The phrase “the best camera is the one you have with you” is perhaps a little beaten to death by this point. However, it’s also never been more true. Smartphones have never been more powerful and capable than now. Their mix of processing power, portability, amazing app economies, and groundbreaking cameras have made them a contender for even the most serious of filmmakers.
There are no excuses anymore. Here’s how you can effectively shoot and edit video--all on your mobile.
It goes without saying that ideally, you should set your record resolution to the highest possible. Nowadays, most flagship smartphones can shoot in full 4K and I recommend utilizing this for the best image quality.
You should also be able to set your frame rate. For most of cinema, using 24 frames per second (fps) or 25fps is the most natural and real life feeling for your video. If you’re shooting slow motion, going for a higher frame rate like 60fps or 120fps will work well. The reason is that when you shoot at a higher frame rate, but edit the video at a lower frame rate, the extra frames is what creates the slow motion. Shooting at 120fps and editing at 24fps will get you 20% slow motion (24 / 120 = 0.20)
Furthermore, I remember the rule of thirds when shooting. It’s such a simple, useful tool that will ensure you nail your framing every time. If your phone has the ability to turn on a grid, use it if it helps.
While most flagships smartphones are now exceptionally good when it comes to built-in stabilization, it can never hurt to have a bit more. Some simple ways you can reduce camera shake is to lock your arms into your body. Keep your elbows locked against your torso and hold the camera very close to you. Furthermore, if you shoot in the slow motion setting, everything will appear smoother.
If you think you’ll be shooting on the move a lot, or simply can’t get rid of the hand shake, then it may be well worth investing in a smartphone gimbal. Remember, while the gimbal does allow for beautifully smooth, buttery footage, it does add a bit of size and weight to your filmmaking setup.
Other accessories and add ons
As smartphones have developed, there is now a whole ecosystem of accessories and add-ons that can help improve how you shoot video on your mobile.
We recommend looking into different lens options that can give you a lot more focal range to play with -- from super wide shots all the way to telephoto zoom.
While you’re at it, check out lens filters. These simple little tools (effectively sunglasses for your phone camera) can help keep highlights from blowing out on a bright sunny day.
If you’re getting really adventurous, you’ll even find plenty of underwater housing options for your phone. Most smartphones these days are already waterproof, but only to a certain depth. Buying extra housing can help you shoot underwater with confidence.
The best apps for shooting
Of course, one of the best things about shooting video with your phone is the access to all the amazing apps on offer. Even Google Maps can come in handy when you utilize Street View to do a quick location scout and get the feel for a place before you’ve ever been there.
- There’s also Helios Pro -- a really handy little tool that allows you to find out where the sun is going to rise, where it’s going to set, and where the light will be in a location at any given time. Even the Oscar-winning pros are using this one.
- ShotList is well worth checking out. It’s an editable production stripboard that helps you plan every single scene and shot of your shoot. Because it’s on your phone, you can edit and check each shot off as you go on the day.
- There’s also Shot Designer. It basically allows you to work out the movements of your actors in very complex scenes, very quickly. You can put together camera diagrams that combine with your shots lists, animations and storyboards.
No blog post about mobile shooting would be complete without mentioning FiLMiC Pro, one of the leading mobile apps for turning your smartphone into a veritable mini-digital cinema camera. FiLMiC Pro greatly extends the feature set of your phone, giving you additional frame rates at lower resolutions, more color control, the ability to change focal length to emulate different professional lenses. as well as additional audio capabilities. (FiLMiC Pro is what was used to shoot the critically acclaimed indie film “Tangerine” by Sean Baker, and the thriller “Unsane” by Steven Soderbergh.)
The best apps for editing
On the editing front, there’s plenty of incredible apps available that will do just as good a job as if you were editing on your desktop. We’re excited by how quickly this space has developed and look forward to seeing where it’ll be in the next five to ten years.
We may be a little biased here but, we’re really proud of our very own UNUM app. This tool allows you to edit and plan for all of your IGTV videos, IG Reels, and TikToks from one convenient place.
Some other favorites include LumaFusion (for iOS). This is one of the most powerful mobile editing programs with color grading options, access to stock footage and music built right in, and the ability to interact with professional grade programs like Final Cut Pro. You can display your work on an external monitor which is awesome and the interface is really clean and slick, making it very easy to pick up and learn.
If you want a powerful mobile editor for Android, there’s also KineMaster.
I mentioned a lot of suggestions here for how to take your mobile filmmaking to the next level, but don’t be intimidated. Even if you just do IGTV / Reels with simple selfie videos, that’s a start. If you have the time and ability, shooting mobile video will significantly improve your social media game. You can learn more about it from sites like SkillShare, We Make Movies, and, of course, good ol’ YouTube will have plenty of free lessons. Whatever you decide, just start.
[Feature image by Frank Zhang on Unsplash]