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AIRDA NewsDesk

Message of the Month

May 2020

In conversation with Shiva Prasad (Segment 2)
Award-winning filmmaker on mobile phones



Shiva Prasad is a Mumbai-based management graduate in international business. He chose filmmaking as his career, and has worked in Indian and British films. He also worked as a creative researcher for the Hindi feature film Irada, which won the Indian National Award in 2018. He has also been rated as a top photographer on Google Maps. As an extension to his passionate interest in anything smartphone, Shiva is an active stock video producer for leading stock agencies across the globe.

Shiva tasted success as a filmmaker in the year 2013, when he was stranded in the Uttarakhand flash floods. He managed to survive that and captured nature's fury in great detail on his smartphone. (That was all the shooting kit he had with him at that point.)

He titled this film "Himalayan Tsunami" and demonstrated that professional documentary films can also be made with a smartphone. This film won him the second prize in the International Mobil Film Festival in San Diego. “Himalayan Tsunami” was also nominated at other mainstream film festivals, in addition to being part of smartphone film festivals in Australia, Canada, USA, Argentina, South Korea and Mexico.

Shiva has filmed a 20-episode television series on India's holy river "Krishna", with his smartphone. (Inspiring Samsung to produce a promotional video about Shiva Prasad's creative journey in movie making.)

For our Message for the Month feature (Segment 02) we chatted with Shiva on his personal journey, and how people on vacation can take better pictures and videos on their smart phones.

With mobile phone cameras getting better by the day, do you think the small standalone is now officially “dead”?

Point-and-shoot cameras have become outdated due to rapid feature advancements in mobile phones. And the new state of the art is all about creative aspects and cutting edge features. Because today’s phones are able to capture high quality videos in 8k, 4k, and full HD.

Having said that, I must add that this makes sense only when you’re comparing with digital point-and-shoot cameras – because very few mobile phones can compete with professional quality DSLR cameras, in terms of technology and feature advancements.

Not surprisingly, professionals are also using mobile phones in demanding work environments. Examples include live news, film making, travel stories, social events and stock videos. Every year, many popular mobile brands are launched with newer, more exciting versions.

Image Source: Shiva Prasad

How can lay people on a vacation take better pictures using their mobile phones?

People love to capture their travel and adventure photos and look forward to preserving them as fond memories for the rest of their lives. That’s where the mobile phone comes in to capture beautiful imagery and footage on your vacation. All you need to remember is that the same photography guidelines are applicable here. The most useful guideline is the rule-of-thirds in terms of composition - to capture appealing images and videos.

Sunlight and skylight play a major role in capturing beautiful frames. You are free to follow the rules and break the rules – you are also free to be experimental with your mobile phone – I would even urge you to immerse it in water within a waterproof case to capture some unique floating and bobbing up images. Stick your phone to a Gorilla pod (small flexible tripod) and tie it to a lamp post or tree, to capture unique angles. Mount your phone to a moving vehicle to capture some exciting tracking footage. Fix your phone to your skating shoes and you’ll get some dynamic low-angle movement.

Many of the recently launched mobile phones have interesting creative presets such as slow motion videos, time-lapse (passage of time) giving you the ability to film in variable frame rates like 30 and 60 frames  - and going right up to 970 frames on some phones. The latest Samsung Galaxy S 20 allows you to capture footage in true cinematic 24 frames in 8k resolution - the only mobile phone which offers this feature till date.

Does YouTube have tutorials for budding film makers (using mobile phones)?

You will find many dedicated video tutorials on film making using your mobile phone, on YouTube.  Many of these are free resources giving you valuable information and inputs – right from the use of lights, gimbals, tripods and lenses, to capturing images and videos. They also deal with a host of other topics - filming travel videos, video blogging, and mobile video editing.

What else can I think of? You will find paid and free apps available on topics like mobile filmmaking, editing, and color correction - on android and iOS platforms. Some film schools also run online mobile film-making courses that you can subscribe to.

Image Source: Shiva Prasad

Can you suggest practical ways to backup and safeguard digital assets?

Shooting your videos is only half the story – storing your footage in a safe place for easy retrieval is something you need to keep in mind. And storing locally on your desktop or laptop is not always the answer.

Google Drive, Dropbox, Cloud Storage are some the options available for mobile filmmakers to store their precious data. They are highly secure and also enable the sharing of files across various platforms. WeTransfer is a popular tool for emailing large video files.

With all your success, are you going to be pushing the limits on your phone?

Sometimes, I think I have been there and done that. I have worked in Indian and cross-over films in various capacities. I have filmed documentaries, travel videos, stock videos, tourism promotional videos, and social events with my mobile phone. Now, my goal is to direct a full length commercial feature film on a mobile phone.

I would like to utilize the mobile phones in my kit to their full potential - in capturing beautiful videos and photos, and expand my stock video portfolio further.

I also want to experiment with underwater photography, and yes . . . travel the world with a feature rich mobile phone.

Now, a very important question – what’s your favorite mobile phone?

I might need to answer that question in a way that tracks my milestones in this field.

  • Galaxy Note 2 (Linked to my first break as a film maker.)
    Galaxy Note 2 helped me in filming my award winning documentary film "Himalayan Tsunami ". The ultra power-saving mode on this model really helped me save battery power while filming in Uttarakhand. It even delivered very good footage in low light conditions. 
  • Galaxy Note 4 (Linked to me becoming professional.)
    Over time, I upgraded to the Galaxy Note 4 for 4k resolution. It sparked my creativity further when I filmed a 20-episode television series on the Krishna river, where I filmed stock footage in 4k resolution. Its 16 megapixel camera helped me capture 9000 scenic photographs of Indian tourist attractions, landscapes, and religious monuments – sheer natural beauty at its best.
  • Galaxy Note 10 plus (Linked to travel, stock and tourism promotion videos)
    With the recent Galaxy Note 10 plus, I shot 11 travel videos on India's holiest city Varanasi.
    On this project, I filmed slow motion videos at 240 frames per second on Seagulls – capturing rare migratory birds visiting India's holiest city during winters. 
    Finally I would love to say that Galaxy Note and I are bonded for life. I am really indebted to this wonderful pocket creative tool.

(Comment from editorial team: The mobile phone brands and models in this interview are featured as storyline comments by the photographer, and not a commercial plug in any way whatsoever.)

Click here for segment 01 of this interview.

Shiva Prasad

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