By Steve Barnes
If you are walking around with an iPhone, you might not be aware that you are carrying around a top notch movie studio in your pocket! “It’s all about engaging video content” is what you hear over and over and it’s time for you and your iPhone to join the content party. iPhone video can look impressive if shot correctly and I’m going to show you some tricks and tips to get you some stellar looking footage. In this blog post I will be referring to the iPhone 4 which shoots amazing 720p HD video. iPhone video is not an “end all” solution for every case but if you are on a low budget you can really bang out some beautiful video content with your iPhone and edit it with the most basic iMovie editing setup. I’ve seen some iPhone video content that rivals some shot on an expensive fifty thousand dollar HD camera. Apple has done a lot of the hard work for you inside the technology. You simply need to know how to leverage it to capture killer video content. If you have a nice camera that already shoots 720p HD video, then the iPhone 4 could also make a nice second camera for your arsenal. Here’s how to get started using your iPhone 4 for professional looking video content…
Below are some tips for getting your iPhone ready for the job of capturing great content. There are a few pertinent settings that will help you have great success.
- -Turn on “airplane mode” in your phone settings to avoid messing up any footage should you get a call or a text during your shoot.
- -Hold your phone with the camera on your top left when shooting and be sure your fingers are on the side of the iPhone as it is very easy to cover up the lens with a finger tip.
- -Turn off the light (setting is on the screen). This light is not good for much as it blinds a close subject and can’t reach a distant subject.
- -“Tap” the iPhone screen twice to see what the camera is actually capturing. By default you are seeing a cropped view that does not represent what is being recorded.
- -“Tap” the iPhone screen 1 more time to focus and light balance your subject. This is one of the biggest things that some forget to do and it’s one of the big keys to great footage. Tap exactly on the focal point of the shot and the camera will focus and light balance with that target in mind.
With the iPhone being so small and light, you really need to use some tools to eliminate shaking when you are trying to hold the phone still. You will find a million adaptors online but the ones below I actually own and recommend highly.
–Xshot – XSIP4 iPhone 4 Case w/Mini Tripod: This is great as it comes with a really nice hard shell case that has a slot built into the case where you can slide it right onto the tripod adaptor. It’s hard to even notice the slot on the case if you wanted to use it as your main case. You can easily add this included adaptor to any tripod or you can use their small one included in some cases where you will be placing the phone on a table.
- –BARSKA Accu Grip Handheld Tripod System: This is a great investment and you can use the same adaptor from the above kit to sit the iPhone on the tripod system. If you don’t purchase the item above, you will need to buy some sort of adaptor to be able to mount the phone on this system or any tripod. This “gun handle” tripod works very well and gets your hand completely off the camera.
- –Steadicam Smoothee for iPhone 4: This system is a little more expensive but worth every penny. You will be amazed at the video you can capture once you have mastered using it. It will take a bit of practice but it by no means is hard to learn. I love using this when using the iPhone as a second camera to get nice fluid camera movement. Once you get this out of your bag, be prepared for everyone within eye shot to ask you about it.
The onboard mic on the iPhone is fine if you are capturing ambience or simple overall sound at an event. If you are interviewing someone I would suggest using an external mic. Note that the iPhone has a “special” input that may look like a standard “mini” input but it is not. Below is what you will need to get awesome sound into your iPhone.
- –iPhone External Mic Adaptor: Be sure and get the correct connector for the type of mic cable you are plugging into the adaptor. This example is for using an external mic with a XLR connection. No matter what external mic you use, you will need an adaptor cable to make it work properly. Make sure it is made to be used with the iPhone 4 which has special input requirements.
- –Azden ECZ-990 Supercardioid Shotgun Mic: This is a really nice sounding inexpensive shotgun mic. You will need to find a way to either mount this to your tripod as the iPhone does not have a “Cold Shoe” for mounting mics or lights. You can mount to your tripod or get a separate stand to place nearby. There are some solutions that combine all but I have found them clunky.
Your best scenario is when you can have your subject holding or wearing a microphone.
The iphone does an impressive job in low light scenarios. If you are using external video lights you have to white balance each time you are starting a recording. Take advantage of any natural light to help with your shot but avoid shooting with your subject’s back to your light source. If indoors, you should stand with a window behind you so the light is aimed at the back of your camera and at the front of your subject. If outdoors, you want the sun to be behind your camera but also careful to place your subject where they are not blinded by the sun and end up squinting. For best results, shoot earlier or later in the day to avoid overbearing direct sunlight. Clouds can be your friend!
- –Lite Panel LED Video Lights: These are sweet but also require a “Cold Shoe” to mount to the light or some other mounting solution. This is definitely a worthy investment if you do much fixed indoor shooting (and you have no other lights) but you should always try and supplement with outside light spilling in from a window. There are tons of lights out on the market and I suggest going with “daylight” balanced lights that are soft and flattering on your subject.
All In One Solution:
–The Bubo for iPhone 4 by OWLE: This is one super cool solution that comes with an external mic and also a “Cold Shoe” to mount a light or mic plus additional areas to mount accessories. This unit also has some lens enhancements that will add some juice to your onboard lens like a wide angle and macro option.
I hope this helps with your next shoot!