Can you believe it was back in 1998 that Nokia put the game Snake in its model 5110 (succeeded by the more popular Nokia 3310). Cell phones have come a long way! It was only a couple of years later when the first camera phone was released by Sharp (2000) that shot a maximum 20 photos at 350,000-pixel resolution, which is 0.35-megapixels, and you had to hook it up to your computer to see them. Fast forward 20 years and you realize that the evolution of the cell phone camera has been remarkable.
It’s 2017 and my personal phone is a Samsung Galaxy S8, which has a 12Mp (f/1.7) rear camera with depth effect, 240 fps slomo, image stabilization and time-lapse capabilities. Lots of camera jargon, I know, but essentially this means that I am carrying a device in my pocket capable of creating pretty much any video effect imaginable. And if I can’t create it with my camera, I can probably nail it in post production.
Assuming that you are in possession of a camera purchased in the last 5 years (iPhone, Samsung, LG, Apple…. It doesn’t matter), you have the power to produce awesome, professional-looking video. You just need a couple of add-ons, some friendly advice, and a can-do attitude.
Here come your 5 tips for shooting professional, Hollywood-Lookin’ video with you smartphone.
1. ALWAYS SHOOT WITH THE REAR CAMERA
Starting with the fundamentals, always shoot with the rear facing camera. Almost all rear cameras are markedly better than front facing ones. Front facing cameras are designed for facial recognition and regrettable selfies that your friends will scoff at and delete. You will get much better image quality with the rear camera, so make sure to use it.
2. EXPERIMENT WITH CAMERA SETTINGS
Google “how to shoot video with [insert phone make and model here]”, and learn your phone camera’s settings. My Samsung S8 not only shoots in 4K Ultra HD resolution but it has bonus camera modes like Panorama, Selective Focus and Slow Motion, if you want to get artsy and creative. In Pro Camera Mode, you get full control over five main camera features. You can manually adjust the shutter speed, ISO and exposure levels, which directly affects the amount of light sucked in for your photo. In addition, you can change the color tone and white balance, which can also drastically alter the final look of your shot. This phone is more than smart… it’s genius.
Unless you’re capturing a Jason Bourne-esque chase scene, you probably don’t want particularly shaky camera footage. To ensure stable footage, use both hands to hold your smartphone as close as possible to your body as you record the video. If this gets tiring or you’re working on a particularly long shoot, use a tripod, stabilizer or cage to house your phone. These apparatus can also be used to achieve camera moves like follow or panning shots.
4. MULTIPLE CAMERA ANGLES
Having two camera angles is always better than one, and you have two options to do this. First, shoot two separate takes with different camera angles in each and then edit them together. The second option is to film on 2 smartphones. But remember that if you’re filming on 2 smartphones at the same time, you will have to synchronize the image and the sound. This is why directors will use a clapperboard or a slate board to cause a spike in audio at the beginning of a take. In post production, this makes it easy for editors to pick out on the audio track and match to the visual of the clapper clapping on the film, syncing the moving picture with the sound.
Let’s say you’re shooting an interview with your IT manager… it’s going to need a bit of spicing-up to make it interesting for the viewer. This is where b-roll comes in. B-roll is used as supplemental footage inserted as a cutaway to help tell a story. For instance, if a fashion designer is giving an on-camera interview about her favorite fabrics, you might cut away to a close up of her sewing machine or a shot of people at work in her studio. B-roll can be shot separate from the main footage and, if your shooting video for the company you work for, b-roll can be saved and reused for future videos.
Other examples of b-roll footage include:
- CEO/Founder and Executive working and walking
- Internal shots of employees working
- External office shots, preferably with company signage
- Product shots with various angles
- Everyday people using the product (or service) in different environments
EXTRA TIP: NEVER, EVER film in Portrait Mode. [No exceptions]
Always hold your camera landscape so you are shooting at full scale. Simple.
Still don’t believe me?
Check out this video by filmmaker and YouTube sensation / GOD, Casey Neistat. This entire video was shot on a Samsung Galaxy S8. Pretty awesome.