Hollywood's first all-iPhone movie hits SXSW

March 04, 2014 5:46 AM EST

The iPhone is the Swiss Army knife of the digital age, with the first Hollywood feature film shot entirely on the device shortlisted for an SXSW award.

Hollywood's first all-iPhone movie hits SXWS

Uneasy Lies The Mind is a tense psychological thriller set in Mammoth Lakes, California. Shot throughout on iPhones using a lens adaptor and the FiLMiC Pro 2 app, it tells the tale of a man exploring his fragmented memories as he lies dying after a violent robbery.

Movie director, Ricky Fosheim of Detention Films, explains: "We weren't shooting with the iPhone to be cool.  We shot on the iPhone because the look it created fit perfectly with the story we were trying to tell."

(iPhones previously filmed sequences in The Avengers, and Searching for Sugar Man).

"I originally wanted to shoot on 16mm film. Without the budget for this I decided to try to replicate 16mm with modern technology." He tested iPhones with 35mm adapters against the Red Epic and Canon 5D MkIII. "The results blew my mind."

"The images we created with Uneasy Lies the Mind are unlike anything I've ever seen before. The unique aesthetic worked because it helped facilitate the story," he said.

"The saturated colors, darkened edges of frames and washes of overly warm or cold tones blend into a blown-out, lo-fi look that confers a patina of instant nostalgia," Metro Active writes.

The movie is competing for the main title design prize at SXSW, up against big names, including True Detective, Pacific Rim and The Lego Movie.

Fosheim decided to embrace the vignetted look of iPhone footage to help tell the story. "I was heavily influenced by Janusz Kaminski’s work in Saving Private Ryan," he said.

So, what did Fosheim learn about iPhone filmmaking?

Vignette

"To have complete control of vignette, I chose to shoot on very fast lenses. My Nikon F mount glass opened up to a f1.4. The vignette also changed dramatically based on lens focal length. I shot the majority of the movie using 35mm and 50mm lenses, which had medium vignette.

"I chose to put the camera right in the middle of the action, with actors literally bumping in to me sometimes. This added to the disorientation and claustrophobia I was trying to achieve."

Filmic Pro

"FilmicPro is incredibly powerful, enables control of numerous settings, and lets you control both frame rate and playback frame rate. I shot a lot of the abstract sequences at 6fps and would play them back at that speed, but still embedded within a 24fps video. The results are these incredibly blurred images full of watercolor-like movement."

Power

"A beautiful side effect when shooting with the iPhone is that it gets unintended electrical pulses to the image when you power the camera while shooting -- every couple of seconds you get a single-frame flash of brightness."

Temperature

"The iPhone does not operate very well in extremely cold temperatures. We shot during freezing cold temperatures -- the iPhone battery would only last for 2-3 minutes before dying."

Dynamic Range

"The iPhone has much better dynamic range when shooting in bright daylight.  When shooting at night or under tungsten light there is much more grain and contrast. So, if you want to avoid grain just make sure you add more light than you normally think you should."

Uneasy Lies the Mind won't be the last iPhone-filmed movie you ever see: "I truly fell in love with the look of this movie and I can’t wait to see what future filmmakers will do with smartphones and other alternative cameras," says Fosheim.

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