6 top tips for creating video content using a Smartphone
Creating video content on your Smartphone
In Jan 2013 VividEcho were commissioned to provide training for vinspired, a national charity that encourages and supports young people to volunteer (www.vinspired.com). We delivered our first film-making workshop to their volunteers a year earlier. The workshop was a success and participants were able to use their new skills to produce video content for their various charitable campaigns. This year however the workshop was slightly different – we were asked to train the participants using their own Smartphones.
As someone who has delivered training for years I am comfortable with the equipment we use in our workshops. For beginner groups we use small digital camcorders and for those who are more advanced we offer broadcast quality equipment. We can design our workshops to suit Mac or PC users. With this mind you would expect me to be flexible and able to adapt to different types of equipment, and of course I am! However, using Smartphones for this workshop presented a real challenge – how would I be able to teach quality video-making to a group of 30 people who each have their own device (some of which I wouldn’t have even heard of)? I should also mention that this was a 2 hour workshop…
I was, of course, blown away by what was achieved.
I usually spend a few days developing my workshops and testing the workflow of the equipment that I will be using in the session. I have seen some beautiful films that professionals have created using Smartphones and wanted to see how they had achieved such high-quality work. I began by watching a behind-the-scenes film that BBC Click produced last year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7CHITySS1s
It is exciting to see so many attachments, apps, tripods, lenses and sound equipment that can be purchased to use alongside a Smartphone to ensure a high quality final video. However, the workshop I was designing would not use such luxuries. It was important that the participants in the workshop would not have to spend any extra money to produce their films.
I was quickly able to draw up the following top tips that should be used while filming on Smartphones:
1. Get to know your device.
There are useful settings in the camera’s menu that will enhance your image. It is now possible to affect exposure, white balance, focus and many other settings. Having control of these manually will stop your device trying to be too clever and changing the way your image looks automatically while you are shooting. Each device offers different options so before you even start to think about shooting get to know the device you will be using. The iPhone needs an app to change settings – Viddy is a great place to start.
2. Video Quality
Your device probably gives you the option to change the resolution or quality that it will shoot in. If you want to be able to view your film on a screen bigger than the device screen itself it is important to select a good quality (or high resolution) option. I always recommend filming in the highest resolution possible although beware that this will use up more of your device’s memory.
3. Shoot in Landscape
At the beginning of the workshop I asked all 30 participants to film a short 5 second clip. The majority of participants held their devices in portrait mode – this is wrong! It is important to remember to hold your smartphone landscape. The screen you will finally view your film on will probably be widescreen and holding your device in this way will ensure that your film looks cinematic.
4. Prepare your device/shoot
Your smartphone will be working hard while you use it to shoot a film. Before you start filming make sure your battery is fully charged and you have enough memory on your phone to store a large number of high-definition video clips. There is nothing worse when you are out filming than running out of battery or not having enough space on your device to store your footage. A short amount of preparation time will stop this from happening – always remember to bring your charger and USB cable to the shoot. Carefully planning your shoot will also help you here. If you take time to plan and storyboard your shoot you will save your device’s precious resources while you are out filming.
5. Record good sound
One of the hardest things to do on a smartphone is record good sound. You will need to make sure your device is not too far from the contributor or actor you are trying to film. It can also be easy to cover the microphone with a finger as you are trying to hold your smartphone steady – always check that you are not doing this. It is advisable to film in a quiet place with no background noise. If you have a complex shoot with different actors and various shots it is possible to use a second and possibly third smartphone to record the audio. Make sure you plant the extra devices as near to the contributors as possible, keep them out of sight, make sure you start recording on all devices and then clap before your scene starts. The clap will help you sync the audio and visuals in the edit.
6. Edit on a separate machine
There are some great editing apps on Smartphones that can be really useful if you need to work on a simple film clip and upload it very quickly. If possible though I would recommend editing on a separate machine. Transfer the footage by connecting your device to the machine you want to use with a USB cable. The larger screen will help you with your edit and a more powerful machine will allow you more options in your edit.
I had 2 hours with the Vinspired volunteers. In this time we practised changing the settings on our phones; we experimented with composition and explored what was possible with each of our individual devices. By the end of the session the group had produced (planned, filmed and edited) six short films. The films looked great and proved just what can be achieved if you use the smartphone effectively. Rather than feeling restricted by the simplicity of these devices I now feel excited by the ever-changing possibilities of what can be produced.
Alison Wright, director, VividEcho