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  • Mick Reed

How Camera Phones and 5G are Revolutionizing Video

Updated: Aug 27



Ten years ago we were in the middle of a DSLR video revolution that changed how we capture and look at the world around us. The same thing is happening now with mobile phone cameras, but with an added bonus – 5G will also make it easier to publish and consume that content.


When DSLRS came up, all of a sudden you could shoot truly cinematic footage on a camera that cost a few thousand bucks, body and lenses included. Before that, a similar camera would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, not including lenses and the rest of the package. So this was a huge breakthrough.


I had been disappointed with similar promises around the first DV cameras in the late 90s and early 2000s, so I was as cautious as I’ve been lately with mobile phone footage. We started experimenting with early DV on commercial shoots, but it was a real stretch saying the results were anything like film, no matter what your definition. I remember doing things like putting stockings over the lenses which was supposed to… I can’t remember what. But the results were never that great, mostly gimmick.


I first started seeing the opportunities for DSLR video in the stills world. Photographers were the earliest adaptors of DSLRs, not surprisingly, and while video was an afterthought for them, all you had to do was flip a switch and start rolling. As long as you knew what you were doing – this is a crucial point for mobile footage, too – every shot has potential. And there were cameras everywhere, a true game-changer.

This era was actually the genesis of Clippn. I started training stills shooters on how to shoot video, which taught me a few things:

  • They needed basic training and a feedback loop to reinforce best practices

  • Once they applied these simple best practices, they shot amazing footage

  • After the footage was edited for its primary purpose, it could be used for new projects and revenue streams

This last point led to Clippn’s co-founder, Joe Valenti, exploring stock footage distribution models, and together we discovered what a nightmare it was to process camera footage into ready-for-sale clips and get it to market with titles, description, and keywords to meet the various specs of each distributor. Our years of experience in production and post gave us enough confidence to dive headfirst into solving this problem, where removing every friction point was critical for commercial and artistic success. And Clippn was born.


My attitude towards phone footage has been evolving over the past year. Even six months ago I was discouraging people from shooting commercially on their phones. But now I am a true believer. The quality is there (don’t forget those best practices!) especially on the high-end phones that have larger sensors, lidar to improve low light shooting, and higher resolutions like 4K and above. And let’s not forget audio – the built in mic is remarkably good, and there are low cost add-on solutions to capture natural sound or input wireless lav feeds for interviews. I’ve been testing the new iPhone 12 Pro Max on some industrial shoots and it cuts seamlessly with other cameras. I’m even planning on shooting a documentary with it.


5G will remove an important point of friction, allowing you to upload your footage directly to Clippn from your phone, releases included. That “5G” network status doesn’t mean much right now, but we expect true 5G with speeds of 10-20x that of 4G LTE to become more widely available in the next year. In the meantime, wifi remains a good option to get the files off your phone.


I recently asked Scott Ambrozy, director of photography for the Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me”, what he would do differently if he shot that movie today. Without hesitation he replied, “Shoot it on my phone”. He pointed out that the size alone increases access to situations and places worth capturing. You can listen to the podcast here.


Now, almost everyone has a pro-quality camera in their pocket. There will be more of the world captured on video, and fewer events and historical moments will missed. The potential is huge and will shape the way we see the world as we consume the media created from this source footage.

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