The Impact of Cellphone Documentaries

When doing the assigned reading for this week, I was interested in the discussion of how new technologies can have an impact on mainstream and traditional media forms. As Sørrenson’s article was written in 2008, he was not able to write about the impact of smartphones in his article.

In the last 6 years, smartphones have become an increasingly integral part of everyday life. With inbuilt cameras often at a similar quality as DSLR’s on the market, consumers now have an increased access to high quality equipment that professionals have. With the lines progressively blurring between professional and amateur, consumers now hold an incredible amount of power within the market.

I was interested in how smartphone technologies have awarded consumers with this power, and decided to explore the rising phenomenon of cellphone technologies. I found this article on PBS, which provides some excellent examples of well-made cellphone documentaries. Delaney (2012) explores how equipment to assist with excellent cinematography for smartphones is growing, stating that as “technology in ‘real’ camcorders is improving, one can expect smartphone technology to continue improving as well”.

The second example provided in Delaney’s article “Apple of My Eye” is a short documentary produced and edited purely on the iPhone 4. While the film is cute, interesting and well made, I was more interested in the behind the scenes aspect, which is attached at the end of the film (and which is actually longer than the film itself). The filmmakers are seen using dollys, tripods and other film equipment made specifically for iPhones. This manufacturing of equipment specifically for smaller, handheld, consumer devices is completely in tune with Astruc’s vision and predictions, which was discussed by Sørrenson in his 2008 article.

The development and sale of filmmaking equipment made specifically for smartphones has a massive impact on the mainstream film industry, and particularly modern documentary makers. If just anyone can produce a high-quality film with their phone, what point is there in investing in expensive equipment and crews? If just anyone can produce high-quality, real footage, what point is there in investing time and money in documentary makers?

Delaney’s article provides excellent examples of cellphone documentaries and begins a discussion about the impact that smartphones will have on the mainstream film industry.

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