Here’s Exactly How to Shoot Professional-Looking Mobile Video
There is an old saying in production — the best camera is the one you have. This is true now more than ever. The world of mobile film and video production has changed dramatically in recent years. Shooting on a mobile device has become a legitimate form of video production, and for good reason. Smartphones have become all-in-one production devices, especially when you know how to upload video to YouTube on mobile (or any other video hosting platform).
For example, the 2015 feature film Tangerine was the first film to be shot entirely on iPhones — and on an iPhone 5 at that! Steven Soderbergh shot his 2018 feature Unsane, starring Claire Foy, on mobile phones. So how do you shoot professional-looking mobile video? Here are several great cinematography apps, gear recommendations, and shooting tips and tricks that will take your mobile video to the next level.
Use an app
While the latest mobile devices has some great in-phone capabilities, consider shooting your mobile video using a third-party app. You might be surprised by how similar the interfaces of these apps are to your traditional DSLR and professional video cameras. Check out a couple of apps to consider purchasing before you shoot:
FilmicPro has become an industry standard when it comes to shooting professional-looking videos — it was even featured in the 2019 Apple Keynote. FilmicPro turns your phone into a professional video camera, allowing you to adjust your camera settings manually. FilmicPro also allows you to shoot massive 4K raw files. Check out their Cinematographer’s Kit. FilmicPro works with both Apple and Android devices.
MAVIS was the first Apple-based professional video app for mobile devices, and it offers a lot of the amazing professional video settings that FilmicPro provides. MAVIS even allows you to record broadcast-quality audio files.
How to shoot professional-looking mobile video
Shoot in 4K log
While shooting 1920×1080 will still produce a great-looking, high-quality video, shoot the largest files that you can. By shooting in 4K you give yourself some room to punch into the shots in post-production if needed. Shoot log or flat footage. This might sound counter-intuitive at first, but log or flat video, which looks very grey, actually has the most digital information. When you get into post-production, you can color grade to your heart’s content. FilmicPro offers both log and flat settings in app, as well as luts to use in post.
Record high-quality audio
No matter how high-quality your footage is, if you have bad audio, the final production will suffer greatly. While most mobile devices actually record fairly decent audio, you will need to invest in a good microphone. Here are some options:
- Lav mic: If you are recording interviews, consider using a lavalier mic that connects directly to a smartphone or tablet.
- Mobile device-based mic: You can also use a condenser mic that attaches to your phone in the same way that a mic attaches to a traditional professional video camera.
- External audio recording: You can forgo the on-phone options and record your audio tracks separately using a field recorder or professional audio recording equipment. Be sure to slate your footage if you decide to go this route.
Choose your lenses
Just like traditional DSLRs, you have the option of attaching third-party lenses to your mobile device. While you are putting a lens on top of a lens (your phone’s lens or lenses), you can expand the capabilities of your mobile device. Depending on the manufacturer, it might be necessary to buy a case for your phone with threading for your lenses, but it is worth the investment. Here are a few lens options:
- Anamorphic: Yes, that is right. You can shoot anamorphic footage on your mobile device. You might even get some nice lens flares as you shoot. You will need to be sure to desqueeze the footage but FilmicPro offers this option within the app.
- Wide angle: A wide-angle lens will allow you to capture more of your scene than your in camera lens.
- Telephoto: A telephoto lens will let you zoom in around 2x. This is great for capturing subjects from a distance. Stick with the higher-end Moment tele lens.
Most mobile devices have some built-in stabilization but with secondary lenses and an audio kit, you might want to invest in a stabilization rig. There are a few different options, which we’ve detailed below:
- Tripods: Consider using a tripod. You can purchase a simple attachment for your mobile device or purchase a mobile-specific tripod.
- Phone cages: A cage is another great low-tech way to stabilize your footage. You can attach your audio equipment to your cage, and it will allow you to move freely and shoot decent handheld footage.
- Gimbals: The most high-tech option for stabilization is a gimbal. A gimbal is a motorized device with three separate motors that controls the direction and movement of your camera — in this case, your phone. You can get really smooth footage with a gimbal.
Now you’re ready to shoot professional-looking mobile videos that will wow your clients and viewers alike.
Consider your final output
When you are shooting your video, consider what platform your final product will live on. Traditionally, you would want to shoot horizontal video or 16×9 for exporting and uploading to YouTube, but things have changed as social media platforms, such as IGTV, utilize vertical video or 9×16. Shoot for your final output — this will make your post-production process much easier.
Use your professional cinematography skills
When you are shooting mobile video, all of the same principles that apply to DSLR or professional video camera shooting still apply. Make sure you test your lighting and your exposure settings within the camera app. Test the audio to make sure you are getting high-quality sound. Make sure your shots are well composed. Treat your mobile video with the same care and attention as you would any video production.
There you have it — now you know how to shoot professional-looking mobile video. Happy producing and editing!