Anyone looking to get into video should begin with the camera in their pocket. Smartphones are not just a convenient tool for shooting video, they can be used for learning the trade or professional filmmaking.

Do you realise that you are part of a generation lucky enough to have a high definition video camera and editing suite in your pocket? Anyone who owns a smartphone (in 2015 that was 66 per cent of UK adults) has the instant ability to shoot HD video, to edit later or to broadcast unedited over WiFi or a mobile network. But just as important is the ability to be creative, to experiment and try things out, and to build confidence as a filmmaker or a broadcaster. That is an incredible position to be in.

My first filmmaking attempts were made using a smartphone and I made just about every mistake going. My framing was suspect. I trialled (and errored) different sound techniques. I took incredibly shaky looking shots – I don’t have the most steady hands – but those errors were ironed out by practise and the films started to look more, dare I say it, professional?

ProCamera app

Why Should You Film on a Smartphone?

Convenience and cost are two big factors. You don’t need to invest in a DSLR or mirrorless digital camera and expensive lenses, a professional camcorder, a video production company or a creative agency to make your moving images. Neither do you need expensive desktop software for editing and post-production. All of this is contained in a mobile device and its apps.

Apps to help you set up the camera, choose the right shots, tweak your video using professional settings, apply video filters and then edit your clips, are available free, for pennies, or a few pounds. Smartphone filming represents one of the best ways to break into shooting video as an individual filmmaker or for your organisation.

What Do You Need?

Start simple and purchase a tripod and smartphone mount. Do not underestimate the power of a still shot. This is the easiest and best way to shoot film since the Lumiere brothers unveiled the cinematograph in 1895. It will make your videos watchable. If you feel like you want to pan and tilt then buy a tripod with a fluid head for smooth motion, they are available for less than £50.

Shoulderpod makes smartphone holders and tripod attachments.

Shoulderpod makes smartphone holders and tripod attachments.

Never scrimp on sound quality. Do not forget, people will watch shaky video with good sound, but rarely stick with great video and bad audio. The best way to record someone’s voice is using a microphone. Clip on lavalier microphones such as Rode’s SmartLav+ or a handheld cardioid mic are far superior to relying on the phone’s built-in microphone.

Lavaliers are omnidirectional but screen out a lot of the background noise when they are positioned close to your mouth. Handheld cardioid mics are directional and great for recording voices. It is even possible to record clear speech using the phone’s mic, but remember to get close to whoever is speaking as the phone emphasises audio close to the handset.

Invest in Kit
Awful sound and shaky video are two mistakes to avoid and you should address them before you do anything else. There are a number of great smartphone mounts and holders – the iOgrapher, the Shoulderpod, or the Unigrip Pro – to attach your phone to the tripod or a handheld rig. For great audio, IK Multimedia makes a number of incredible microphones, adapters and audio apps for iOS and Android phones.

How Will Smartphone Shooting Help You?

These are factors you negotiate every time you shoot and edit a video:

  • Framing
  • Lighting
  • Filming
  • Editing
  • Filters
  • Titles
  • Transitions
  • Audio/Music
  • Publishing

Add to this list the possibility of a deadline, finding interview subjects, collaborating with others, thinking on your feet, pulling the story together, and you can see the creativity involved in video production. You will learn all of this and more in only your first few shoots. It’s a challenge, and it’s one that you will find incredibly rewarding.

My first couple of smartphone shoots were picked up as part of a BBC initiative for new filmmakers. I ended up submitting two films and both were featured on the ‘Life Through My Lens’ site – Skin You’re In (about tattoos, filmed in Byker and Walker) and Hothouse Flower (about the closure of Newcastle’s Moorbank botanical gardens) – and I was interviewed for a TV special screened in March 2015. Overall it spurred me on to learn more about filmmaking and eventually to set up WeLove Media.

Which Apps Should You Use?

Those early films were shot on a LG phone using its limited camera app, but the tools available to smartphone shooters now make mobile filming a viable commercial prospect. Cameras on the new generation of Android and Apple phones shoot 4K ultra high definition video using powerful image sensors and improved lenses. Apps can turn your mobile into a pocket broadcast studio. Below I’ve listed five apps each for iOS and Android (with a couple of alternatives) that will help you polish up your mobile videos.

iMovie is one of the best free video editors.

iMovie is one of the best free video editors.

5 Great iPhone/iPad Filming Apps

  1. Filmic Pro – Filmic’s camera app turns your mobile into a pro-video camera, with a wide range of frame rates, slow and fast motion (1-240fps), screen aspect ratios, video bitrates and the ability to set exposure, white balance and shutter speeds. If all of that is just camera jargon to you, the upshot is that you’ll have total flexibility to set the camera up to do what you want for different conditions and video shooting effects. There are great alternatives to FilmicPro too such as ProCamera (DSLR level controls, photo editing and high frame rates) and Filmakr (adds clip editing and titles).
  2. iMovie – is the standard Apple video editing app but it is also easy to use, packed with features and allows you to edit and publish in HD and 4K. iMovie lacks the total flexibility of more powerful editing packages, but it is great for beginners. Placing and trimming clips, adding voiceovers and music, fading audio in and out, plus providing a range of transitions between clips and the ability to add titles to video, gives users about as much functionality as they need to begin with. For iPad, Pinnacle Studio Pro adds extra audio layering control, linking to pro-audio apps, plus neat picture in picture and motion graphic title options, and is the more powerful editor.
  3. LumaFX – offers a suite of video effects to change colour, contrast, speed and rotation of your video clips. Reverse, speed up or slow down your videos: LumaFX can deal with video recorded up to 240fps. An impressive array of filters allows you to customise clips to create the look you want. The ability to trim means you can get clips ship shape before publishing them or putting them into your editing program. LumaClip is a free FX lite app for adjusting speed, orientation and aspect ratio, as well as allowing you to extract still images from video.
  4. Adobe Express – a free suite of creative templates that gives you access to great assets for social media content, logos, banners and much more, plus access to Adobe’s royalty free stock photos. Just add your own content and away you go.
  5. Ferrite Recording Studio – an excellent multi-track recording app with a waveform editor so you can see audio clearly, edit precisely and add effects or reduce noise with the more advanced version (paid for). If recording podcasts is your thing then Ferrite comes into its own, but for recording balanced voiceovers, intros or interviews, it’s great.

Cinema FV-5

5 Great Android Filming Apps

  1. Cinema FV-5 – was Android’s answer to FilmicPro before it was made available to Android users, but FV-5 is a fine professional video recording app in it’s own right. It offers manual camera settings (exposure, white balance, ISO and a light metering mode), focus locking and adjustment while filming, plus a professional viewfinder with more than 10 compositing grids and crop guides for different screen formats. Like FilmicPro it also shows audio levels for on-screen monitoring. An essential video filming app.
  2. Camera FV-5 – if you need DSLR features for your digital photography then FV-5’s camera app delivers. Okay, it’s stills only but for animated image or slideshow videos, or stills in video presentations then this camera app has everything you need. Has settings to create incredible HDR timelapse pictures for video and long exposure shots, as well as all the usual lighting and light metering features you would expect in a pro camera. Shutter speeds can be set as low as 1/80000 of a second up to 60s. Can capture true 16 bit RAW format or lossless PNG images too for intricate detail.
  3. Quik – Want a quick video edit for social media, then Quik will stitch one together for you in seconds. This ingenious little app from GoPro was previously called Replay (it is also available for iOS). It analyses video clips and photos to find the best moments then puts them together to your choice of music, either those contained in the Quik library or from your phone’s music library. Use one of 28 video styles, reorder clips, adjust the focus on pics, add text titles and create your own individual look. Quik also offers video cropping for Instagram. For an additional or alternative quick edit app try Videoshop, which allows you to change speed of videos, add from a library or noises and create your own voiceover.
  4. Kinemaster – despite the relative advantage that Apple phones have in pro-level video and photography apps, Kinemaster may be the best of the video editors available for mobile. Multiple video tracks, keyframe-able audio and timeline markers allow for extremely precise editing. Moment to moment audio volume control makes it much easier to create the results you want, alongside all the usual video controls (speed control, brightness, hue, transitions) you need in an editor. For an alternative ‘video everywhere’ experience, the WeVideo app (also available for iOS) allows you to edit on the phone and sync to the cloud, so you can edit online or via a Chrome app, then publish when you are ready.
  5. TapeMachine Recorder – probably the best Android sound recorder and editor. TapeMachine is a waveform sound editor that allows you to record and export audio in multiple formats. Normalise your audio, set time markers, trim and reorder, change speed and add effects. Alternatively record with an app like Field Recorder and edit using TapeMachine.

We’ll be covering apps, accessories and how to improve your filming in more detail in future updates. If you would like to know more about our mobile filming workshops and how we could work with your company to tell your brand’s story, then please contact us.