Producing Pro Videos with a Smartphone

Seth asks: I’m looking to transfer my equipment entirely to mobile. What equipment is used, some techniques and basic distribution goes into producing a professional smartphone video? I’m more of a field producer who is also looking to make a small space into a studio. Any suggestions?

Answer: The introduction of smartphones as the new camera opened up a whole new class of videographers. Think about this before you make the switch to smaller gear: smartphone video production has it’s place (journalists and You tubers). In my opinion, if you’re shooting a full length movie stick with professional equipment. A wedding? professional equipment. Basically, videos more than 30 minutes long – use your professional equipment – the production process is just easier. Productions with small scale equipment have too many caveats and workarounds for an advanced production to go smoothly and financially efficient.

If you’re shooting any video less than 15 minutes long using a smartphone is the logical, most cost effective way to go. Keep your professional equipment for the longer, advanced productions and the smartphone video gear for shorter productions like commercials, social media and viral videos. There are a whole breed of clients who want social related videos produced that look professional. Showing up with lots of gear for a small shoot is, at times, overkill.

So with that in mind, the basics of equipment still come into play just on a smaller scale: microphones, lenses, tripods, and lighting. When producing with a smartphone the rules are basically the same: steady, creative shots, lots of light, good audio – there really is no difference.

I remember years ago, when showing up at a client’s with a smartphone I felt totally unprofessional with the client looking at me like they had second thoughts. Today, fortunately, there are a variety of relatively inexpensive accessories on the market that can make your smartphone look and perform like a high-quality video camera. There are smartphone “video production kits” that you can purchase relatively cheap that include a physical frame that snaps onto your phone providing mounts for external lenses, mics, lights and tripods. Some even come with combo lenses, an external mic, and a tripod mount. Recommendations in the show notes.

Techniques

There really is nothing different your imagination can’t handle. It sounds like you have some shooting mileage under your belt to make it all go smoothly. Just keep a few limitations in mind depending on the capabilities of your smartphone. Other than keeping your phone steady, good lighting and audio, remember power consumption and your phone’s memory while you’re shooting. Unlike a video camera made to be just a video camera, your phone has other functions besides shooting video.

What happens when a call comes through? Notifications?

The length of video you shoot needs to considerably shorter. Take after take of unused footage can bog down your phone. Are you going to dump footage to an external drive in order to shoot more? You will need a mini usb to USB or lighting to USB cable and external drive to accomplish that depending on your phone’s operating system.

Your battery time is so much shorter. Making sure your smartphone is charged up with the juice it needs to make it through your shoot is very smart.

Additional quick tips:

  • Don’t give in to the Dark Side…keep your smartphone horizontal not vertical!!
  • Frame your shot.
  • Turn off automatic focus.
  • Smartphone lenses can’t see that wide. So if you want several people in your shot, you’ve got to hoof it back a bit or get a lens to accommodate it.
  • Always monitor your audio with a good set of headsets

When shooting on your smartphone there are tons and tons of apps you can use to have full control of your camera’s settings while you shoot or enable you to edit your video with sound, text, transitions, add music…to be blunt most of them are CRAP – so we’re going to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff right now:

Video editing apps:

iMovie for iOS
PowerDirector for Android
LumaFusion for iOS
KineMaster for Android
Movie Edit Touch for Windows Phone

Camera enhancing apps:

Adjust and set the white balance, focus, audio monitoring and exposure:
FilmicPro Apple & Android
Videon iOS
VideoPro Camera iOS
Voddio iOS

Distribution

Once your done sweetening and editing your masterpiece it’s time to export your finished project from your smartphone’s memory out to the world. At this point you can do whatever you please with it:

Put it in the Cloud

Store your video for safe keeping, and you’ll be able to access it by a link from wherever you are. Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, DropBox just to name a few. Some services give you more gigs of storage than others. Here are the top 5 services for storing video and what they offer.

Social media

Connect to sites such as Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest right from the editing apps we mentioned and upload your content directly. Your video then gets distributed to the masses. Getting noticed, however, is a tutorial all in itself!

Buffer and Hootsuite are services that let you upload once and share everywhere – very convenient.

Go LIVE

Livestream apps like Qik and Bambuser are a great option when you’re in the heart of the action to get their stories out.

Home studio

 
Here is an excellent video that pretty much covers everything you need to know on creating a small studio:

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