Making Better Smartphone Videos

Image of a DJI Osmo 3 smartphone gimbal used in making better smartphone videos

I’ve recently been making better smartphone videos than ever before since adding a couple of inexpensive items to my arsenal.  I’ve also picked up a couple of new tricks for making smartphone videos outdoors much easier. Let’s dive in.

Until fairly recently any videos I shot on my iphone were the usual kind of things everyone shoots on their phone: The kitten doing tricks, gigs, holiday scenes etc. Yes, I played with the interesting stuff like slo mo and timelapse but never dreamed of making “serious” marketing videos for my online business with it. I saw the potential but preferred my trusty DSLR and outboard audio recording gear. 

I started getting a little more serious about making better smartphone videos when I invested in a gimbal a while back. Its much more portable than my 2kg Canon DSLR, doesn’t need a tripod and enables all these cinematic video shots. Its a lot of fun, especially outdoors. 

But in the great outdoors making videos with a smartphone presents other problems, chiefly with sound. You can forget using the inbuilt microphone. Even with my trusty lapel mic in it’s little wind baffle the “fuffles’ and growls caused by wind were unbearable. I have largely solved this with a neat trick learned from a Youtube video but we will get to that later. 

Many of the videos I shoot for business are front camera selfie type shoots. I like to find an interesting background – not difficult on the Argyll coast where I live – and just go for it. I have done plenty of this with my main camera in forests, in my car and so on. But as I say its kind of a cumbersome set up for the solo video maker. The phone mounted on the gimbal is way easier. 

A Great Cure For Wind Noise

I can do walking, steadicam shots with it handheld or mount it on its built in tripod and get it to follow me automatically. I use my lapel mic straight into the phone for the handheld stuff or into one of my audio recorders for the follow cam stuff. Which brings me to the wind noise thing. 

I subscribed to a Youtube photography channel called Markuspix a while back. I learned the following trick there. First you need two 6 inch stips of gaffa tape. Fold each of these as per the pic below until you have two thick gaffa tape triangles stick side out. You then take the little clip off the lapel mic and sanwich the little capsule between the gaffa triangles so that only the very end is visible. 

You can then stick this to the hollow in your chest. The other side sticks to the inside of your clothing. The mic is now shielded from the wind and will not pick up any rustling from your clothes because it is stuck to them.  From experience, men might want to shave a little chest hair first. I find this works really well. 

The other new toy that has helped lots in making better smartphone videos is a Teleprompter app. Its actually called Teleprompter on the app store and costs just £17 for the full version. An absolute bargain IMHO. I used to do autocue professionally and am aware that mini camera mounted autocue kits are available for DSLRs. I didn’t know you get an iphone app that did the same thing. 

Following The Script

The camera versions reflect the script onto a special glass in a shroud attached to the lens, the app version overlays it on to your phone’s screen with a transparent background. You can set the scrolling speed and text size to suit the script or control it remotely or with your voice. The script can positioned close to the phone’s camera lens so that you are looking almost straight at it. 

screenshot of a smartphone using a teleprompter app which helps in making better smartphone videos
Using the teleprompter app

When you have finished shooting the video the script can be added as timed subtitles. You can also add logos and text. I’m seriously impressed with this app I have to say. Until getting it i never read from a script. I wrote them and rehearsed them then basically busked to camera paragraph at a time and sorted it all out in the edit. Now I can just read the script. No more umms or erms.

Another big advantage of using this set up is that two or more people shoot separate videos from the same script. This is actually one of the reasons I started looking for teleprompter apps. I’m working on a project now with someone who is at the other end of the country. We will be able to produce some interesting videos using this approach and editing the separate components. 

Making Better Smartphone Videos On a Budget

So to the nuts and bolts of the set up. I mentioned the gimbal. MIne is the DJI Osmo 3 mobile, but any gimbal will work. If you don’t want to invest in a gimbal a selfie stick will do. My tieclip mic is a  Boya from Amazon. The app is called Teleprompter – find it in the usual places. Depending on your phone you may need a little adaptor to get the mic working. Mine’s an iphone SE2020 and I needed a lightning to jack headphone adaptor (£9 from Apple) 

If you are further from the phone than the tieclip mic’s lead can reach you’ll need to record sound onto something else. I use a little Sony digital dictaphone with a mic input for this. I also have a professional Tascam DR 60 MK11 field recorder. The latter is a bit of a faff as it needs a power supply (batteries last about a minute) Its also a little bulky. 

My quest for making better smartphone videos continues soon with a drone which should be arriving any day now. No matter how far you want to take it, better video – on phones or cameras alike – comes down to a just few factors. Good quality video, good quality audio and good content. The set up up outlined here helps deliver all of that and didn’t cost a packet. 

For More tips and tutorials on video making and editing visit my Youtube channel here