park Chan-kyong won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival for the 30-minute film "Night Fishing" that was shot with an iPhone 4. It was a realization of the prediction Spike Lee had made in 2008, that "within five years, new movies will be made with devices like cell phones".

Last year, KT, the local carrier that was the first to sell iPhones in Korea, invited a dozen renowned cineastes to make short films using the device.

A few months later it launched a competition for ordinary smartphone users to submit works.

Director Lee Joon-ik, who chaired the jury, called smartphone movies a "democratization of cinema" that allows anyone to create in a previous interview with The Korea Times. Winning works of the festival were even invited to compete at the Shanghai International Film Festival recently.

In an effort to encourage more talented amateurs to realize their filmmaking dreams, KT runs an academy that not only teaches the technicalities of the creative process but also rents out production equipment.

Renowned cineastes that participated in last year's iPhone 4 Film Festival give lessons, including Bong Man-dae ("Cinderella"), Yoon Jong-seok ("Marine Boy"), Lee Ho-jae-I ("The Scam"), Yim Pil-sung ("Hansel and Gretel") and Chung Yoon-chul ("A Man Who Was Superman"). Also a regular lecturer is Min Byun-wu, who won the Olleh Lotte Smartphone Film Festival's grand prize with a homemade pet video.

Aspiring filmmakers that register for these classes come from all walks of life, from corporate workers and housewives to even grade schoolers.

Last week, 16 elementary school students gathered at the Olleh Media Studio in Mok-dong, Seoul, to have a shot at making their own work.

"Why are you reciting the lines as if you're reading a book? Try to be more natural!" Kim Bo-gyeong, a sixth grader at Hwa Soo Elementary School in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, told her actresses.

Children were assigned to make a short clip running a few minutes long that employ two principals they learned that day - the importance of giving "head room" and "looking room" when filming a person.

Yang Ha-rin and Kim Bo-min, fourth and fifth graders respectively at the same school, were playing roles as hosts of a home shopping channel for the challenge.

"It's a lot more fun than I imagined", said Kim. Her mother, Kim Jin-heui, helped the kids shoot the film as voluntary crew members to hold up their lines written on a piece of paper. After shooting the scene several times the team viewed their work right away on the phone.

As lecturer du jour, director Min shared the know-how he developed while making his winning piece "Stray Cats".

"It's been about a month since I started lecturing here and it's my first time teaching such young children. I tried hard to explain sophisticated concepts in a simple way... But I'm surprised they know so much already and they are actually a lot more enthusiastic when it comes to hands-on experimentation", said Min.

Lee Young-ae, who teaches sixth grade at Seoul Guronam Elementary School, accompanied a group of her students for the lesson.
"Kids these days can't live without their cell phones and we do have projects at school that allow children to create their own broadcasting team to deliver news", Lee said.

"Children today grow up in a video culture and movie-making projects like this can be not only fun but educational since it encourages teamwork".

Movie-making for the masses

Song Young-hee, head of KT's Content & Media Business Unit, said the academy aims to provide a platform for potential filmmakers.

"There are so many people who wish to create movies but cannot due to lack of resources. Our aim is basically to facilitate the general public's access to filmmaking, to help them fulfill their dreams", said Song.

Providing a long-term educational initiative, she said, will pave the way for the next Park Chan-wook or Spielberg.

While not everyone registering for classes may be looking to debut as a filmmaker, the demand for these classes is high.

"The requests are so much more than we expected that we're accepting admission on a first-come first serve basis", said Song.

"It's because there has been no comprehensive educational system about audiovisuals like this". KT also hosts a program that travels to schools to teach about smartphone filmmaking.

Moreover, Song noted that the academy does not stop short of teaching how to make movies but also has a post-production studio and provides a distribution channel via IPTV.

The Olleh Media Studio plans to expand to include facilities for 3D filmmaking in the near future, she said.

"We're living in a highly integrated world in which people constantly share information and audiovisual content through smartphones and other mobile devices", said the head.

"It seems people have moved beyond user-created content and are longing to create something 'professional' on their own. We are catering to that need and helping people get published".

For more information about the Olleh Media Studio, visit

Tips for smartphone filmmaking

The iPhone 4 has proved to be particularly popular among smartphone cineastes because its 500 megapixel camera can captures up to 30 frames per second.

To help the filming process, there are many accessories available such as mini tripods, shoulder grips and hand grips, as well as an attachable lens with zoom in/out functions.

But apart from such physical devices there are colorful apps and programs. Much-loved apps include "Almost DSLR" ($1.99) which allows users to control the focus and exposure. "iMovie" ($4.99) features a multi-touch service for taking videos and adding visual effects and music score.

On the PC, Microsoft's free video editing program "Moviemaker" features simple editing tools while pay programs such as "Volume" or "Remote Sound Box" provide unique sound designs.

"You cannot simply say that 'anyone can make a movie'. Rather, one should realize how 'only those that acquire the know-how can make a movie'," Jung Jung-hoon, the cinematographer of Park Chan-wook's "Thirst", was quoted as saying in the book "iPhone Movie Guide" ( Books: 198 pp., 14,000 won).

Written by Yoo Soon-mi, head of movie PR company Megaphone, the book is used as the textbook at the academy. It provides a comprehensive guide to filmmaking, from planning the scenario to filming, adding sound and visual effects, editing as well as a list of useful apps and accessories.

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