We use a wide range of different cameras at PhlipVids depending on what we are shooting and the conditions but there is no doubt that smartphone cameras these days can capture good video and we have found them very valuable and handy.
They are great for unexpected situations and they are very portable but there are some things that help get better quality video out of them so we have added some of our tips below. There are a range of tools you can add to your smartphone to turn it into an amazing video tool. You don’t need to add all of them but at least mastering the basics should be a must.
Yes there is a smart phone in there somewhere! This is one of our smartphone camera rigs.
The below video for the CAFNEC Marine Response Team in Cairns was shot mostly with a Samsung Galaxy S7. We did however have a mic and stabilzation and used the above Beastgrip rig.
There are a few main things to get right with video production and even more so with smart phones so we have added a few of our favorite tips and tricks for you below.
Tip 1: Get the light right!
There is nothing worse that watching a video and not being able to see the subject or what is being filmed. Make sure you have good light on the subject and if filming someones face or a group of people that the sun or main source of light isn’t behind them otherwise you will get a silhouette. If you are going after that effect then that’s fine but whatever you are shooting you should take into account where the light is and if you need any more or less of it. A good rule of thumb with sunlight is to have it shining over your shoulder onto the subject. If you need to use an external light you can get simple LED panels like the light below or bigger options but even a lamp will do if you have nothing else. Phone cameras tend to be really bad in low light which makes the video come out very grainy. Getting the right light is a must.
Tip 2: Bad audio can ruin a video
If there is any speaking, audio or any natural sounds in general that are related to what you are shooting it is instantly off putting if you can’t hear it properly or it is muffled or even too loud and distorted. Make sure the camera is not too close or far away from the subject. Even do an audio test and play the video back to see if it sounds right. Most phones have an input jack and you can use an external microphone. We use Rode mics and they are light, record good quality audio and you can also get add ons to cut out wind where necessary. If the sound your camera has recorded is really bad you can often turn it off when sharing or cut it out in post editing but if you plan to have sound in your videos at least make it good. Rode and other companies also do good lapel mics for phones if you are wanting to do interview style videos.
The new Iphone 7 has unfortunately lost the headphone jack so not sure what to do there in regards to an external mic. Lucky we are using Samsung’s here at PhlipVids.
Tip 3: Stabilization
Keep your camera steady by using both hands and moving slowly. Some shake can ad effect depending on what you are filming but too much make a video unwatchable. There are also a range of different stabilization options around for your phone but the most basic and best is a tripod. You will need a mount for your phone to clip your phone into and then screw onto the tripod but these can be very cheap and easy to find. Ebay has some great options from a couple of dollars upwards or you can generally find them at a camera shop. We use a brand called Beastgrip which also allows us to add lenses and mount mics and lights. A tripod will only work for stationary and tilting and panning shots. For really smooth video on a tripod you can use a fluid head mount, it will cost a bit more but will make for very smooth video.
For moving shots you can use hand held stabilizers or powered gimbals. We use a glide cam style stabilizer which doesn’t require batteries but gimbals for your phone are now becoming much more reliable and affordable and there are a wide rage of powered and unpowered stabilizers that can help you stabilize your phone video. DJI do a great little gimbal for your phone.
Tip 4: Framing. The shot is only as good as what you get in it.
When you are shooting it can sometimes be hard (especially with action shots) to make sure everything is in frame but it is extremely important. If you’re explaining something and half of it is cut out of the frame or it moves in and out of the frame you’ll likely lose your viewers straight away. Check to make sure you have everything in the frame before shooting.
Tip 5: Focus……both kinds!
Generally with most touchscreen phones you can touch the subject or area on the phone and it will focus to that point. Most should also have facial recognition so that should help get the focus right. However your phone works, make sure whatever you are filming is in focus unless you are wanting the out of focus film effect. There is nothing worse than filming someone talking and just the background is in focus.
Last of all stay focused! In a lot of cases you may only get one chance to film something so try and get it right. Even if you do have a chance to re shoot you don’t want to have to do too many because it takes up time and adds to post production if you are doing any editing. Multiple takes will also chew up storage space on your device.
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All the best with your shooting!