Gift Guide: Essential Smartphone Camera Accessories for Filmmakers

Essential Smartphone Camera Accessories for Filmmakers

Advancements in technology have made it perfectly possible to make a short film or even an entire movie with your iPhone or Android — as long as you've got the right gear. Lenses, stabilizers, tripods, lighting, microphones, chargers, and cases can make the difference between a good movie and a great film, all of which can make a great gift for those aspiring (or current) filmmakers in your life.

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Stocking Stuffers for Less Than $25

A Good Foundation Is Key

A case won't only protect a smartphone from the elements (mostly, the concrete), it can also be used to supplement a filmmaker's device and attach an assortment of accessories necessary to complete a full video camera setup.

Ulanzi's U-Rig Pro smartphone case comes equipped with three standard shoe mounts to attach LED lights and a video microphone to the rig, and two universal tripod threads to mount the case on a tripod, stabilizer, slider, and jib. A filmmaker can also go handheld thanks to the two handle grips on both sides, which allow for relatively smooth shots.

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The U-Rig Pro works with most smartphone models, with or without a case, ranging from 2 in. to 3.5 in. wide. There's a spring clip and a secure screw, either of which can be used to secure the smartphone within the rig. Supports both vertical and landscape mode.

Eliminate Camera Shake

Aside from a smartphone rig/case (like the one mentioned above), a regular ol' tripod can help stabilize video and create steady, good-looking shots on a smartphone. No matter if you've got a mini, flexible tripod, or one that can reach over 50 in. in height — these compact tools will allow any filmmaker to create higher-quality content.

If you want to go small, the flexible smartphone UBeesize Tripod S is the perfect choice. The 10.6 inch metal tripod features three flexible octopus-style legs, which are easily adjustable for any many kinds of unique shots. A high-grade metal ball joint supports a smartphone of up to 1kg (and 3.54 in. wide), and keeps it securely locked in place. The tripod also comes with a wireless remote control which allows remote shots from a distance of up to 30 ft.

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Want to go a bigger? The Fugetek FT-569 tripod — which also doubles as a selfie stick — is a simple, yet tall option for stability. It's made of heavy-duty aluminum, but still lightweight, and comes with a bluetooth remote so you can hit record from afar. Best of all, the tripod extends up to 51 in. in height, for more flexibility and a better variety of shots.

Image via Lonestar

Set the Light Mood

A good filmmaker uses a combination of natural and artificial light to produce dramatic effects, set a specific mood, redirect attention, and bring a specific location to life — among other things. Essentially, a film can't exist without light, which is why adequate lighting equipment is required.

If you're looking for a light that's not-so-crazy, the Ulanzi 96 LED Video Light is a perfect pocket-sized LED light to give as a gift. As long as they've already got a rig/case like the one mentioned above, a filmmaker can easily attach the portable light to their smartphone. The light features dual color temperature adjustments (seen below), a brightness wheel, a rechargeable battery and USB cable (or use 4 AA batteries instead), and a metal hot shoe for adaptability.

Image via Aliexpress

It's Not All About the Hardware

Accessories aren't strictly tangible — they also come in the form of software. In the Play Store and App Store, you'll find dozens, if not hundreds, of applications that filmmakers can use to take full control of frame rates, image quality, motion fx, audio, and more. One of the best applications available — which was featured at this year's Apple Keynote event — is FiLMiC Pro, considered the "most advanced cinema video camera" for the smartphone.

FiLMic Pro v6 allows frame rates up to 240fps (depending on the smartphone), as well as variable speed zoom, and audio gain control (for better sound). The filmmaker also gets manual control over exposure, focus, shutter speed, tint and color temperature, white balance, and so much more.

Aren't sure about dropping money on FiLMic Pro? Check out the trailer for Director Sean Baker's 2015 American comedy-drama film Tangerine, which was shot on an iPhone 5S using the FiLMIC Pro application.

More Juice

A filmmaker will go through more batteries than they want, which is why they need (no, require) a portable charger in their arsenal of filmmaking gear, in case their smartphone, lights, microphone, or any other device is low on battery.

The Anker PowerCore 10000 is one of the smallest and lightest 10000 mAh portable chargers on the market, making it easy to carry in any bag. It provides up to 3.5 smartphone charges (depending on the model), and does it fast, thanks to Anker's exclusive PowerIQ and VoltageBoost features. Although portable batteries can be finicky, the Anker PowerCore 10000 comes with an 18-month warranty.

Image via Anker

Great Gifts Between $25 & $99

Using Sound to Tell a Story

Sound production rarely gets any love in film, but it plays a pivotal role in the finished project. If the film is filled with heavy dialogue, it's important that a decent microphone is used to get clear sound, in lieu of airplanes, cars, air conditioning units, loud people, and other unintended noises. Poor sound can quickly ruin a good project.

The Rode VideoMicro is a compact directional microphone that can easily be attached to an iPhone or Android and pointed to the desired subject(s) or object(s) to capture high-quality audio recordings. The microphone features a shoe and shock mount so that it can easily be connected to a smartphone rig/case. Lastly, it comes with a synthetic furry wind shield to use outdoors and capture better sound when there is wind and other outside noises.

Image via YouTube

Sound Can Also Go Wireless

Directional microphones are great, but sometimes a discreet microphone, that can easily be hidden in clothing, is needed. That's where lavalier microphones come in, which are small mics used in interviews, theatre, and other situations, that allow for hands-free operation.

The KIMAFUN G102 2.4G wireless headset/lapel microphone comes with a wireless microphone transmitter and receiver, allowing a filmmaker to hide the microphone on someone while listening to and recording the sound remotely, via bluetooth, on a smartphone. The product comes with a built-in lithium battery which is rechargeable, and can be used for 6 to 8 hours when fully charged. Although it's compatible with most devices, you may need a 3.5 mm. to 6.35 mm. adapter.

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A Different Perspective

The iPhone 11 Pro Max features a triple-camera system with ultra wide, wide, and telephoto options, but not all the newer smartphone models feature different lenses, which is why there are tons of options for third-party lenses on the market.

Olloclip, which is the original mobile phone lens system, offers several lenses to supplement smartphones when it comes to recording video. They even offer a bundle, which features fisheye (180° spherical effect), super-wide (wider field of view), and macro (macro magnification) lenses, as well as a multi-device clip, so the lenses can easily be attached to most smartphone models. The package also comes with a bluetooth wireless remote, with a range of up to 30 ft.

Image via Amazon

Better Stabilization

An easy way to make videos look more professional, even on a smartphone, is with a gimbal. Using a gimbal, a filmmaker can capture extremely smooth video, with none of the shakiness, while also enjoying the freedom of handheld shooting, thanks to motors and intelligent sensors built in to the pivoted support.

The Hohem iSteady Mobile Plus+ is an affordable 3-axis gimbal stabilizer, which allows for incredibly smooth shots while walking, running, going down stairs, and more. The gimbal features face/object tracking, slow-motion recording, time-lapse recording, beauty retouching, 360° panorama mode, and more. It even doubles as a power bank, so anyone can charge their smartphone.

Image via Amazon

It Can Get Even Smoother

A tripod and a gimbal aren't the only ways to capture smooth shots. A camera (or in this case, a smartphone) dolly slider is a device used to move another device effortlessly in a horizontal manner, by mounting the smartphone to a rig, and then mounting the rig onto the dolly slider. It can be used to create "dolly shot," which involves moving a camera toward or away from a subject or object while recording.

The carbon-fiber Neewer dolly slider is a compact and affordable dolly rail with multiple mounting options, making it easy to attach a smartphone using a rig, case, tripod, and other devices. The dolly slider is 50 cm. (or 19.7 in.) wide, and features 4 precision bearing stable construction to capture smooth and noseless video (a bad dolly can be loud).

Image via Amazon

The dolly rail also comes in two other sizes:

Splurges for $100 & Up

The Entire Package

There are microphones, lights, grips and rigs, and more that's needed to complete a smartphone kit for a filmmaker: so why not get it all? The DREAMGRIP Evolution MOJO smartphone rig is compatible with all smartphones and includes 2 external video lights, a directional microphone, a rig frame, 2 clamp holders, filters, a backlight blinder, and different bolts (to make connecting other devices easier).

It's everything an aspiring filmmaker could want to record a short film on their smartphone — and all for under $200.

Image via Amazon

A Better Lens

There are tons of lenses on the market — including the Olloclip lenses mentioned above — but if you're willing to drop the big bucks, you can get a higher-quality lens for that filmmaker in your life. The Moment M-series Anamorphic Lens works with nearly every smartphone and comes with a lens, lens cap, hex tool, and microfiber bag.

The anamorphic lens gives a filmmaker a more authentic film look, with horizontal flares, and a wide-screen look with black bars on the top and the bottom. It is made from aerospace grade metal and hand-polished glass which is usually used for expensive 4K film lenses. The product also comes with a 12-month warranty, and a 100% satisfaction guarantee with free shipping and return.

Note that they'll also need the Moment Photo Case to attach the lens.

Image via Amazon

Better Lighting

A few tiny lights are okay for smaller projects, but they won't be able to do much on more professional sets. The bigger the lights the better, especially when the set is large and requires lights to show off an actor or the background ... or both.

The Neewer Dimmable 1904 LED video light is a powerful LED light with nearly 2000 LED bulbs, with adjustments for brightness and color temperate. The strong aluminum alloy frame comes equipped with a 360 degree u-shaped bracket design so that a filmmaker can work at any angle. It features a 15V/7A DC adapter for indoor shooting or a mount for an external battery for wireless outdoor shooting (battery sold separately).

Image via Amazon

Even with All These Accessories...You Still Need a Camera

Everything on this list is useless unless the filmmaker has a capable smartphone with recording capabilities. Yes, there are hundreds of models out there to choose from, but one of the best options has to be the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, which just dropped this year.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max features a 6. 5-inch super retina XDR OLED display, making it easy to watch the action, as well as a triple-camera system with 12MP ultra wide, wide, and telephoto lenses. 4K video can be shot up to 60fps, and there's also slo-mo capture for action shots. Rounded out by the A13 bionic chip with a third-generation neural engine and fast charging, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is everything you could want when it comes to smartphone filmmaking.

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Have an iPhone? See everything that's new with Apple's latest iOS update:

Cover image via Top 10 Zone/YouTube

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