Most smartphone cameras today are great for making cinematic videos, and you wouldn't believe how many times I've snuck iPhone video into production gigs without the client knowing the difference. It's not like I tried to deceive the client, it's just that I had already put my higher end gear away and I happen to see a shot which would be perfect for the production I was working. So I whip out my phone, slide up, hit the camera app, record, and I've got the shot in under 15 seconds.
Parker Walbeck put out a great video in 2016 shooting on an iPhone 7 vs. his $50,000 RED Weapon Footage which easily proves a smartphone will work just as good as a high-end camera for 90% of your shots.
Using your smartphone as a video camera, you’ll be able to come up with great shots at a moments notice. But of course, making professional looking videos does come a bit of skill. After all, videography is an art and merely having a camera does not make you an artist, let alone a professional videographer. So take into account the following tips so you can shoot cinematic videos with your smartphone and fool even the keenest of an eye with your next masterpiece.
With that, let's dive into a short checklist to help you shoot and capture those cinematic shots using your smartphone.
Does it all make sense now? Can you ban together with me and help make VVS a crime? I beg of you to please please please stop shooting verticle video.
Before you start shooting, put your smartphone in airplane mode. This way you’re not disturbed while filming. I shoot a ton of selfie style videos, and there's nothing worse than losing your train of thought and blowing the shot by being disrupted with a text alert or phone call, even if you don't answer it. Plus, it also saves battery, and the chance of losing power while filming is less likely. (Tip, since we mention losing juice, pick up an extra power pack for those long days at Disneyland, at the beach, up in the mountains, or...?)
Sounds very obvious I know... nevertheless, it's well forgotten often enough. Because the Smartphone is also a utility, it often happens that something is on the lens, whether it's a fingerprint, dust or other dirt. Always clean the glass thoroughly before shooting, preferably with a dry cloth, but really, the inside of your cotton shirt will do just fine.
Make sure your subject is always sharp. Focus the picture by tapping your subject on the screen. Your Smartphone zooms digitally and will lose your pixels, and your image will be blurred and grainy. Slowly move your Smartphone to the pan (moving or moving with a moving subject). Fast movements are unpleasant, not to mention your smartphone has trouble focusing and changing lighting conditions. Slow and steady wins the race you know.
You'll be editing most of your clips in post-production, and you want to think about overlapping sound or transition shots. By hitting the record button five seconds before you want to start, and five seconds after you have completed your shoot, you are not only ensuring the extension of sound needed for cross-over but also left yourself extended video for that 1-3 second transition fade if required.
For me, the sound is more important than image, well, kind of. This may sound a bit crazy, but people will accept "bad" picture with good sound as opposed to "good" picture with lousy sound. Therefore, use an external microphone for better sound quality when available. If an external mic is not possible, the closer you stand, the better your sound quality will be.