We don’t need to remind you that smartphones have pretty much taken over the world in the past decade. It’s estimated that nearly half the world’s population own a smartphone. With a touch of the finger, you can access millions of apps and websites designed to make your life easier.
One of the most used is the camera, allowing anyone to film and take photos wherever they are whenever they want. Once upon a time, you’d need to save up an extortionate amount for a video camera to make your movies. Now? It’s in your pocket.
With video taking over social media – and even directors choosing to shoot entire features on their iPhones – it’s more valuable than ever to know how to maximise your phone’s potential. With that in mind here are a few mobile video tips to help get the most out of shooting on your phone…
Almost everyone tends to prefer watching long-form video horizontally. From tablets, to computers and mobiles - the traditional way to consume video is in a horizontal, 16:9 format. Recording horizontally will allow your video to fill the entirety of the screen. You'll also avoid those universally hated black bars on either side of the video. There are cases, however, where you might want to intentionally embrace a portrait ratio. We'll get on to that soon, but for now: if you want your video to be watched in landscape, make sure you shoot it in landscape!
Keep the Phone Steady
One of the most common problems when filming on your phone is shaky video. Everyone does it. Unfortunately, as much as we can try - our hands will never be tripods. An unintentionally shaky frame is distracting when shooting with a regular video camera - so there's no reason why you shouldn't take the same steps to reduce it when shooting on a mobile. There are a whole host of options available. Using a tripod, leaning your phone on something solid, or even holding it with two hands instead of one. There is no shortage of accessories available to help get steady, cinematic footage from your phone. Of course, if you're going for a shaky handheld feel anyway, then this tip is pretty useless. But if you're trying to sell the illusion of a fluid higher-quality camera - take the steps to sell it!
Get Close to the Subject
It can be tempting to use the eerily good zoom features on newer phones for close-ups. Don't. While it will get you closer to a subject, it will also lower the quality or the image. No one wants to watch grainy, pixelated shots of anything. The more you zoom, the more your phone is artificially blowing up the image. In their defence, newer phones are much better at zooming than they used to be. If your phone has an optical zoom option instead of digital, then you'll most likely get clearer images when zoomed in.
There may also be those times where you just can’t get as close as you’d like to. In instances like these, absolutely go ahead and zoom away – we’re not suggesting zoom should never be used at all. Rather that it should be used only when necessary. If you can get closer to your subject, then ditch the zoom and move closer to the subject. You’ll have more control of the frame, get better audio quality, and your resolution won’t suffer for it.
This is one of the most important things to consider when shooting any video, not just on mobile. Decent lighting can make a huge difference. It goes without saying that you'd want any subject to be well lit, to get a clearer visual. If you must film in a darker area, never use the phone flashlight. Trust us it just won't look good. Ever. Whenever possible, use some form of external lighting in the background to fill out the space. The light source should also be behind the camera to avoid lens flare and your subject looking like a silhouette. If you do need extra lighting, there are loads of lighting accessories available, such as ring lights.
Aside from the physical lights on a set, it’s also essential to make sure you’ve got exposure settings locked on your phone. One of the downfalls of shooting from your phone’s stock camera app, is that most of the time they will try to adapt to lighting changes in the moment. This can mean changes in exposure, and white balance on the fly. Naturally this is fine for stills photography, but for video – not so much. Locking in exposure at a consistent level is a must, and luckily there are apps out there designed specifically for this. These, in combination with decent on-set lighting, will take your phone footage to new heights.
You often find that people spend so much time nailing the visuals, and not enough on audio. It's one of the most important mobile video tips to remember - video quality is only half the picture! While most of the time the microphone on your phone will work fine. It will pick up everything. If you're going for a higher quality feel, that background noise might be a little too noticeable. By using an external microphone you can get clearer audio and limit the background noise that can be heard. There are plenty of external microphones designed specifically for mobile use, but you can also record sound onto a separate monitor and sync it up in post, for better results. if an external microphone is not an option, try to record in a low volume environment with minimal background noise. Do your best to minimise any unwanted noises within the environment.
KNOW THE RATIO
We've spoken about filming horizontally, but now more than ever there are so many different uses for video online, as well as different channels and platforms to output your content, that will impact how your video is viewed. it's essential you know how your finished video will be watched, and to plan for that from the beginning. For instance, if you're planning to publish your video on social media, you'll most likely want it to fit into a square 1:1 ratio frame. You may also want it to fit into the portrait frame of Instagram or Facebook stories. In these situations, shooting horizontally will mean you'll be losing whatever content might be to the left or the right of the frame.
If you know the final video will need to fit a square frame, take steps to make sure the subjects of your footage are always framed in the centre. This can be as simple as turning your camera to film in portrait, but there are ways you can adapt a normal landscape shooting style. You can use tape on your phone screen to visualise a 1:1 or 3:5 frame while filming. This way you’ll have the full frame to upload in a traditional 16:9 format, but you can also comfortably adjust for a tighter frame in post knowing you won’t lose the main action of your film. It may seem simple, but you’ll be surprised how many videos online fall prey to not properly utilising the platform.
Of course, there are countless other things you can do to make your video production that much better. These are just a few simple mobile video tips, but you’ll be surprised how many people miss them! We’ll be going into detail on more video production specifics on the blog. Stay tuned for more!
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