Hari Patience-Davies shares some top tips for creating engaging and well shot video on a smartphone.

In a past life I used to create videos for magazines. Access to the video studio and a high spec Mac suitable for editing on was a major reason why I took that job in the first place. Back then I used to shoot with an HD video camera and spent hours of my life transferring footage from the HD tapes onto my desktop machine so I could start the edit.

How things have changed.

Now anyone can shoot video – you don’t need a special camera or a high powered machine for editing – any smart phone released in the past few years has a good enough camera and more than enough processing power to produce a short interview or feature.

But creating good video is more than just selecting video mode from the menu and aiming your camera – if you’re trying to put together a video to deliver a message then there are lots of things to think about before you press that red button and start recording.

If all you want is to talk to camera, then a tripod, some good lighting and a plan for what you want to say is all you need to get started. But if you want to build a narrative using multiple shots and create something cinematic then a bit more preparation is needed.

Here are my top tips for creating engaging story-based video content on your phone.

Before you start:

  • Don’t just start filming, think about what the point of your video is – what’s the message or story you want to deliver to the audience.
  • Plan out what you want to shoot using storyboards. Don’t worry if you’re not a great artist with a pen – post it notes and stick figures are more than enough to give you an idea of the different shots your final video needs.
  • Make sure there’s enough empty space on your phone for all the footage you want to shoot – don’t rely on being able to upload to cloud on the go. You never know where you’ll find a mobile blindspot.

Practical considerations:

  • Hold your phone horizontally with the camera at the top edge of the phone not the bottom. No one will thank you for a vertical video – unless of course you’re trying to emulate Tik Tok.
  • Hold the phone steady – if you have a tripod or phone clip that can keep your phone steadier than your hand then use it.  For filming yourself talking to camera you can replicate a tripod by piling up books or boxes. If you’re not filming yourself but some other action in front of your camera, try to find something to lean on or against. If there’s really nothing to go but hold the phone, brace your elbow, take a deep breath and press record on the exhale.
  • Consider sound – do you want audible dialogue or will music and/or a voice over be enough? Is your phone microphone close enough to pick up the subject’s voice or do you need to invest in a microphone?

Obviously this just scratches the surface of video production, but if you can keep these things in mind you will drastically improve the quality of the video you shoot.


Image credit: Photo by Matthias Oberholzer on <Unsplash

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