1. Always film in landscape
Most video is best filmed in landscape format. Your tv and computer screen are both landscape oriented. Unless the final result is only ever going to viewed on a mobile device or a social media stream, there’s no reason to film in portrait (upright) mode. The film can always be cropped from landscape to portrait, but not the other way around.
2. Use support to keep the phone still
Most smartphones have built-in optical image stabilisation, which makes shooting decent handheld footage fairly easy. But no matter how steady your hands are, nothing beats using a good old-fashioned tripod.
For doing shots like an interview or a ‘piece to camera’ (PTC), put the phone on a table at the same height as the subject’s face and support it with books or something similar. Try to fill the frame with the subject’s head and shoulders.
If you are stuck shooting handheld, here are some tips to help you stabilise your shot:
· Keep the phone close to your body, tucking in your elbows.
· Rest your elbows on a nearby object.
· Use your body to absorb bounces and shakes.
3. Don’t use the digital zoom
Avoid the temptation to use the phone’s built-in camera zoom. Since the lens isn’t zooming optically, you’re just enlarging the picture digitally, which means you will quickly enter the world of unsightly pixilation. If you want to get a closer-up shot of your subject, move the phone closer until you find the perfect shot.
4. Light your video
Phone footage will look best when you shoot with lots of light. If you’re shooting indoors, adding supplemental lighting will go a long way. Try to avoid harsh overhead lighting though.
If you can’t get your hands on any studio lights, but you’re still shooting indoors, position yourself next to a window and use natural daylight.
5. Check your background
For interviews and PTCs, find a location that’s uncluttered and make sure it’s clean and tidy. If you’re filming in your home, a quiet corner or even somewhere in the garden would be ideal.
6. Use the exposure and focus lock
Your phone will automatically focus and expose your shot. This can be a great function for quick photos, but when you’re shooting a video of one person talking to the camera, it can really complicate things. The phone will tend to keep adjusting and refocusing, which can lead to jittery-looking footage.
To use the exposure focus lock, you have to tap on the screen to focus and expose accurately on your subject. This will help to keep the focus and exposure constant throughout your shot. If you want to get significantly better results from your phone’s camera, you can invest in an app like FilmicPro (around £15).
7. Avoid echoey or noisy rooms
When filming at home, a room with lots of soft furnishings will help you get much better audio. Avoid the kitchen (kitchens often have noisy appliances) and rooms with hard floors. Putting cushions or even a duvet close to the subject (and out of shot!) will help to reduce echo.
8. Get your microphone close to your subject
A general rule for clear audio is to get your microphone as close to your subject as possible.
When you’re shooting video with a phone, it’s best to position a second phone close to the subject’s head to record clean audio. Creating a simple voice memo will do the trick. If you’re using a second phone to record the audio, clap once at the beginning of each take to create a reference point for syncing the good sound from the voice memo with the bad sound from the video recording.
To get excellent results, consider using an external microphone like the Rode VideoMic Me or Rode SC6-L kit.