With decent lighting and a modern smartphone, you can shoot some pretty impressive movies.
Take "Olive," a feature-length film shot entirely on a Nokia N8. And Chan-wook Park shot a 30-minute movie, "Paranmanjang," using only an iPhone.
Of course, there's only so much you can accomplish holding your phone in those shaky hands of yours. If you want rock-steady images, you'll need some accessories.
iStabilizer offers a number of cool products for budding low-budget moviemakers; I recently checked out two of them: the Dolly and the Glidepro.
The $59.95 Dolly is a four-wheeled skate with a multi-jointed arm that lets you capture ultra-smooth panning and rolling shots. It's not only effective, but also ridiculously cute.
Your phone pairs with the Dolly courtesy of the iStabilizer Mount, an ingenious spring-loaded holder that's actually a universal tripod mount. (Translation: you can use your phone not just with the Dolly, but also a standard tripod, a monopod, or the like.)
The ingenious part is that it works with most cases and bumpers (anything less than 2.75 inches wide). Just pull up on the spring arm, place your phone in the mount, and release. That you can pop your phone in and out with such ease is part of what makes using the Dolly (and the Glidepro, which uses the same mount) such a pleasure.
The Dolly can work on a tabletop or other level surface, but it's most fun for shooting low-to-the-ground stuff. It rolls smoothly and effortlessly, and the eight-jointed arm lets you position your phone at almost any angle. I had a blast messing around with this thing. My only complaint is that it can be a little tricky to level the phone, but, of course, there are any number of apps for that (like iHandy Level Free for iOS).
I had less fun with the $99.95 Glidepro, a poor-man's Steadicam that aims to help you keep your phone steady while you move around.
Using the aforementioned iStabilizer Mount, you attach your phone to the top of the Glidepro, a curved metal arm that's weighted at the bottom. Those weights are there to keep the phone level and steady while you hold the handle, which is connected via a gimbal head.
So, does the Glidepro work? Yes and no. I found that if I held my arm as steady as possible and moved around carefully, I could capture smoother, less-jittery video than by holding my iPhone in my hands. But it really does take practice to make good use of the system, as the weights have a tendency to swing and turn the arm. In other words, don't expect miracles.
iStabilizer offers a couple other nifty tools for moviemakers, including the $34.95 Monopod (a telescoping arm with an iStabilizer Mount on the end) and the $29.95 Glass, which attaches your smartphone to your windshield.
By the way, a great accessory for these accessories, especially the Dolly, is the Satechi BT Media Remote, which features a camera-shutter button you can use to start/stop iDevice recording without having to touch the screen.