Not every organization has a resident video crew. But that doesn’t mean you can’t produce great DIY video content. With the quality of smartphone cameras improving and the accessibility of good equipment online, it’s easier than ever to make your smartphone videos look and sound great.
Capturing smartphone video that’s free from shaking or tilting is the bare minimum required for taking good-quality video. Get yourself a tripod and attach your iPhone or Android. While even a simple desktop model will do, a good tripod is heavy enough to withstand getting jiggle when people walk by and won’t be knocked over by a strong breeze. A tripod should be adjustable so you can set the height depending on whether your subject is sitting down or standing up. Set the camera just above or below you subject’s eye level, whichever is most flattering.
Strong overhead lighting is unflattering. Outdoor lighting can shift and leave your picture dark. The only way to get good, consistent lighting on someone or something is to use your own lighting setup. For interviews, this can be as simple as a ring light or other LED light that clips to your smartphone. Pick a location with great natural light first, this will make lighting easier. Then, position your subject so that the natural light is shining directly on their face. Next, use your LED light to fill in any shadows by positioning it so that your subject’s face looks well-lit in your smartphone video. Of course, this works best for interviewing a single person on camera. For larger groups or settings, you’ll want to get a professional videographer to make sure everything looks great.
Capturing audio can be tricky on a smartphone if you’re outside or in a busy area. Wind and background noise can make your subject difficult to hear and even quiet indoor spaces can result in echoes in your video. If your smartphone has a headphone jack, you can buy an inexpensive clip-on microphone (or lavalier as the pros call it) with a long cord that you can place on the collar or lapel of your subject and plug directly into your phone. If you have the newer iPhone that does not include a headphone jack, the Apple AirPods include a wireless mic that can be used when recording video- a demo of which you can see right here. Clear audio really steps up your smartphone video’s quality, so it’s worth investing in a good microphone if you’re going to be shooting regularly.
Now we’re getting into things that really spice up a plain-looking video. Your smartphone or laptop OS likely has a user-friendly video editing application that will improve the look of your video. These apps usually have pre-made filters that will boost the video contrast and saturation, or automatically correct any color problems. This is likely the biggest difference you’ll notice between amateur and professional videos online- the rich colors and contrast of a professional video really stand out, especially on a small screen. The camera on your smartphone defaults to a flatter contrast and color to avoid darkening your video. Using a quick filter or color-correction in the editing software can make a significant difference in your smartphone’s video quality. The image below was taken with my smartphone. I boosted the contrast and saturation with the included editing app, and you can see the significant improvement.
Inserting pictures or other footage into a video during an interview really increases the visual interest. For example, if your subject is a student talking about a college program, you can cut away to pictures of campus or classroom footage. If your subject is a chef talking about their great cuisine, you can insert pictures of the food being prepared or a video of them in their kitchen. Most video editing software offers pre-made transitions and fades that make these cutaways look beautiful with minimal effort. Just remember that simple fades are best, you don’t want a fancy transition to upstage your great video content!