Capturing life’s greatest moments on tape is no longer limited to using high-end cameras and camcorders, as our iPhones and Android devices and other smart phones have allowed us to capture videos and share them on social networking platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and beyond. But by their very nature, smart phone videos are recorded at fairly low resolutions, and may sometimes appear shaky, poorly framed, improperly exposed and grainy. However, with the right tools and techniques, these videos can turn out pretty good, and here are 10 tips that will help you achieve good quality smart phone videos.
Switch Your Phone To Airplane / Flight Mode
Always remember to put your phone to airplane / flight mode when recording videos from your phone. When your phone rings, the video stops recording, so save yourself the embarrassment of missing out on important footage or having to ask your talent to repeat everything they did or said; and put your phone on airplane / flight mode before you start shooting.
Steady As She Goes
To minimize shakes in your video, the best way to hold your phone when shooting videos is with two hands and with your upper arms pressed in close to your body. Take care to avoid blocking the camera and onboard microphone with your fingertips. To improve stability even more, you can place your phone on a table or any other flat surface. If such a surface isn’t available, make use of any walls or poles in your surroundings to steady yourself while shooting.
Hold Your Phone Horizontally
For our normal daily activities on the phone, we are accustomed to holding our smart phones vertically. However, this doesn’t work well when shooting videos, as you won’t get the widescreen look and you also won’t be able to capture much of the scene. Therefore, always hold your phone horizontally when shooting videos. Not only will your video look better on playback, but it will also guarantee that your video will fill the whole screen when uploaded and viewed on other platforms.
Make Sure The Scene Is Well Lit
As camera lenses are tiny and only capture a small percentage of light, subjects shot for smart phone videos need to be in conditions with as much light as possible to make sure the picture looks good. Shooting outdoors during the day is most ideal, but if you have to shoot indoors, open the curtains to let natural light in or turn on as many lights as possible. Remember to always position yourself so that the light source is behind you and your subject in front of you so that the light will shine on them. And if you have to shoot in a dark location or at night, position yourself in such a way that as much light as possible in shining on your subject. Well-lit footage will have brighter colors, sharper lines and a much higher quality look.
Tap The Screen To Focus
Besides allowing the camera to conduct an autofocus, give your screen another tap to dedicate its focus on the key subject in your video. You will be rewarded with better results. In addition to selecting the key area of focus, the tap on the screen will also determine both the exposure and color balance for your screen. Granted, it’s not as good as manually adjusting the exposure and color balance controls, but if your footage changes when shooting and the color goes off, try tapping the screen to see if the image improves.
Observe Standard Framing Rules
Just like normal videography, framing of subjects is important for smart phone videos. Respect the rule of thirds, which is when a frame is divided into a 3×3 grid. Don’t always go for the obvious shot, and place your subject somewhere other than the centre of the frame. This will help you compose more interesting shots by defying easy and centered symmetry. If your subject’s entire body can’t be fit in a shot, crop at natural cut off lines like the elbows, knees or hips.
Also, if you are filming more than one people in your video, make sure you position your camera far enough so that you are able to capture both subjects in the frame. This will prevent you from swinging the camera from one person to the next, which will cause your viewers to get dizzy.
Zoom in With Your Legs, Not the Lens
Unlike a video camcorder, the zoom function on phone cameras are often digital-only, which causes badly pixelated images when you zoom in to a particular subject. Zooms on the camera also magnify your hand movements and the shakes in your video. As such, it is best not to use the camera zoom and physically move yourself closer to the subject you’re shooting. This will ensure that whatever you’re shooting is clearly visible on the video and will keep the quality of the video from being negatively affected.
Avoid Moving And Pan Shots
While it is easy to follow a subject as it moves with a handheld mobile device, the resulting footage is typically quite shaky. As such, it is best to just let your subjects come in and out of the shot rather than follow them. Also, try at best to avoid any pans, tilts or other movements as it is very difficult to produce smooth cuts of these types of shots without a tripod or some other supporting device.
But If Moving and Pan Shots Are A Must
If you really must follow your subjects around, keep your elbows close to your body and walk lightly with your feet rolling from heel to toes. This will reduce the vibration traveling up towards your phone. If you have access to a swivel chair with rollers (make sure they do not squeak) or any other equipment with rollers, use that to make your movement smoother. Hold your phone steady and have a friend or partner pull the chair along from a rope a few metres away.
For pan shots, the swivel chair can come in handy too. Simply sit in the chair, hold your phone as steady as possible and physically turn the chair seat to capture the pan shot. For smoother shots, attach a broom handle to the chair and have a friend or partner use that to swivel the chair while you concentrate on shooting the video. If you don’t have access to the swivel chair, you can achieve pan shots by standing with your feet pointing in the direction where you want your shot to end, twist your upper body towards where you want to start your shot and then take your video while letting your body slowly unwind back towards the direction your feet are pointing.
Get More Footage Than You Think You’ll Need
Always get more shots than required. Shoot from multiple angles to ensure you will have plenty of good material to pull from. During an interview, if the situation is appropriate, ask your talent to answer the questions twice. Finally, make sure to get extra recordings of background sounds to ensure crisp, clean cuts are used for your video. This will really come in handy during the post production phase when you’re editing your clips to put the video together.
Now that you have these 10 tips on mind, get out there and start shooting! See what works and what doesn’t. Producing video is something that is accessible to everyone, especially since most of us have the capability to record video with our smart phones. With the right knowledge on how to maximize the capabilities of the phone, and a good plan of action on what to film, you will no doubt end up with high quality videos.
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