“We want half a day’s video training. We’ve just bought a ‘professional’ video camera and we want to know how to use it”
Our heart sank at the new client’s inquiry.
Two reasons. First, conventional video making is a massive subject not easily telescoped into a couple of hours training. Second, most organisations looking to produce their own video are going down the smartphone route.
And there are good reasons for that.
The camcorder this client had bought cost over £2,000. And they hadn’t even thought about the need for a powerful edit-laptop with software – another £1-2k…
A good Apple or Android phone will cost just a fraction of that outlay. The essential accessories are cheap. What’s more, you can edit on the same device you use for shooting, so you don’t need a computer for editing and the apps are free or low cost.
… ease of use…
All that video kit needs transporting, and although you can edit in the field on a laptop it’s not convenient. Smartphone video gives you total portability: shoot and edit anywhere.
Top end camcorders have a host of buttons, menus and other complex controls that you have to get your head round. And that’s before you even start learning how to use the editing software.
We know how to use phones. They’re familiar. And while the apps you need to shoot and edit rival their conventional cousins for power, they’re easy to use and learn.
So staff with little time to practice essential skills are far more likely to produce usable phone video on a regular base than wheel out the office camcorder and open the instruction manual.
… and quality
Top end camcorders can produce lovely high definition results.
But so can smartphones. The humble iPhone SE can film 4k video – that’s ultra-high definition. The quality’s so good even professional broadcasters like the BBC and RTE are now using phone video in national output.
Phone video can be rubbish. But marry professional video making techniques with the excellent hardware available on modern phones and you’ve no need to take the conventional option.
So what hard- and software do you need to create smartphone video?
In the bag
You need a phone.
iPhone or Android? It’s your choice. Both will produce good video.
Android phones tend to be a little cheaper and will take extra memory and you can replace the batteries yourself.
The Apple universe isn’t quite so flexible, but iPhones are well made, the apps you need offer astonishing power rivalling conventional editors costing hundreds, and there’s a wide array of quality accessories available.
Which model? The newer the better, with a nice big screen and plenty of memory. We’re currently in love with the iPhone 6S Plus which has a 5.5-inch screen and 64-128Gb of memory. Refurbished examples in top condition can be had for as little as £280.
You can shoot video using just the phone. But we’d recommend some useful and low-cost accessories to make your life easier.
Making light work
A phone holder like the Sevenoak PSC1 or the iGadgitz pistol grip from Amazon will give you a more secure grip on your phone and let you hold it steady. Cost? £25 down to £8.
A lightweight floor standing tripod is handy for key shots and offers a rock steady platform for interviews, so avoiding amateurish ‘wobblycam’. The Velbon Videomate 538 is an inexpensive starter model.
If you’re feeling flush, one for the wish list is a gimbal – a computerised phone holder that keeps the picture rock steady even if you’re jumping about. These range in price from £100 upwards.
The phone’s built in microphones are fine for recording general hubbub.
An external microphone will give you better sound quality, useful in interviews or when you have people talking directly to camera.
The iRig mic lav or Rode smartLav+ lapel microphones are great for just £50 or so. The Movo LV1 is just £17! If you prefer a hand-held reporter type microphone, then Sennheiser, Rode and iRig offer some great options.
So that’s all the hardware you need.
What about software? Well, that’s cheap ‘n easy too. If you shoot on the iPhone’s native Camera app and edit on Apple’s own iMovie you’ll have two excellent tools for producing top class video and neither will cost you a penny.
If you have an Android you’ll get good results from FiLMiC Pro and an editing app such as Kinemaster at relatively low cost.
The only other things you need are the skills and techniques to use the hardware and apps to best effect.
You can teach yourself. Or smooth the corners of the learning curve by going on a training course, where you can learn and practice professional hints and tips.
Going back to the story about the client at the top of this blog, how did it all end?
Our video trainer John Whyte-Venables advised the client to think about a two-tier strategy: use smartphone video for every day coverage and keep his expensive new camcorder for special occasions. We’re now taking bets on whether the camcorder ever comes out of its box!
Author John Whyte-Venables