Student Reporter’s Guide to Shooting Smartphone Video

Recommended Apps and Hardware:


Camcorder (Android) – Free
The stock Android camcorder app lets you choose in HD or other quality levels and supports video stabilization. It’s a great place to start.

FiLMiC Classic (iPhone) – Free
flimicjpgThis free iPhone app allows you to set and lock focus and exposure, monitor audio levels, and set frame rates, resolution, and video and audio quality. I recommend the free version, not FiLMiC Pro ($3.99) which is prone to crashing.

viddeojpgVoddio (iPhone) – $9.99
If you want to spend $10 for an all-in-one mobile journalism app, this is a good choice. Voddio combines video, audio, and camera as well as editing software into one app. It also connects to an XLR cable so you can use a microphone and monitor sound levels with headphones.


YouTube (iPhone and Android) – Free
If you want to shoot a quick video and share it with the world, YouTube is still the way to go.

iMovie (iPhone) – $4.99
iMoviejpgThe mobile version of Apple’s movie editing software is good for trimming clips, inserting still photos and sound, and adding titles and credits. However, it is difficult to edit on a phone (it is easier on an iPad), and it only allows for one editing track.


Vine (iPhone and Android in near future) – Free
Vine is a video sharing app that lets you to record a six second looping video and share it via Twitter. Yes, that means your story can’t be longer than six seconds.

Cell phone car charger – Less than $5 $(KGrHqJ,!hwE-z9rY2KfBPtj6!yZhQ~~60_35
Shooting video saps your cell phone battery. It’s worth the investment.


iStabilizer flexible mini-tripod (Fits all cell phones) – $29.95 or check out in Bozorth 105E
This small tripod fits any sized cell phone and eliminates shaky hand-held video. You can sit it on a table, wrap the flexible legs around most objects, or unscrew the mount and put it on a full-sized tripod.


Make sure your battery is fully charged.
Video will sap your cell phone battery. Always carry a plug and car charger with you.

Make sure you have plenty of free memory.
Video files take up a lot of space. Transfer your old video files to your computer before you go out to report.

Restart your phone.
Turning your phone off-and-on can help prevent crashes and freezing.

Set phone to Airplane Mode.
You don’t want your video to be interrupted by calls and texts.

Clean your lens.
Is your video blurry? There might be fingerprints on your lens.

Always shoot horizontally.
Screens and video players are horizontal. If you shoot vertically, you will end up with a narrow image and black bars on the side.

Use a tripod or something to stabilize your phone.
Cell phones are difficult to hold steady and often result in shaky video. Bring a tripod with you. If you don’t have one, trying using both hands, leaning against a wall, or propping your arms on something.

Pick a location with good lighting.
Go outside. Use natural light from window. Turn on more lights. If you are shooting somewhere dark, bring your own light.

Fill your frame.
Chances are your video will be viewed on a small video player or mobile device, not on a flat screen TV. So get closer. Follow the rule of thirds. Keep your composition clean.

Avoid pans or zooms.
Let the action move across your frame rather than moving with it. If you do use pans or zooms, do so sparingly.

For interviews, use a microphone and monitor your audio levels.
Smartphones aren’t great at recording audio. You need to be as close to the source as possible. For best results use an external microphone or lav mic. Some apps also let you monitor your audio levels with headphones while you record.

For b-roll, shoot in sequences and hold each shot for a minimum of 10 seconds.
Frame your shot, hit record and hold it still for 10 seconds. Hit stop. Then move to a new location and repeat. Get wide, medium, close-up, point-of-view, and reaction shots. Shooting in sequences will make it easier to upload and edit your footage.

Play to the strengths of smartphone video.
Cell phone video is best suited for capturing raw footage and quick interviews and posting them to the web. It isn’t as great for longer-form video stories that require a lot of shooting and complex editing. When you want to go mobile or capture breaking news, use your phone. When you want higher production quality, use a camera, microphones, tripods and equipment that offer greater control.

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