3 Simple Steps for Recording Better Video on a Smartphone
The smartphone revolution incredibly accelerated the business video genre. Instead of hiring a videographer, just shoot a quick video on your iPhone and upload to YouTube. Simple, right?
Hollywood even got into the craze when the Sundance Film Festival awarded winning prizes to movies shot entirely on iPhone.
Here’s the thing. It’s great to record video on a smartphone…you just don’t want it to look like you recorded your movie on a smartphone.
The good thing is that if you just avoid three common mistakes, the quality of your video will increase incredibly!
Is iPhone or Android better?
We actually get asked this a lot. In the end it doesn’t matter which model you have as long as you use it right. However, one rule of thumb is be sure that the camera is recording in HD. Some entry level Android devices sport cameras no better than a web-cam and older iPhones didn’t have impressive cameras.
Once you have your smartphone, it’s time to get to work.
1. Turn the Phone into Landscape Mode to Record a Full Shot
The natural position for most people is to record video on their phone is like they interact with it – upright. It probably stems from the old days when flip-phones had to be held that way to take a picture, or it’s just the convenience of holding it with one hand.
Whatever the cause, it’s a dead giveaway that the video was recorded on a smartphone.
With the camera upright in Portrait Mode, the video is recorded in a narrow focus. When viewing the video, there will be a large black space on each side of the footage. Imagine watching a wide-screen movie with the black bars on each side of the video rather than top and bottom.
It really becomes troublesome when splicing that footage along other video you have that was recorded in full-screen landscape mode. Since the video is narrow, it won’t fit the screen. Check out the example above of video that was recorded landscape and then portrait video was added in alongside it.
Simple fix? Always turn the camera into Landscape Mode to record full-screen video. The quality will be incredibly better. Promise.
Smartphones don’t typically come with adjustable lenses. Using a smartphone’s zoom feature instead uses something called “optical zoom” or “digital zoom”. It’s a faux-zoom. The camera lens doesn’t move, but the phone digitally crops the footage to get you closer.
The result is a blurry, low-resolution video.
If you need to get closer to your subject, move the camera instead.
3. Avoid Shake
Shaky video is another dead giveaway that you’re shooting on a smartphone (and a budget). We’ve all seen video recorded by a friend on their phone that cuts off heads, shakes, or abruptly moves.
The best thing to do is to invest in a cheap Tripod, or build one.
When I first started filming iPhone videos before there was a market for that sort of thing, I used to stack three boxes in my living room and use a book to hold up the phone.
Then, I upgraded to a tripod and attached a clamp to it.
A few years later, iPhone tripods were being sold everywhere.
Whatever you decide, using a stationary system to hold your smartphone in place will prevent an amateurish handy-cam look.
Do all three of things, and you’re well on your way to recording great video with your smartphone.
In a later blog, we’ll talk about using microphones, lighting and setup to raise the bar even more.
Have any more tips for shooting with a smartphone? Put them in the comments below!
In the meantime, “Fake it ’Til You Make It!”