28 Feb 2017

6 Ways To Shoot High Quality Smartphone Videos

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Does production values matter when it comes to video marketing?

Almost three weeks ago, myself, my wife and our friend watched Guns N’ Roses live at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. We thoroughly enjoyed the rock show and I ended up creating a highlight video of the evening the next day. The footage I compiled together were mainly taken from my wife’s recording – she captured a few videos to test out the 4K camera setting on her iPhone 7.

When she saw the final version of the video (below), she was surprised about what I had created. She wasn’t sure if she had any good shots for me to work with. Luckily, she did a good job for someone who has very little experience with videography.


These days, almost everyone has access to a high-quality camera. Chances are, you have a camera on your smartphone with 720p (HD ready), 1080p (Full HD) and perhaps 4K (UHD) capabilities. The technology is so much better and more affordable today. But someone owning a high-quality camera doesn’t automatically qualify that person to produce a high quality video, in terms of production and content.

This fact is something that’s ignored by many companies and business owners as they continue to produce video content in poor fashion – at the cost of compromising their brand and image. When it comes to video production values, consider these 3 points:

  1. The evolution of television proves that there’s a demand for better quality viewing: From Digital TV, Smart TV, curved TV, ultra slim, to 4K with HDR capabilities. If you can hook people in with your content, and they really like the message in your video, chances are they would prefer to watch it in the best quality possible.
  2. Better quality viewing = better experience overall. As a business owner, it’s all about providing the best experience you can for your customers – that will be key to your success. Different types of video (like 360 video, live video, etc) provide a certain type of experience to its viewers.
  3. If you look at industry leaders, they invest in getting high quality-produced videos by professionals. They understand that the result helps to enhance their brand reputation and position them as true professionals and experts in their field. There’s the misconception that you can’t make a high quality video unless you spend a tonne of money. Of course, the value of production can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, but as stated above, the technology is much more accessible and affordable than ever that you can still start somewhere.

If you don’t have the budget to hire video professionals to help you produce high quality videos, here are six ways to help you make the most out of your camera, avoid looking like you’re on a budget and even have some great material to work with when it comes to post production:

1. Let The Story Move You Before You Move The Story

Songwriters often confess that their best songs are those that came naturally and effortlessly. It happens when they are truly connected with their message and it inspires them to put words to paper. When it comes to video, before you even get into the technical side of things, rather than starting with “how can I create a great video”, begin with “how can I find an emotional connection with my message and story?”

By knowing what you are trying to achieve with your video and why, it becomes the catalyst to ignite your creativity to produce an amazing video.

2. Use Sufficient Lighting

Lighting is often one of the hardest things to master in the video-making process and is still very challenging to even some of the more experienced videographers. Some things to consider:

  • Be mindful of the light source and the subject. If you are trying to focus on a subject with a bright background, it can create an unwanted silhouette effect or sometimes it can be too bright and “washed-out”. Ensure that your subject is receiving light from the right angle.
  • When shooting outdoors, try avoiding shooting in the middle of the day when the sun is high because it can create shadows especially on faces (unless you want this effect). Aim to shoot early in the day or later in the afternoon. Cloudy or overcast days work really well. You can also purchase reflectors to help light your subject more evenly.
  • The advantage of shooting indoors is you’re in a more controlled environment. The challenge though is having sufficient lighting. You can start by purchasing lighting kits that can make a huge difference to the quality of your video. Simple 2-point lighting kits can start from as low as $90 to a few hundred or even thousands of dollars for more elaborate set ups.
  • Try to avoid shooting under fluorescent lights. Fluros flicker at a certain frequency and produces flickering that is usually caused by a frame rate mismatch between the camera and the fluorescent light’s frequency which can be unnoticeable during recording.

3. Frame Your Shot Properly

How you frame your shots can have a dramatic effect to the “feel” of your video. For example, a camera at a low angle can you make look dominant. A high angle can make you look vulnerable. Make sure that your angle doesn’t create distractions to the viewer; make it look inviting and interesting. Here are some tips:

  • Use a tripod! This will help you position your camera more easily at the right distance and angle as well as avoid the uncontrollable shake that results by holding your phone. You can unscrew the end of a selfie stick, use it as an adaptor to hold your phone which usually fits on any tripod with a universal thread.
  • Find someone to help you shoot or position the camera.
  • If you don’t have someone to help you, do a practice record – check your shot first!

4. Don’t Neglect Audio

Research shows that audio is often more important that the actual video. Putting a lot of effort on the video quality can be a waste of time if your audio is done poorly. Tips:

  • Use a lapel microphone (starting from $60-$70) to minimise background noise and amplify the important audio. If you are using a wired version, you can purchase an extension cable. Boom/directional microphones can also be mounted on your smartphone to achieve the same concept of a lapel, but gives you more freedom to move around.
  • Avoid noise and wind.
  • Be mindful of your distance from your phone. The quality usually suffers the further away you are because you become more aligned to the background noise.

5. Use Third-Party Apps

There are many third-party apps out there that can take you mobile video recording up a notch. Some features include:

  • Exposure adjustment on the fly
  • Video filters
  • Versatility to zoom while recording
  • Locking focus
  • Frame-rate selection. For example, slow motion shots with a high frame-rate can help the shot appear more smoothly.
  • Shutter speed. For example, if you want to capture fast moving images, using a high shutter speed can capture more detail and minimise blurring.
  • Audio metering allows you to monitor the volume levels
  • Grid helper can help you line up your shots

Check out the link HERE for some cool apps.

6. Upload In The Right Format

Keep in mind that different social media platforms want you to upload your video according to their ideal specifications. This means, having different versions of your video can help you optimise the quality over different platforms, For example:

Facebook prefers:

  • Resolution: 720p (frame size of 1280px wide by 720px high)
  • File format: MP4 or MOV format
  • Frame rate: 30 frames per second or less
  • Audio sample rate: 44.1kHz

This means that for example, if you upload a video that’s higher resolution than 720p, Facebook will downsize the video. If you let Facebook resize the video frame, you might lose some quality in the process. In our experience, shooting higher than 720p then down-scaling it yourself during export results in better quality.

For more Facebook specs visit HERE.

YouTube prefers:

  • Resolution: Up to 4K
  • File format: MPEG-2, MPEG-4
  • Frame rate: 24, 25 or 30 frames per second
  • Audio sample rate: 48kHz or 96kHz

For more YouTube specs visit HERE and HERE.

These are some simple tips to help you get started on the right foot, whether you want to create videos on your own or prepare some great content for an editor.

Photo by Jakub Gorajek via Unsplash

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Questions? Email: support@falconcreative.com.au


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