Revenue from mobile video services is expected to top $2 billion worldwide in 2013, according to the latest data from ABI Research. Those are impressive numbers, yet they aren’t the reason that the Hong Kong Mobile Film Festival (HKMFF) was founded in 2007.

Their goals then are the same as they are today: to provide a venue for players in the mobile film industry to exchange ideas, to showcase the capabilities and potential of mobile film & video, to educate and encourage others to produce new mobile video content and to arouse the public’s interest in viewing mobile film & video through their mobile devices.

HKMFF is one of a growing number of film festivals celebrating “made for mobile” films and perhaps they are, in part, responsible for the impressive revenue forecasts being made by research organizations like ABI.

I recently connected with the founders of HKMFF via email and learned how the film making mindset needs to adjust for the mobile medium, what’s getting mobile filmmakers excited today and how the HKMFF differs form the other mobile film festivals being held around the world. Following is an edited version of our email exchange:

Q: What mindset adjustments do traditional filmmakers (those who make films for the big screens, tv, computers, etc) have to make when developing films that will be viewed on a mobile device?

A: Despite recent releases of some large-screen smartphones, mobile phones are no comparison to the big screens. Therefore, wide, long angles with too much content will make it hard for the audience to view and digest. Instead, close-up shots need to be considered with simpler messages.

Also, considering the audiences may be walking on the streets while watching the mobile films, a mobile film producer should avoid using fast motion, extreme contrast levels, etc. that will require tremendous focus from the audience.

Last but not least, a mobile film should be short so that audiences can finish a story while walking from one place to another.

Q: What do you feel are the most common mistakes made by filmmakers when they create their first film for a mobile device.

A: File formats are important. Some mobile phones take in video of a specific format while others do not. The producer should bear in mind that a mobile film may need to be rendered in multiple file formats if he/she would like to broadcast his/her masterpiece across multiple mobile platforms. An easy way to know this is to look up the specification of a mobile phone. There are only a few usual suspects so the producer can be at ease to know that they don’t need to render the mobile film en masse.

Another common mistake made by filmmakers is that they often overlook privacy issues.  Thanks to the many camera-embedded smartphones on the market today, one category of mobile film is what we call “filmed by mobile.” While it is convenient, people may abuse this convenience and make films without others’ consent. This is an impolite gesture and in some countries illegal.

Q: What aspect of new mobile devices gets filmmakers most excited?
A: Film makers are excited about the popularity of new smartphones not only because of the larger screen, better sound, higher definition video quality but also because they can readily become a new media channel.  Through this channel, film makers can be exposed to millions of eyeballs without the need of a multi-billion dollar promotion campaign.

Thanks to the popularity of smartphone devices, users no longer use the mobile phones for mere communication purposes, but proactively search for content they enjoy. Mobile film, we believe, is definitely one of them.

Q: How does the HKMFF festival differ from other festivals that showcase mobile films?
A: Like all other countries’ mobile film events, we will showcase creative work on our website and exchange films with international partners. We also partner with local telecom operators for distributing our award-winning films in their channels for subscribers.

One of the differences, however, is that we also focus on educating young talent and students about mobile film making by organizing forums, workshops and campus talks. In addition, mobile films from international partners are showcased to provide an international perspective to interested parties. Last but not least, professional speakers from academic institutions and the film industry are invited to share their insights and knowledge with students and young talent who are interested in making mobile films.

Q: How are most mobile filmmakers distributing their films via the mobile channel?

A: In Hong Kong, mobile film distribution channels are under development and pending for the release of the mobile TV license by the local Government. However, some filmmakers choose to make the world know about their works by participating in the Hong Kong Mobile Film Production Contest, many of which have then been nominated to different awards or even international competitions. In fact, the Hong Kong Mobile Film Festival is also in negotiation with different international partners to explore ways to let these creative talents get the exposure they well deserve.

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