From vlogs to digital film: Level up mobile filmmaking skills with Mapúa’s Digital Film program

Now that smartphones are a way of life, it’s common to see at least one person a day who uses them to take a video or photo. From 15-second dance clips to vlogs, smartphones have democratized the camera, making it accessible and affordable for anyone to capture a scene. Unsurprisingly, it has led to a rise in mobile filmmaking.

However, there’s a big difference between recording a run-of-the-mill video and making a riveting reel.

Dr. David R. Corpuz, program chair of AB Digital Film of Mapúa School of Media Studies, explained that while many individual mobile creators have promising works, they must master the craft further.

“What elevates certain works above the rest is their ability to craft compelling stories that resonate with audiences, combined with a mastery of visual and storytelling techniques,” said Dr. Corpuz.

He explained how two previous Cinemalaya Film Festival winners, “Living Things” by Martika Escobar (2020), and “Hinakdal” by Arvin Belarmino (2023), were shot on smartphones, proving that creativity and skills, not equipment, matter more.

Of course, having a unique story or plot that’s drawn from the filmmakers’ interests or experience is crucial for a film. Aspiring filmmakers should know how to unpack the narrative cinematically, ensuring the pictures, sound, and editing complete the experience. They should also meticulously select actors suited to the roles.

Celina Mae M. Medina, instructor of digital film at Mapúa School of Media Studies, also stressed that amateur filmmakers should always film with a plan. Doing so prevents them from relying heavily on editing apps or overdoing filters and transitions.

She explained that audio quality is a must. Using external microphones to maintain good sound quality eliminates the need to mask the entire film with music to compensate for lousy audio.

Budding filmmakers should also avoid focusing on technical aspects over storytelling since they may produce excellent visuals and audio that look more like a digital ad than a film. However, they should still ensure the picture quality by using a tripod, stabilizer, or holding the phone with two hands to prevent shaky footage. Natural lighting or LED lights can also avert grainy visuals.

“I had to teach cinematography when we were still implementing fully online classes. I encouraged my students to work with what they have, including their smartphones. I cannot forget the student who made a well-made video exercise using his mobile phone. He used his phone to shoot the video, then opted to use industry-standard software for post-production,” said Medina.

More film language techniques can elevate the craft of budding filmmakers. However, these are best honed in a formal setting under the guidance of experts in Mapúa’s Digital Film course. Mapúa’s Digital Film program’s well-defined curriculum uses structured learning. It’s taught by film educators, scholars, and industry professionals, enabling students to refine their skills and unlock their creativity and artistry in a collaborative environment that highlights practical techniques and theory. Students also gain hands-on experience in professional film productions. They can focus on specializations such as Documentary Filmmaking and Film Studies, Creative Producing, and Experimental and Narrative Filmmaking. For more information on how Mapúa can help you level up your smartphone filmmaking, visit.