Try these 10 Recording Tips to Capture Stunning Video with an iPhone
It’s a beautiful cinematic shot of a golden beach at sunset, the camera slowly pans to reveal a woman smiling at the camera as she runs towards the ocean, you see every strand of her hair in crystal clear high definition. The serene soundtrack pulls you in closer. This piece is powerful enough to make you feel as if you’re there. The scene fades to black as text slowly animates in… “Shot on an iPhone”
I honestly cannot believe the quality we are getting out of these tiny devices. It was just 10 years ago I was paying roughly $5000 for a Panasonic HVX camera, lugging tons of equipment around, and transferring data off tapes for hours. In the end the pieces came out very nice, but I probably could have done just as good (if not better) with an iPhone, a tripod and a microphone. Don’t get me wrong here, I have also seen some horrendous videos shot on an iPhone and I do not want yours to be one of those. If you know what you’re doing and you take the time to do things right you can definitely shoot a masterpiece on your mobile device. Here are 10 Recording Tips to Capture Stunning Video with an iPhone.
Don’t Shoot Vertical Video!
First and foremost, make sure you turn your phone sideways to make your videos horizontal. Your videos need to fit on television screens and computer monitors, along with mobile devices, so shoot your images horizontally. In case you don’t believe us, watch this hilarious vertical video PSA.
Steady that device
A tripod is going to be your best option for getting steady shots, though in a pinch you can rest the phone on fabric on a hard surface or propped against a pillow.
If you already have a reliable tripod, you can get a simple mount to adapt it for any cell phone, small tablet or even a digital camera. The Joby GripTight mount is a fine option for only about $20. Mini-tripods that can be placed on a desktop or another flat surface can be a great bargain but do require that flat surface. Case Star offers an octopus style tripod that can be purchased on Amazon for $2.33 with free shipping. A more versatile and professional option is the IKlip Grip (retailing at $59.99), which functions as a mini-tripod, a tripod mount, a stabilizer when you do shoot hand-held and a selfie-stick. It retails for $59.99. Another popular option is the Joby Gorilla Pod Stand, this thing is pretty cool as you can hang it from fixtures and place it on uneven surfaces.
Invest in an App
If you want to get the highest quality video out of your iPhone forget about the stock app that comes with your device. You can get lots of handy features like frame rates, exposure settings, and white balance from inexpensive apps out there like FilMiC Pro. Being able to shoot at higher quality is one of the best features, you can capture 4k resolution at up to 100 Mb/sec, crazy right. Another great thing about FilMiC Pro is it’s on both the iOS and Android platform.
Get that Razor Sharp Focus
First off, make sure you use the exposure lock. The iPhone does a great job of auto-focusing, but when shooting a video this can get complicated as the phone will be focusing constantly, which can create a jittery look in video. It’s best to turn on the exposure lock, then tap the screen on your subject’s face to focus before starting the recording.
If you want to take your lens a step further you may want to check out a lens kit. I personally haven’t used one of these but I have heard good things about them. One of the better ones is the CamKix Camera Lens Kit, just make sure you get the correct one for your device. There are also lenses a la-carte like the Olloclip Telephoto, this is great if you want to get a little more distance or just take some of the distortion out of the lens.
Set your White Balance
White balance tells your camera what true white is, the iPhone alone is very good at determining white, however with a slight light change the white balance will shift and your recordings will all have a slightly different color to them. That’s why it’s important to lock that white down. Unfortunately, there is no manual white balance setting on the stock iPhone Camera app. There are however several great apps that can give you full control. As mentioned earlier the FilMiC Pro app easily sets the white balance by tapping the white balance icon on the bottom left. Make sure you hold up a white piece of paper in front of the camera when doing so, this will ensure proper white balance. If you hold down the white balance button you can manually control your light temperature settings.
Ensure Good Lighting
Don’t rely on your phone’s built-in flash for video production. If you can invest in studio lighting, go for it. Ring lights are a cheaper option as they cast a wide light that can eliminate shadows easily. Spot light kits will require correctly positioning two or three lights around your subject plus behind them to make sure they don’t cast shadows in the background. You can also try to achieve the same effect with lamps and bare bulbs.
If you do have some budget I would recommend Kino Flo Fixtures. I use these pretty much exclusively on my smaller shoots. These are daylight-balanced so it’s cool to mix them with some window light. There are a few different fixtures and kits and they vary in price, but even the least expensive Kino Flo is fantastic. One thing to note, the bulbs are usually sold separately so make sure you get the correct true match bulbs for your fixture.
Also be careful not to mix lights. For example, if you are using natural light coming through the window you will want to turn off the overhead fluorescent lamps. Mixing lights can have a funky effect and are painful to color correct.
If you can’t mess with too much lighting, try to shoot your video near windows so natural light can help you out. Position your subject facing the window so you don’t contend with back lighting. I like to carry around a white sheet and some clothespins in case the window light is too harsh, I use the sheet as a diffuser. Even better is to set up your subject outdoors. Morning and evening light tend to be softer than shooting during the middle of the day when lighting can be harsh.
Don’t let your battery die
It’s happened to the best of use, your device is at 85% when you start and the busy day just sucks your battery dry. Now your battery is flashing at 10% and you still have several shoots to capture. With my video camera I would line up all 6 of my batteries the night before and charge them one by one, with these smaller devices you don’t really have that option. But what we do have is Morphie, this company is fantastic for mobile battery components. Definitely invest in one or two of their battery packs or Powerstations. They make them for both iOS and Android and will keep you going all day long.
Bad sound can ruin a video. Please make sure you are capturing quality sound to go along with your piece, especially when conducting interviews or recording statements from company executives. You do not want to have to do a reshoot because the you overlooked the audio. A professional option is to get a microphone that plugs into your phone, like the Rode smartLav+ (retail $90) that clips onto your subject’s collar to capture quality sound. Rode also offers other mics that can capture more environmental sounds or directional mics.
Another option is to use a second iPhone held close to your subject but out of the video shot to record the sound. A little tip here is to make a clap sound at the beginning of the recording so you can sync the audio and video more easily later.
Personally I use the Zoom H4N for all of my smaller shoots. One great feature is you can use the device mic or you can plug in your favorite mic and have your crew boom it. It’s true stereo and the quality is just fantastic. Definitely a piece of gear I could not live without.
Whatever option you decide to go with be sure to have a decent set of headphones. You will want to listen very carefully to make sure there are no stray sounds like air conditioners or computer fans. After you do a few shots play them back and analyze the audio, the slightest movement can be amplified and sound obnoxious..
Get some decent talent
Remember whomever is in front of the camera is the voice of your (or your clients) brand. If you are using people in your video take the time to choose the right person. Action shots where folks are working on computers, fixing equipment or playing sports are a lot more forgiving, just make sure they don’t look into the camera unless it’s intended. When you have an interview situation you want to make sure your subject looks their best, is well rehearsed and portrays the emotion you’re going for. I always hire a make-up artist when working for a client, they aren’t that expensive, they usually do a great job and it gives you one less thing to worry about. If it’s a low-budget shoot a female friend will usually do the trick, most woman have a great sense of what looks good. While your talent is getting all dolled up give them an outline of the shoot and go over it with them until it’s drilled in everyone’s head. If it’s a ton of info there are some pretty cool teleprompters for the iPad like PromptSmart Pro. You will want to constantly give them compliments also…”That sounds great”… “just what I was looking for”… etc. Lastly set them up in a pleasing environment (more on that in a bit), use your grid to set them up squarely using the rule-of-thirds and make sure they don’t look into the camera unless they are speaking directly to the viewer.
When setting up your location, make sure the studio reflects your company culture. Whether setting up the video shoot in a conference room or the CEO’s office, make sure the scene fits your company’s image in regard to furniture, background, props, etc. A company logo in the background or foreground is always a good statement. Take notice of plants or other objects in the background that can be distracting. Use colors that compliment each other and try to keep the frame from looking busy or cluttered. Something I’ll do before a shoot is look through stock photos and print out a few I like, this way I have a good starting point for framing and environment.
Also be aware of the background behind your subjects. Use a lighter background for people with dark hair or skin-tones and vice versa for those with light hair. You don’t want your subject disappearing into the background.
Have your subjects dressed appropriately for their position and your company’s culture. If your CEO always projects a business casual attire, there’s no need to dress in suit or tie for a video promoting your company.
We hope you find this information useful in creating a high-quality video for your company. If you would like more info on shooting high quality video please download our free eBook here.