10 tips for capturing professional Smartphone video

As Virtual Video Walks enters its 4th month I thought I would share some tips which could help get the best video when shooting with a Smartphone.

1. Shoot in Landscape Mode

2 black vertical lines will instantly make your footage look amateurish. Your TV and PC is landscape so it makes sense to shoot your video in this orientation. It is unlikely that all of your audience will view your videos on a smart phone and holding your phone horizontally will make your footage look professional on any device.

2. Use your feet, not the zoom

Although the your phone has a camera which allows you to zoom, I would not recommend using it. Smartphones use digital zoom and not optical zoom resulting in pixelation of the image. If you want to zoom in, either walk closer to your subject or start from a close up position. If you desperately want a zoom feature on your smartphone you could buy additional accessories or use a phone with more than one lens.

3. Find the best lighting possible

It is rare to find a smartphone that captures quality images in bad light. If are working in natural light make sure you have the sun to your back, not the subjects – you may find they become a silhouette if the sun acts as a backlight. The sun can also over exposure your image and generate lenses flare if the camera is pointed towards it. In situations where additional light is needed you can use the light on your phone, this will only have an impact if you are close to your subject, ideally less than a metre. If you plan your shoot you can ensure you have the correct lighting available, and the battery power to support them.

4. Pay attention to the audio

This matters as much as the video itself and is difficult to ‘fix’ in Post-Production (editing). Built in Smartphone microphones often pick up wind and lots of background noise making it difficult to focus on the subject. Preparing for your shoot will allow you to decide how best to capture the audio and with what equipment. Where possible shoot indoors, in a location with limited ambient noise. If sound is essential you could invest in an external microphone which plugs into the headphone socket. If you don’t have the budget for this, stay close to your subject and use you hand to cover (not completely) the phones microphone. If this is the option you chose, check your audio levels, not all camera apps provide you with this information so it is worth recording a rehearsal and then reviewing the footage.

5. Reduce the shake

Use a tripod to de-shake footage where possible, if you have a tripod already you could invest in a phone adapter. If this isn’t an option hold the camera close to your body using two hands, this can get quite tiring if capturing long shots and using items such as desks, books and shelves could be used as a support. Some camera apps offer optical stabilisation but these will not remove shake completely.

6. Stay on the grid

Many camera apps provide a built in guidelines or grid so you can frame your images. These guidelines not only allow you to check your footage is straight but also consider the ‘rule of thirds’. The composition of your shots will have an impact of how your video looks and feels and it is worth experimenting with where you place your subject to ensure it is the main focus and visually appealing.

7. Consider using Camera Apps

It maybe worth investing in a third party camera app and not using the built in camera. I’ve mentioned already that some camera apps allow you to monitor audio levels others give you more control over focus and exposure. A favourites mine is FilmicPro, however there are lots of options dependant on your budget and device.

8. Pre-Production

Make sure you know what you want to capture before pressing the scary red button, this can help you bring the correct equipment, for example lights and microphones. My previous blog, Planning to film a training video, can provide more tips on what to consider before shooting.

9. Prepare your device

You could easily include this tip into point 9, but it is vital when using Smartphones to look at your device as it is easily taken for granted. Your camera app will use more power and it is essential that you fully charge your phone, you could invest in a power bank so you have additional battery life should you need it. Another tip is to use Airplane Mode, this will prevent any notifications distracting you and preserve the battery a little longer. Make sure you have enough storage space on your device before you capture any footage and remember the highest resolution video will take up more memory. I recommend frequently reviewing your storage, removing old video clips or backing up on other devices or on the cloud. One last tip for your device is to clean the lens. As our phones are used all day it is easy for the camera to pick up dirt and anything on the lens will reduce the quality of your images.

10. Shoot for the edit

Although Post-Production can work some magic it is ideal to get the footage right in the camera. It is difficult to edit if the footage is bumpy, out of focus and has poor audio. Capture your footage without adding any filters, these can easily be added in Post-Production but can never be removed. Film in the best resolution available to you, this is not the default option in most camera apps and so you will need to select it. The better quality image will produce the best quality video when editing. Let your camera roll for a few seconds before and after any action, this can be removed in the edit and ensures that no action is chopped off.

You can practice and refine your skills in Smartphone videography every month with #VideoWalks and in no time you to can create professional videos for your workplace.

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