Cell Phone Video: The Third Screen

Shoot Your Next Documentary With A Cell Phone

Cell phone screens are now considered the “third screen” after TV and computer screens. Cell phones can send email, buy and download music, stream live television, play games, shoot video and ah yes, they can still make phone calls. Granted, the video part of cell phones is still in its infancy, but this is sure to change. I wouldn’t be surprised to someday see a cell phone incorporate Digital Media Centers like those available today by Samsung and other. These Digital Media Centers support MPEG2, Windows Media Video, AVI, and MP3 to name just a few. Many of them are only about 3 or 4 inches square, but they can hold about 5 to 7 full length movies!


A smart video producer will want to know on what kind of platform his or her video might be viewed. The TV commercial or marketing video you produce may very well end up on thousands of small cell phone screens with small speakers. Naturally you would want to consider how the content will fit the small new video devices so you might, for example, avoid small text or other details that could be lost on such a small screen. Beyond content, you will also want to consider how the new devices can be used to accomplish the goal of your video. For instance, in a recent PBS Frontline series a documentary entitled The Persuaders explored current trends and thinking in advertising and marketing. One scene showed political volunteers going door to door offering to show a short political video to potential voters on the volunteer’s PDA. This kind of video use opens a whole new realm of possibilities for using video on one on one situations. Some wedding videographers are already showing demos this way.

According to the New York Times this year’s International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam included an entry called “Cell Stories,” sponsored by Motorola, that was shot entirely with the video camera in one of the new Motorola cellphones. Motorola hired Director of Photography Ed Lachman (Erin Brockovich is one of his many films) to shoot a number of short videos using their new cell phone. Is the cell phone on its way to replacing the camcorder? Not likely, but video is spreading.

People who own the latest cell phones from Nokia and Samsung Electronics can watch streaming TV from Major League Baseball and other subscription services from the cable networks. Third Screen Media in Waltham, Mass, is selling video ads in Flash and Java that appear on mobile phones. Some people who use their cell to look up weather or movies are already seeing cell-only advertisements for a Dunkin’ Donuts special offer – a 99-cent latte. Sony Entertainment promoted “Spider-Man 2” heavily on the Sprint PCS cell network. And this is just the beginning. With 160 million Americans carrying cellphones this is ripe territory for marketers.

And for producers this trend gives new meaning to the term “phone this one in.”


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One thought on “Cell Phone Video: The Third Screen

  1. MikeDonnelly

    We have it. Auto sensing that asks what platform is asking for a video.It streams the highest resolution possible to that device without requiring constant buffering or re-caching.

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