Book Reviews

Review: Smart Phone Movie Maker by Bryan Michael Stoller

I was kindly sent this movie making kit by the publisher Walker Books for a review.  I have to apologise as I reviewed this on amazon some time ago but only now realised I had forgotten to post the review here.  It’s a great kit for any budding filmmaker. Here is my review, a copy of this review is posted on Happymeerkatreviews Products too as it’s not just a book on movie making but a product too.

This is a fun kit to help kids create movies on a smart phone. There’s a lot in this kit and I’ll explain both the kit and how and if it works when I used it. I’ve been making movies on camcorders since I was a teenager. The first camera I could afford was the Tyco Video camera and since then I’ve really enjoyed making movies but I’ve never done it with a smartphone yet so I was keen to see how this kit works. For a start you get a box and the box lid unfolds and also has a section that pulls out housing all the other bits. There is the short book on how to make movies, a storyboard book, five sheets of card with cut out things to remove and fold into something and a lens kit which is in its own plastic bag. The lens kit has a thick cardboard tube, a glass lens and a yellow sticky pad.

The book isn’t too long but packs a lot of interesting information along with colourful images on glossy paper. The book explains the whole process of how films are made and how kids can make their own movies but it’s all done in a fun and interesting way with lots of colour and illustrations. The advice goes all the way from coming up with an idea for your movie, storyboarding it, auditioning actors, filming including costumes, lighting, etc and then all the post production stuff. The book is easy to read and you can easily dip in and out of the section you want to read, each double page sums up one aspect of movie making and I enjoyed the fact that even with my own film making knowledge I still learned a thing or two, such as what ‘slating’ is!

The practical advice to kids about creating movies is very good and includes how to get a certain effect for a scene and the differences in the filming of film noir, sci-fi, horror, etc. All this is really great and then the end of the book shows how to use the projector to show off your movies. The whole kit comes in a big box and can turn into a projector. The instructions are clear on this but in practice young kids will definitely need someone an adult or teenager to help them. Although I followed all the instructions and put the basic projector together, the cardboard tube doesn’t move easily and in reality you are supposed to be able to move it back and forth to get a focus on your movie when it’s projected. The other bigger problem is that the glass lens of the kit I have is a touch too small for the tube it is supposed to sit in. Without using my own glue to hold the lens in place it just keeps falling and not working properly.

The back of the box states that the kit will only work with a smartphone 78mm wide and under. This is important as the phone will sit in the back of the box and my own phone only just fits! The yellow sticky pad that you attach the phone to the box with is a sort of sticky jelly like glue which is good as it doesn’t stick permanently to the phone or the box.

Projecting an image with this is tough. Make sure the brightness is turned up but also be wary of the fact that it’s hard to get a good focus and I found it easier to project a small image rather than a big one in focus. The projector does work once you get the lens in place but it’s a bit tricky in practice and don’t expect something too impressive but it’s still a lot of fun to see your movie projected on the screen (though I’m still struggling to find my own phone’s orientation lock button (it’s important to stop the screen from automatic orientation as it has to play upside down in the box to project the right way up!

The rest of the kit includes a storyboard book, with some stories already started and plenty of space to make up your own. There are also press out and foldable popcorn holder, tickets for your movie and speakers for your projector to help the sound carry.

Overall I give this kit a solid 4. The advice on making movies is really great and this alone would be enough for me to be happy. The projector kit works but not without its own issues and I’m marking this down a star because of all the issues I’ve had with the projector, however still a fun overall kit.

Rating: 4/5

Book Description:

Smartphone Movie Maker is a complete beginner’s guide to making movies with your smartphone. The film-maker’s handbook features expert advice on all aspects of film making, from planning a story to casting, shooting and editing. The box transforms into a film projector with a lens – slot your smartphone into the box and play your film on a large screen (or white wall) for the ultimate cinematic experience!


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