Money is tight, and so is your time.
It shouldn’t lead to poor video.
Even with a small budget, it is possible to shoot compelling footage that resonates with your audience. I physically can’t lift heavy camera, so I often use my phone to film.
I wanted to take a moment to share a few tips on how you can get better footage with the tools you already have.
All of these tips can be done with your phone.
‘Poor Prior Planning Produces P***-Poor Performance’
Before doing anything, plan or plan to fail.
One of my mentors and friends has a terrific saying about the importance of planning: “Poor prior planning produces p***-poor performance.” My pal is right.
Effective planning really is the foundation of a successful video shoot. Get to know who your audience is, pinpoint what they should learn from your video, and what action you want them to take.
Next, identify a story and list of shots that would check all those boxes. For overview videos, you might want to brainstorm a few people to conduct sit-down interviews with. They could be staff members and people who have benefited from your organizations.
These interviewees can provide the background narrative, and you can cover any edits with B-roll of your programs, events, etc.
Keep it Simple
Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has shown it’s possible to shoot a nice video with the tools you already have.
Whether it’s a smartphone or an entry-level camera, you can get great footage. If you have a shot list, you can anticipate when moments will occur in real-time. Or you can stage shots.
We staged a few moments for a shoot a few months ago in St. Louis. It was a disability focused fair with tables of vendors. We wanted to show some of the items on the table, so our videographer filmed our assistant’s hand reaching for objects.
It worked, and it was more interesting than a shot of a motionless card.
Don’t zoom in beyond a phone’s normal capacities. Stick with the built-in telephoto and wide lenses. Anything beyond that, adjusted with your fingers, can cause blurriness.
Give Me Light!
We all have at least one light source: The sun. It can be a nice source of natural light, and definitely use it to your advantage.
Try not to shoot directly into the sun. Or your shots will be ruined, and you won’t be able to see people, faces or anything else. You can bounce the light off objects (and white clothes) to brighten up any dark spots.
Inside, you can always turn on light and work shadows, and you can try to position people near windows for natural light.
If you’d like to learn a few advanced techniques, here’s Roger Deakins. You’d don’t need a light meter unless you want one.
Can I Hear You?
If you’re filming an event, it can be hard to conduct interviews with your phone. Your phone will collect all the background chatter, and viewers may not be able to clearly make out what an interviewee is saying.
You could ask a person to step away from the crowd, and answer a few questions on camera. That is preferred.
If you have lav mics, use them. Ideally, you want interview audio to be crisp and clear.
Utilize Composition Techniques
In visual storytelling, we use the rule of thirds. Basically, it means that an image is divided evenly into three sections horizontally and vertically. It forms a three-by-three grid, and each point of intersection can be visually interesting (that’s where the eyes go). You can learn more in this article. Your can enable a grid to appear in your phone’s camera, if you’d like.
Apply the rule of thirds to create visually balanced and interesting images, placing your subject off-center for a more dynamic result. You can mix up your shots by trying the following:
– wide shot: Showing the scenery, such as the mountains, the entire basketball court, etc.
– over-the shoulder shots: A shot from behind a person. We can see a person’s head in the foreground, and the camera is pointed and focused on an image in the background.
– tight shot: A close-up image of something. A tight shot could be a close look at the handrims on a wheelchair basketball chair or hands playing with toys.
– medium shot: A visual that is usually of a person from their waste up.
– close shot: A shot in which the frame is filled likely with a person’s face, shoulders up.
Experiment with different angles, perspectives and depths to create visually interesting footage. You can mix up shots and angles in editing.
Got Some Shaky Hands?
As best as you can, you want your shots to be steady.
The iPhone does have a stabilization feature, though I wouldn’t rely on it.
If you have a tripod to hold your phone or camera, great. If not, you can rest a camera on objects or surfaces to eliminate any unnecessary shakiness. I have many times set my camera or phone on a desk or chair for assistance. (That only works if you are almost level with the object you’re filming.)
Smartphone gimbals and handheld stabilizers work well, too.
I used a gimbal for my phone and Nikon camera in Hawaii, and I was pleased.
Best of luck in your filming endeavors.
I know some techniques may take time to work out, but you deserve top-quality content.
I imagine you’d agree. We’re always happy to discuss.