I wrote an article in February highlighting some of the best phone-made films you can watch on streaming platforms. Now I want to sing a different tune and tell you all about the marvellous world of phone-made music videos! From indie artists to household names, musicians of all genres (and bank balances) are utilising the flexibility and efficiency of producing MVs using the camera found in your pocket. This might be right path for you if you're up for a challenge, want to save your budget, or just have fun doing something different. To learn some production tips or get some creative inspiration, read on!
1. Lady Gaga - Stupid Love
Lady Gaga has always strived to be at the cutting edge of art. Innovation, bold endeavours, and doing the unexpected are what she's been known for in her career and her Stupid Love music video is no different. Director, Daniel Askill, said it best: "It's kind of been an amazing experience as its evolved, finding new ways to work with [smartphones]."
Naturally, this video is the most high-budget production on the list. Instead of taking advantage of how lightweight and versatile smartphones are, the team decided to use their iPhone 11 Pros like any other film cameras they'd work with. This included accessories like steadicams and drones that are typically used in professional setups. And from the looks of things, they also used external smartphone lenses and had about half a dozen or more phones in action!
This expensive setup isn't something you could easily recreate yourself on a budget or on your own but I admire the Stupid Love team for taking smartphones to the limit and showing us all how high the ceiling is for using them as it's much higher than we all imagine. They even surprised themselves with the results!
You can watch a great behind the scenes video here on YouTube or the music video above.
2. BIIANCO - Chlorine
Chlorine by BIIANCO was also shot using an iPhone 11 Pro but they gave themselves an extra challenge by using a really cool production method called a one-take. One-takes involve shooting one continuous scene from start to finish and they're notoriously difficult to achieve since there's no way to cut out mistakes. If you mess up partway through, you've got to start from the beginning again until you get it right. This challenge pays itself back when you see a video like this that's so satisfyingly fluid and seamless.
For a one-take to be interesting, scene movement is important since you don't have the luxury of using cuts to keep things dynamic. Imagine you're filming a one-take with heavy-duty film cameras: how easy do you think it would be to restart your take from the top every time you make a mistake? Smartphones were certainly the smart choice to keep their setup lightweight and easy to carry!
The Chlorine team went a step further and dealt with the added challenge of filming in the dark. We've all tried to take videos at night and it simply doesn't work, does it? iPhones have a particularly bad reputation for poor low-light performance so to capture this film under a black sky is nothing short of magical to me. They even threw in some neon lights, smoke machines, and projectors - all of which are also tough to work with.
Put all of this together and you have an MV that shows off production value, professionalism, beauty, and artistry with ease.
Watch the amazingly insightful behind the scenes video from Kriscoart on YouTube here or the final music video above.
3. Ellie Goulding - How Long Will I Love You
British singer-songwriter Goulding has been in the industry since 2009 and developed a respectable catalogue of popular songs, many featured in movie soundtracks. Her 2013 ballad, How Long Will I Love You is one of those song, used in the films About Time and Tom & Issy. Both the latter film and Goulding's music video were filmed with a Nokia Lumia 1020 phone. The video features home-made style footage and shots of a black and white studio performance of the song.
This rough and ready video is far from polished but I personally find the autobiographical theme of the video very charming. It's also super easy to achieve with minimal effort! Set your phone up on a tripod to perform your song then take a day to capture some footage to cut in between it. I'm confident you won't have any trouble putting it all together and I'd love to see your How Long Will I Love You style videos when you make them.
You can watch this endearing music video above.
4. HANA - Chimera
Chimera is part of a visual performance project by Claire Boucher and Hana Pestle, known professionally as Grimes and HANA. The AC!D Reign Chronicles is a series of seven self-produced music videos filmed by the duo during their joint European tour. As Grimes explained on Twitter: "There was no crew, makeup, cameras, lights. Just us and a phone."
HANA's Chimera isn't the most interesting song or video in the series but I love the raw, DIY feel of it. With a little creative direction and imagination, Chimera proves that anyone with a camera can shoot a beautifully simple but still polished film such as this.
The video contrasts grungy scenes of dull, graffiti'd walls and kids on bikes with messy, unkempt gardens. These are the types of scenes that you could capture on your local high street, underpass, or park. Even the most "unattractive" corners of our own homes can turn into set pieces with poetic and raw appeal.
You'll also notice creative uses of reversed and slow-motion shots. It really shows you the impact and drama basic techniques can have to enhance your visual story.
All around, Chimera is a great MV that you should soak up as much inspiration from as you can for your own projects!
You can watch the 40-minute Director’s Cut of the Chronicles here or just HANA’s Chimera above.
5. Selena Gomez - Lose You to Love Me
This is ex-Disney star, Selena Gomez, in a down to earth music video for her 2020 ballad, Lose You to Love Me, filmed on an iPhone 11 Pro. Selena proves that there's still a lot to love about a film even when you lose the lights, camera, action and stick to something simple.
With a black and white colour grade and a single shot setup in a single room we're left with a stripped back, bare bones offering that still feels purposeful and meaningful to me. We're not distracted by unnecessary visual clutter so we can connect with this intimate visualisation of her song much more.
There's an important lesson here. You don't need to go all out on your music video production, especially if you're using a smartphone. The beauty of these wonderful little devices in our pockets is that they're simple. We've seen some impressive films here - which is great - but you don't need to do all of that! Maybe a Stupid Love production is overkill for you and that's okay. Keep it smart just like the device you're using and remember that your films don't need to be expensive or extravagant be amazing.
Now go ahead and make some music videos!
Let me know how you get on with your own smartphone films by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you.
If you liked this Tip and want to learn more about smartphone filming and editing then join us in our next course!
7th & 14th July
Introduction to Filming and Editing