Are smartphones the future of filmmaking?
High Flying Bird, a micro-budget drama about a sports agent taking on the establishment, isn’t the first movie to be shot entirely on smartphones. It’s not even the first Steven Soderbergh movie to be shot entirely on smartphones - his 2018 psychological horror Unsane was made the same way.
But it does mark a significant step towards mainstream acceptance for a practice that has, until recently, been seen as a gimmick that’s unlikely to challenge the conventions of Hollywood.
Soderbergh shot to fame in 1989 with Sex, Lies and Videotape and since then has juggled blockbuster hits (the Ocean's Eleven series, Magic Mike) with more experimental fare (Contagion, Side Effects) and TV drama (The Knick, The Girlfriend Experience).
1989年，索德伯格凭借《性、谎言和录像带》（Sex, Lies and Videotape）一举成名。此后，他又拍摄了电影大片，《十一罗汉》（Ocean's Eleven，台湾译《瞒天过海》）系列、《魔力麦克》（Magic Mike），以及更具实验性的电影作品《传染病》（Contagion）、《副作用》（Side Effects）和电视剧《尼克病院》（The Knick） 、《应招女友》（The Girlfriend Experience）。
As a longstanding champion of digital photography, in the past two years he has become the highest-profile advocate of smartphones for serious filmmaking.
“I think this is the future,” he declared at Sundance last year while promoting Unsane, which he shot in two weeks for just $1.5 million using the iPhone 7 Plus. “I look at this as potentially one of the most liberating experiences that I’ve ever had as a filmmaker.”
去年在圣丹斯（Sundance）电影节宣传《失心病狂》时 ，索德伯格宣称，“我认为手机拍摄电影是未来的趋势。”该片耗时两周，花费150万美元，用iPhone 7 Plus拍摄。“我认为这可能是我作为电影制作人最自由的经历之一。”
For High Flying Bird, released through Netflix to critical acclaim earlier this month, the budget was upped to $2m - still minuscule by Hollywood standards, where blockbuster Black Panther weighed in at $200m and even a 'low-budget' film like The Favourite cost $15m - and Soderbergh pushed the iPhone even further, using wide-angle lenses and capturing lengthy hand-held tracking shots.
《高飞鸟》本月早些时候通过网飞公司（Netflix）发行，受到评论界好评。该片预算不超过200万美元，以好莱坞标准来看微不足道。大片《黑豹》（Black Panther）耗资高达2亿美元；即使像《宠儿》（The Favourite）这样的“低成本”电影也花费了1500万美元。拍摄时，索德伯格进一步发挥了iPhone的作用，运用广角镜头，并有冗长的手持跟踪拍摄。
Discussing the film on the Bill Simmons Podcast in January, Soderbergh said: “If I had a traditional camera package […] the film I think would not have been any better. It might have been worse. It certainly would have taken longer.” He’s not wrong about the last point. A tweet from Soderbergh’s ‘secret’ account reveals the first cut was completed less than three hours after filming wrapped.
After the release of Apple’s iPhone 4 - the first model to shoot HD video - in 2010, tech-savvy, budget-conscious filmmakers were quick to tap into its potential. Thanks to dedicated add-on lenses and apps such as FiLMiC Pro - as well as each new iteration of the iPhone improving on the last - these tiny devices were increasingly capable of rivalling large cameras that cost far more.
2010年，苹果公司发布了iPhone 4――首款可以拍摄高清视频的机型。此后，那些精通技术且在乎预算的电影制作人们很快开始尝试用手机拍摄电影。多亏了专门的扩展镜头和应用程序（如FiLMiC Pro），以及每一代iPhone都在上一代的基础上升级，和那些花费高得多的大型摄影机相比，这些微型设备越来越具有竞争力。
And while current technological limitations mean there is still a particular 'look' associated with smartphone footage - they perform less well in low-light conditions, and tend to put the entire frame into unnaturally sharp focus - this can be used to creative effect.
Actor Joshua Leonard, who starred in Unsane alongside Claire Foy, told The Ringer: “The iPhone itself does have a certain aesthetic that was unnerving. The profound depth of field that you get in every shot, where every single piece of the frame is in focus, made for an uncomfortable experience in a way that I think served [Unsane] quite well.
与芙伊（Claire Foy）共同出演《失心病狂》的演员莱纳德（Joshua Leonard）告诉新闻网站 The Ringer，“iPhone本身确实有一种让人不安的审美。你在每一个镜头中获得的景深都很深，每个镜头的每一帧都聚焦清晰，这会营造出一种让人不舒服的体验，我认为和《失心病狂》很配。”
“To me, the technology hasn’t advanced to the point where an iPhone movie won’t look like an iPhone movie. I think anybody using the iPhone technology right now will be integrating that aesthetic that the phone gives into their movie.”
For Soderbergh, the advantages outweigh any limitations. “What’s great about the iPhone is I can put it anywhere,” he says. “Literally, I can Velcro it to a ceiling, I can do whatever I want, and that’s very liberating.”
Sean Baker, whose acclaimed iPhone-shot film Tangerine, about a transgender prostitute hunting her cheating boyfriend-pimp, marked a major breakthrough for the technology, has also highlighted its advantages over traditional cameras.
He told Fast Company: “While [the iPhone] has helped me become more mobile, no pun intended - running around, finding tight areas and different ways of moving the camera - to me it’s more about using this device to catch candid moments. That’s the biggest thing. Because nobody takes the iPhone as seriously as a regular camera, so they have lowered inhibitions.”
While we're not yet at the point where an iPhone-shot movie isn't a newsworthy story in itself, the technology is rapidly closing the gap to conventional setups, and it seems inevitable that phone footage will be used more and more in the coming years - particularly in documentaries, where its unobtrusive size and ease of use offer obvious advantages.
But as well as allowing established directors to experiment with new techniques and work with lower budgets, perhaps the most important contribution of the smartphone is the way it has opened up the art of filmmaking to anyone with a phone, a laptop and an imagination. As Soderbergh says: “You really don’t need much more than what’s in your pocket and some software, and off you go.”