5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR FILMING WITH A SMARTPHONE
With more and more businesses and people choosing to shoot footage with their smartphones, I thought it would be a good idea to share some simple tips for making that footage look more professional. I think all self-shot videos should endeavour to maintain that personal touch and remain authentic and genuine but taking note of some simple tips can help viewers have a more enjoyable experience.
I will state for the record, nothing will actually beat getting a professional production to create a professional video for your business. You are not just paying for the fancy cameras and lights, you are also getting 10, 20, 30 plus years of experience behind those cameras too. But in saying all that, what you can do on your own now is pretty impressive and there is no reason why your business shouldn't be pumping out really great content.
Here are my tips:
1. STEADY THAT SHIP
When filming on a phone, steady the camera. Unless you are filming while being driven down a pothole covered country road, your camera should be relatively steady. If you don't have a steady hand, simply place the phone on a solid surface. If you have a selfie stick, try using it. Anything that can steady the image will help you. A professional camera person would never hold a camera at arms length without adequate equipment to steady the camera so I would suggest you don't either.
2. WATCH THAT FRAME
We have all gotten used to looking down at smartphones and laptops on our desks while we engage in yet another zoom call. That doesn't mean we have to film from that angle too. Raise up your camera. Try and have the camera more in line with your eyes. Also, try and make the image somewhat interesting. I never fully understood the idea of a 'clean' background, to me that just screams boring. Try and fill the background with some detail. A book shelf? A plant? A nice picture frame (that you have the rights to put in). Anything that will make the image that bit more interesting. And once you have added in some detail in the background, make sure it is in the background, i.e. step forward from it so it really is "the background". It's important you don't get lost in it or create what we call a flat image. Always try and make your image dynamic and energetic.
3. SLOW DOWN AND GO AGAIN
We live in a digital age. Gone are the days when every take costs money. With that in mind, slow down, have some fun. If the first take isn't very good, go again. If during a take it isn't working, stop and start again. The important thing is to create something you are happy with. It has always baffled me when subjects I have filmed seem content with interview footage that is "fine". They just want to move on. My encouragement to give it another go generally falls on deaf ears. The more you practice, the better it gets and the more people want to watch.
4. WATCH THAT LIGHT
Nothing screams cheap content like a video lit with indoor, office lighting. Indoor lighting gives a truly dreadful orangey glow. It makes everything and everyone look terrible. When filming indoor, try and use as much natural light as possible. Let the big star in the sky do the work for you. However, if you are based anywhere outside of places like LA, the unpredictably of weather is always a concern as the light can be ever changing so this will not always work. Try getting a couple of lamps with some natural LED bulbs. You could even splash out and get a cheap LED studio light that can attach to your phone and gives a lovely natural colour. Lighting set-ups are difficult and take time to master so keep any lighting you do simple. Whatever you do, please, no more office lighting.
Possibly the biggest issue I come across is sound. This is a harder area to cover as getting great sound takes a certain level of skill and ability but here are some simple tips. Try and find a space (that's nice to film in) with some dead air, meaning a space that is not filled with echo or sound bleeding in from other rooms. If you don't have a space like that, then move outdoors. If you are outdoors, you need to keep some things in mind. If it's windy you are almost guaranteed to ruin your sound, so find a sheltered space. If there is a lot of surrounding noise, move away find a quieter space. If all else fails, and you are stuck indoors with an echo-filled room, try and fill that space with soft materials, ie: coats, curtains, cushions, even people (who are quiet!). The soft materials absorb sound waves and help deaden the room.
One additional tip, the microphone on your earphones can be a great way to record sound. Stick that little mic just inside your shirt/jumper/top and bingo.
The most important thing to do after you film is to check the sound. If it is not up to scratch, then go back to tip #3!
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Brian Benjamin Dwyer
Creative Director of Madra Mór Productions