5 tips for filming on a smartphone

First before we get started it’s only right for me as a video producer / director for ask this question. Do you need to use a smartphone? Yes, smartphone technology is getting more and more advanced. The image quality is impressive for such small devices. However they are not professional video cameras and have limited manual setting to control exposure, sound levels etc.

Anyway you get the idea. However if you are doing a video blog post somewhere remote, like half way up Mount kilimanjaro, or you randomly bump into David Beckham, then your smartphone might be the only kit you have. Similarly you might not have the budget to hire in a freelance videographer or production company.

The last question I’d ask before considering filming a talking heads interview on your smartphone is - where will the video be shown? If this is a quick update post on social platforms a smartphone could be ideal. If this is a video sitting on your website (the site you’ve just spent thousands on making it look great) promoting your business and services, this could be a problem. Think about how you want you or your brand to be perceived. It will be more difficult for you to create the professional and quality look of your brand. How do you want your customers to see you and your business.

Ok so you have made a considered decision to set up your shoot with your smartphone. Here’s are a few of my tips for achieving the best possible video:

1. Camera shake
By its very nature a smartphone is small and light. Great for carrying around in your bag. When it comes to filming however this can be a problem. We’ve all viewed our friend videos and felt a bit nauseous with all the ‘Blair witch’ camera movement. The best solution would be a tripod with a smartphone mount. These mounts are not expensive and will give you loads more control. If that’s not possible blue tack on a table top can work (if the subject you are filming is seated). Perhaps you are up a mountain! Wedging your smartphone between a rock or branches may be a way to improvise. If there is absolutely no way these are options then you will need to hold it. A tip for this would be holding the device in two hands one of each side of the smartphone. With your bent and pointing downwards, pull then in towards each other and rest them on your chest. This is create a more rigid support and creates less camera shake.

2. Lighting
So you don’t have a lighting kit or camera crew at hand! Lighting is so important for image quality and actually seeing your subject. A few ways to help with this would be to bring your subject near natural daylight. If you are filming in a room move towards the window but don’t have your subject standing with their back to the window. The subject could become backlit creating a silhouette effect. Instead position them three quarters facing towards the window. This should allow natural light to bounce off the front and side of the face and still provide a bit of contrast and shadow. If there is no window or it’s dark outside look for other light sources in the room, a table lamp or  someone else’s smartphone light / torch that might help light the subject.

3. Audio
Smartphones are not great for picking up clean directional audio at a distance. With this in mind I’d suggest the subject is between 1-3 meters away from camera. Encourage the subject to talk with a bit more volume than usual (without shouting). Try to eliminate any
background ambient sounds - traffic, other people in the room, mechanical devices such as air com or fridges that create a hummm noise. Shut windows, clear the room - and tell people to zipp it!

4. Landscape or Portrait
It’s a simple one but something that catches many people out. The standard way to film anything is landscape as that is how we consume more video, on TV, laptops etc. Best practice is to flip your smartphone on its side for filming. There are instances that you need a portrait size video - maybe for social platforms. Check this first.

5. Remember it’s a smartphone!
A professional video camera or SLR will allow you to quickly replace batteries as they run low. You can’t do this with a Smartphone so make sure it’s charged up fully before filming. You can also use those battery booster cases that give you a bit more juice in the tank. What happens if someone calls you while you are filming? Try to schedule filming at a time when you think incoming calls will be lowest. Storage could be an issue especially if your device doesn’t have much available. I wouldn’t recommend filming more than 2 mins at a time on a Smartphone. That way if you run out of storage during the shoot you still have the clips you have recorded and saved.

Well, I hope that’s been useful.
Remember to check out ​www.beetrootbox.co.uk

Happy filming!