Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to exploring new techniques and concepts in his feature films, but with his latest thriller, UNSANE, the prolific filmmaker turned to the iPhone to capture every single scene. And he’s convinced Mobile Filmmaking is the future.
“I think this is the future. Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.” – Steven Soderbergh, Sundance talk
Claire Foy plays a woman haunted by a stalker in “Unsane,” shot by Steven Soderbergh on an iPhone
Unsane is a thriller starring Claire Foy (The Crown) as a young woman who is trying to escape a stalking ex boyfriend, but every effort she makes drives her deeper into a paranoia that eventually lands her in a mental institution. Was is a delusion, or is he really there?
The trailer of the Soderbergh’s latest thriller begins quite literally with an iPhone, as a young woman is hounded by countless texts by a man who is obsessed with her. It’s an ideal beginning for a film that the director of Sex, Lies and Videotape shot on an iPhone 7 Plus, and declared it was “one of the most liberating experiencing that I’ve ever had as a filmmaker.”
Soderbergh chose the iPhone because he said that its 4K capture capabilities have reached a zenith for the cinematic aesthetic he was trying to capture for the silver screen. “People forget, this is a 4k capture,” he said of the 4K footage captured on an iPhone. “I’ve seen it 40 feet tall. It looks like velvet. This is a game changer to me.”
The dual lens camera array of the iPhone 7 Plus
Soderbergh used the iPhone 7 plus since it comes with dual lenses that can capture 28mm wide angle, with an aperture of f 1.8, or 2x telephoto zoom at f 2.8. Shooting 4K at up to 6o fps, the iPhone 7 plus was rated so high by DXOMark, that it had to develop a new protocol to measure the results.
The film was shot at a lightning pace, too, with just over a week of principal photography. Soderbergh even made rough cut dailies while on set, to show to his cast, though it’s unclear if he cut the films using the mobile device. But it would make sense, considering the pace of shooting, the shots in his hand, and the availability of several really good editing apps to piece them together.
Soderbergh also said that there’s a kind of “philosophical obstacle” when it comes to filming a feature film on a camera that fits in the palm of your hand. But he found the experience to be a revelation of where his career may be headed. “The gets that I felt moment to moment were so significant that this is, to me, a new chapter.”
Soderbergh said during his talk at Sundance that shooting on an iPhone exclusively wouldn’t be that far off for him. “I’d have to have a pretty good reason not to be thinking about that first,” he said. “I think this is the future.”
So does that mean Steven Soderbergh will never again pick up a RED, or even a film camera to shoot a feature? I rather doubt it. But what it does mean is that the iPhone is firmly in his filmmaking toolbox, and you’ll likely see another thriller shot on it in the future. And if Unsane is a success, he won’t be the only one.
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