Making well produced content is easier than ever. With the constant access to high quality cameras (in your pocket), it takes little effort to start filming. However, no process is without room for improvement. While smartphone cameras are excellent, there are still things you can do to improve the quality of your shoot. These are a few things you should consider adding to your collection (to be a better video maker):
Sound matters. A lot. Maybe even more than image quality (shocked Pikachu face). It is already challenging enough to have your content stand out amongst the crowd – but with bad audio it’s close to impossible.
As we’ve mentioned before on multiple occasions: the easy way to fix this is by acquiring some form of microphone. A type of microphone we always recommend is a “Lav mic”.
Lav mics are easy to use and flexible. Aside from the occasional adapter needed for a 3,5mm output (or extension cord) all you really have to do is to plug it in and start recording. Prices are also affordable in the sense that you get a lot of quality for a low cost (ranging somewhere from 300 to 600 SEK).
The leap in audio quality from having no mic to a basic lav mic is vastly bigger than the step from a basic mic to a professional one. We’re big fans.
Another simple tool that is both helpful and gives you a lot more creative freedom is a simple tripod.
With a little creativity a tripod can be utilised in many ways; not only to create a stationary camera, but also to do tilts and pans. Furthermore it is extremely helpful if you are working alone and need a helping “camera man”, like during an interview. Now you can focus on asking questions while the tripod stays steady. Thanks, tripod.
Tripods come in many different shapes and sizes; there are bigger adjustable ones that are good for all-round usage, and then there are smaller ones that fit better on a table (in case your filming something sitting down). Depending on what functionalities you want – prices can vary a great deal.
Basic “table tripods” can go for as little as 100 SEK, while more advanced floor tripods easily can cost over 3000 SEK. A few things to keep in mind is to get one that is convenient, easy-to-use and easy to carry. That way, you won’t hesitate to bring it along for your shoots.
A great bonus feature is also to have a “spirit-level” attached to the tri-pod that way you can make sure that your shots always get steady footage.
It’s often said that “In order to be an expert you must master the basics”. The jump from basics to expert is still pretty steep, so in order to ease the transition there are a few intermediate gadgets you should consider.
Possibly the biggest visual upgrade you can get with a smartphone is to start using a “gimbal” or “steadycam”. These tools help you stabilise handheld recordings, resulting in much smoother footage.
While there are numerous different brands and models, in essence all you need to do is attach your smartphone to the gimbal and start filming.
This appliance opens up plenty of new possibilities in your every day video making, giving you the ability to do things like extensive tours of rooms, offices and other spaces. Another possibility is to do “walking-and-talking” styled videos, where you either film yourself (in a vlog format) or someone else walking towards the camera. If you feel that you usually have “shaky hands” when taking photos or video – this is the perfect solution for you.
Depending on the brand and model, prices and quality can vary heavily. For example, a tried and true brand like DJI provide their flagship model “Osmo Mobile 3” from €100 and up. Consequently the DJI Osmo, like many competitors, provide an additional smartphone app along with the gadget, helping the user with manoeuvring and tricks.
If stability and movement isn’t an option (or an issue) one can also “upgrade” the phone camera with a new set of lenses.
Similarly to how DSLR cameras utilise a variety of exchangeable lenses in order to expand the range, you can today buy add-on lenses to your smartphone, making it a lot more versatile. Just like “real” camera lenses, the smartphone extensions cover all types and variations, from wide fisheyes to zoom telescopes and narrow macro lenses.
The quality can, again, differ depending on brand and price, but the best way to make sure you get the acquired effect is to simply try the lenses out. While these add-ons can give your camera new capabilities, it sometimes comes at the price of… let’s call it “artistic” footage. Especially the wide angle lenses tend to get quite distorted which might not be a great fit for the content you’re making. This isn’t meant to scare you off, but to state that not all lenses are created equal. In other words, be wary when picking lenses?
To quote the great epic Karate Kid – “You’re the best around, nothing’s gonna ever keep you down” .
But to stay on top you may need other tools to further improve your video making game. One way could be: drones!
Over the last decade the popularity of drones has skyrocketed – and nowadays anyone can get their hands on aviation based cameras, as they’re usually fitted for smartphones.
Compared to previous tips, drones require a bit more expertise from the user. First off: pricing is usually a bit steeper compared to other tools. A quality drone starts off somewhere around €400 and can go as high as €2000.
Of course there are cheaper options but they tend to loose the advantage of well developed smartphone support. Models within the average and upper price range are usually a safe bet.
Mastering the controls and handling of the drone also has a learning curve. Navigating a tiny, quick, helicopter in all 3D space isn’t without its risks and challenges. Both the surroundings and the drone itself is fragile. So simple (stupid) mistakes can cause lots of damage if you’re not careful.
Adding to this, drone footage also has its limitations when it comes to regulations. As the drone is very nimble and can cover great distances, privacy and integrity of others can easily be compromised. Always keep this in mind before and during shoots; by scouting the area beforehand and informing potentially affected people, most hassles can be avoided.
Last but definitely not least is the issue of flying the drone in or near sensitive areas like airports and military zones. Having a drone inside the same airspace as commercial flights is extremely dangerous and often leads to the airport shutting down completely – rendering massive fines for the caught perpetrator.
Again, this isn’t meant to scare users into never wanting to come close to a drone, but to be real about what responsibilities come with the territory. Because once you do get a hang of it, drones can provide world class footage that can vastly improve any and all content.
Panoramic views, establishing shots, scenic dolly shots and more is made possible only with a little planing and persistence.
If moving the camera or changing perspectives isn’t what you’re looking for there are still things you can tweak within the camera itself. Changing shutter speed, focal length, ISO among other things allow you to enhance individual shots to your liking. Twisting and turning the nobs in a successful way do require some understanding of how the different parts of the camera correlate – but with persistence and a willingness to experiment you are sure to accomplish great results in no time!
This can be easier or more complicated depending on what smartphone you’re using. Android phones are in general quite generous with the ability to customize the settings of the camera, while iOS by default is a bit more restrictive. Fear not however, as you can unlock more of the power with the help of third party apps.
Most of them cost somewhere around €10-30 but will on the other hand make your smartphone even smarter giving it even more of an edge.
The most essential part of making a great video is to have an idea. It doesn’t have to be grand in scope or world changing – but without vision chances are the video won’t reach its full potential.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t try out new tools and tricks while making it. Regardless of what level you see yourself at the moment, the tips presented above are meant to encourage experimentation, and hopefully widen your perception of what videos can be. By simple and, often, easy means you can elevate footage to new levels.