WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — When McDaniel College senior Ashley Hopkins graduates later this month, she will be able to tout the filmmaking skills she developed in college.
She can shoot, edit and upload videos. All she needs is an iPhone and a few apps to make it happen.
Hopkins, of Baltimore, was enrolled in the inaugural offering of Cell Phone Cinema, a course that debuted at McDaniel College in Westminster this spring.
In the course, students created their own 12-minute film. They shot the entire film using only an iPhone. No expensive cameras needed. The film was shot in high-definition. A tripod was used to reduce camera shake.
Their short, called "(ctrl)-(alt)-(delete)," follows the story of a young man who finds a cellphone in a public restroom. It debuted at Videopalooza, an annual end-of-semester film premiere at McDaniel's Decker Auditorium where students showcased what they created.
McDaniel College is one of the first colleges in the country to offer a cellphone cinema course. New York University and Boston University do as well. The class was taught by Jonathan Slade, an associate professor of communication and film studies.
He felt compelled to offer the course because more college students than ever have access to smart phones. A recent University of Colorado survey indicated 53 percent of students use a smart phone daily.
"We need to start teaching these kids to use cellphones as a story-telling tool if they have access to this kind of technology," Slade said. "We are trying to teach them to use the equipment they have to become cinematic storytellers."
Hopkins, a communication major, did not have prior experience editing or acting.
"It was intimidating at first," she said.
But once she got used to the technology, the medium and the flow of the creative process, she learned a skill that could make her stand out to future employers.
The students used the iPhone app FilmicPro to shoot the film's scenes. It costs $4.99 to download. After shooting their scenes, the students rendered their files to the Final Cut Pro editing program. While the students edited via computer, that process can also be done via a cellphone as well.
All filmmakers really needed was a smart phone. Even the audio turned out better than expected without the aid of new lavalier microphones that have recently reached the marketplace.
The external microphones plug into iPhones and are available for $60 on Amazon.com.
"I was not expecting to get such pristine audio quality in all our shots," junior Brandon Boatman said. "I thought you would have to be right up against the microphone to hear everything clearly, but it picked up well."
When Boatman chose to attend McDaniel, he traveled across the country to do so. He transferred from a school near Seattle and came to McDaniel specifically because the liberal arts college offered a film and cinema studies major.
He was intrigued to discover McDaniel offered a cellphone cinema course and was eager to learn more about the emerging technology.
He has a filmmaker friend that occasionally eschews his $15,000 professional camera and uses his iPhone for some documentary scenes.
"It will definitely widen the opportunities for independent filmmakers," McDaniel College junior and Winters Mill High School graduate Jennifer Bock said. "I think it will open it right up."
The process isn't perfect. The iPhone did not offer ideal color balance for all scenes. Transferring the files from phone to computer was cumbersome.
But, for the most part, the process was a seamless one. The same device used for phone calls, web browsing, video chatting and photo taking can also be used to film quality videos.
"Now more than ever, cinema is more about great stories and not access to equipment," Slade said. "If you want to tell a story, you probably have the means to do it."
Copyright (2013) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither these AP materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use. Users may not download or reproduce a substantial portion of the AP material found on this web site. AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing.