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Oldboy Director Finds Artistic Value in iPhone 4

Most people, when they pick up an iPhone, might not immediately think: “Oh, this would be good to film a feature on!” For one thing — who wants to interrupt a take by getting a text message?

However, South Korean director Park Chan-wook, respected internationally for his films Oldboy and the more recent award-winning Thirst, wasn’t afraid to take on the challenge. Yesterday, Park screened his latest film Paranmanjang for critics. Paranmanjang, a 30-minute short film, was shot entirely on the iPhone 4.

The specs for the iPhone 4’s rear-facing camera aren’t comparable to the RED or anything, but 720p at 30 fps isn’t too bad at all. The only catch is disk storage — with an hour of footage needing 4.73 GB of storage, even a 32 GB camera will fill up pretty quickly, and there are reports that individual movie files are limited to 4 GB in size.

That’s the sort of drawback or restriction, though, that filmmakers have been dealing with since the very early days of cinema, when a camera could maybe shoot 10 minutes of footage at a time, after which, it would need to be manually reloaded with more film.

Film making’s great auteurs have constantly challenged technology’s limits to create their films: Alfred Hitchcock pushed beyond the limits of how long a single take could last in Rope; Stanley Kubrick suspended cameras and created complex rigs to create the illusion of anti-gravity in 2001. By making a movie with an iPhone, it can be argued that Park is just continuing that tradition.

However, the key to this is the following quote from The Wall Street Journal‘s (s nws) coverage of yesterday’s screening:

“The quality of the cinematography is quite good, except for a little shakiness in the beginning. And the fact that the screen is coarse works to the film’s advantage, especially on the night scenes given its life-and-death theme.”

Park may have decided to direct this movie because it was something “that greatest directors haven’t done yet,” or because wireless operator KT, which has an exclusive contract on the iPhone in South Korea, helped fund its $130,000 budget to promote the iPhone 4’s video capabilities. But he made it work not just technologically, but artistically as well.

We are increasingly getting to the point where pretty much anyone can make a movie if they want to: The ability to shoot HD footage on a consumer level means that this generation of aspiring filmmakers has opportunities beyond any other. It also means that there are a ton of low-budget films out right now that look great, but creatively have no value.

Technology may be democratizing content, but the great equalizer will always be this: The tools mean nothing without a strong vision to interpret them.

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One Response to “Oldboy Director Finds Artistic Value in iPhone 4”

  1. intetesting article. while he isnt the first to direct a film, feature length or short on a cellphone camera; he may be the first to do it on an iphone 4. cellphone made films are an interesting subject, theyre not ready for the mainstream viewer to watch, but are a perfect experimental video medium, similar to flip cameras and the like. as the tech increases and if we start to see the ability to set the cameras picture manually, we may see hollywood embrace the medium as a tool.