This way you can film well with a smartphone


Smartphones these days have great cameras to record HD video with 4K resolution, dynamic range, video image stabilization and many more options you should be able to shoot the best footage. And yet it is mainly the person who holds the device that counts. Are you rarely satisfied with the quality of your videos? With a few simple tips, your next video projects will look a lot more professional, so you can film well with a smartphone

Tip 01: Rear camera

It sounds obvious, but people sometimes forget this: use the rear camera for videos that must be of good quality. Most smartphones that go over the counter today have two, three or five camera lenses on the back. That rear camera is of better quality, has a higher resolution and also supports more functions in the camera app. In short, it provides a better result. Even if you want to film yourself, we recommend using the rear lens. Then put your phone on a tripod. If you still want to take a picture with the phone in your hand, so with the camera above the screen, make sure you do not look at the screen, but in the lens, so that you look at the viewer.

Tip 01 The rear camera is much better than the one above the screen.

Tip 02: Image stabilization

No matter how stable your hands are, there are always small camera shakes. These vibrations are particularly disastrous in poor lighting conditions. Fortunately, smartphones have built-in image stabilization, consisting of both optical image stabilization (OIS: optical image stabilization) and digital image stabilization (EIS: electronic image stabilization). Both techniques compensate for light movements, whereby digital image stabilization suppresses the vibrations via software. In practice, EIS will make the frame of the video slightly smaller and then simulate movement in opposite direction. With OIS, gyroscopic sensors measure the vibrations and the lens moves in the opposite direction with small motors. Optical image stabilization makes your shot clearer. It is even better if both optical and digital image stabilization are used.

Tip 02 With some devices, the video stabilization is not available in the highest resolution.

Tip 03: Brace yourself

If you are going to shoot a video freehand, so without a tripod, grab your phone with both hands around the edge. This prevents part of your finger from entering the picture. The further you hold the phone away from your body, the more you risk a choppy result. Therefore, place your elbows against your body or find support for your arm. It is not necessary to stand still. You can make a pan (from left to right or vice versa) or tilt (from bottom to top or vice versa). These movements, if controlled, can add a lot to your video, especially when you want to visualize a landscape. In any case, make sure that the camera movement is smooth and not too fast. Also handy: put your smartphone in airplane mode, this prevents your recording from being disturbed by messages, notifications or incoming calls.

Tip 03 Hold your smartphone by the edges with two hands for better stability.
Upright videos are only nice if you only watch them on your smartphone

Tip 04: Tripod or gimbal

If you really want to make a video that excludes all risks of unwanted movements, use a tripod. A small table tripod costs little money and hardly takes up space in your travel suitcase or backpack. Always place such a tripod on a stable surface, because if the table on which the tripod stands vibrates because a truck drives past, your recording is still useless. You can also consider purchasing a mobile stabilizer or gimbal (between 75 and 130 euros). With such a lightweight stabilizer you can film from one hand, because the mobile assistant works as a camera gyroscope. The motors in three rotating axes (pan, roll and tilt) ensure that your smartphone remains centered and that the horizon always remains flat, resulting in a shock-free and smooth result.

Tip 05: Film horizontally

Most videos on popular social media are taken upright, for the simple reason that we actually always use our smartphones vertically. Upright videos are only nice if you only watch them on the smartphone. When you watch them later on TV, laptop, tablet or a desktop computer, you will immediately be annoyed by the large black areas to the left and right of the video. If you want to make a quality video, it is good to turn your phone a quarter turn. In addition, in this landscape mode there is less need to pan left and right because it simply fits more in the frame.

Tip 05 If your video is to be viewed on a medium other than a smartphone, film it in landscape mode.

Tip 06: Grid

To ensure that your shot is always straight, you can use the camera’s grid. Moreover, you can also maintain a good image composition with this. This grid is not activated by default. On the iPhone you activate the grid via the Settings, you go there Camera and there you enable the option Grid in. On an Android device, go to the camera app and activate the grid via the settings. With some brands this function is also called Guidelines called. For an exciting composition, place the subject off the center, but on another grid guide. Suppose you take a picture of a bird, try to place the bird’s head on the intersection of a vertical and horizontal line.

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a composition rule that can make for a more interesting video. The grid divides the image into nine equal planes by means of two horizontal and two vertical lines. Then place the focus of your video on one of the four intersections. Also place the horizon of a landscape on the bottom horizontal line to draw more attention to the sky or on the top horizontal line to pay more attention to the landscape. This rule of thirds forces the viewer to look at the entire composition and move away from the stuck idea that the subject should be in the center of the frame.

Use the grid’s guide lines to improve the composition.
The more you zoom in, the greater the risk of a choppy image, even with image stabilization

Tip 07: Walk, do not zoom

In professional films you sometimes see that the zoom is slow, but apart from that, the cameraman rarely uses the zoom lens. A wide shot is then chosen followed by a close-up. A smartphone with a dual camera lens has up to twice optical zoom. In addition, smartphones have digital zoom, but this type of zoom affects the quality of the image. No matter how good the lens and sensor may be, it never gets really beautiful. The more you zoom in, the greater the risk of a choppy image, even with image stabilization. So if you want to bring a subject closer, stop filming for a moment and move closer to the subject. If you can’t resist zooming in, do that once in the shot.

Tip 07 You must have a good reason to zoom in digitally, like here, to avoid the heron flying away.

Tip 08: Frame rate

The frame rate indicates how many images fit in one second of video. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the video. In practice, you choose a high frame rate for scenes with fast movements. You need 30 or 25 fps (frames per second) for a regular movie. An advantage of a high frame rate is that you can put the image in slow motion later. You can set the frame rate. On an iOS device, open the Settings, are you going to Camera and tap Record video. Then you can select the frame rate. For Android phones, you can find this option in the camera app in the settings.

Frames per second

In principle you can make a movie at 24 frames per second. The result may be fluid, but it still has something viscous. 30 frames per second is currently the standard and gives a sharp and smooth result. Besides, a higher frame rate cannot be processed by your eye. You can also set 60 frames per second, but then the movie files become very large and this setting really only pays off if you plan to put a fragment in slow motion in post-processing. For example, director Peter Jackson chose 60 frames per second when filming the Hobbit trilogy, because it made the 3D effect brighter. Some movies, such as Gemini Men, have even gone up to 120 fps. How unusual that is, is clear from the fact that in the Netherlands this film could only be shown in two locations in that 120 fps view.

Tip 09: Resolution

If you adjust the frame rate, you will also see numbers that refer to the resolution, or the number of pixels that make up a frame. As with a photo, the more pixels, the sharper the image and the more details you can see. Hd (high definition) has 1,280 x 720 pixels. Full HD counts 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. With the top models you can even film in ultra HD or 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels). Ultra HD captures four times more pixels than full HD. These files are therefore four times larger, up to one gigabyte per minute of video! The resolution you choose depends in part on the medium on which you want to watch the video. In any case, put your phone on Full HD (1920 x 1080) and not smaller.

Tip 09 If you film for the web or social media, it is sufficient to film in full HD.
The importance of good sound is underestimated, yet great movies also have great sound

Tip 10: Sound

The importance of good sound is underestimated, but great movies also have great sound. Where smartphones are getting better in terms of video quality, the sound is very disappointing. That is nowhere near as high-end as the camera. Fortunately, there are excellent external microphones that you can connect to the phone to improve the audio quality. You can choose a microphone with cable, a wireless iPhone microphone, such as the Mikme, a tie-pin microphone or a directional microphone. A tie-play microphone costs about 40 euros and the prices of directional microphones vary between 50 and 250 euros. Such an external microphone is the easiest way to improve the sound without having to correct it later in post-processing. What you should definitely pay attention to when purchasing is the connection of the microphone.

Tip 10 The cheapest solution is a clip-on microphone.

Tip 11: Light

Light is both a friend and an enemy of videography. Too much or too much light makes the character’s face look like a white spot. Not only do underexposed videos show too little detail, they often contain a lot of noise and the camera will find it harder to focus. If you take a picture in auto mode in such a situation, the camera will even lower the frame rate, which gives you a choppy picture.

Beautiful light is therefore extremely important for a sharp image. Make sure the subject gets enough light from a light source behind you and watch the shadows. For example, take a test shot first to see if there is enough light. The rule of thumb remains “face the light”; face to the light. Backlighting can be nice to get a silhouette effect, but generally such light messes up the shot. If you make a lot of videos, consider the investment in a real light set.

Anyway, if you are using an external light source, choose one type of light. Film indoors, switch on the external light source and switch off all other lighting. When the temperature of the light is different (cold or warm light) or when the color tone of the light sources is different, the camera will not combine the light well.

Tip 11 There are cheap (24 euros) external LED lights that fit on your smartphone.

Tip 12: Video editing

Finally, learn the basics of video editing. Editing your videos slightly will make them look much more professional. You can cut unwanted parts from your video, merge clips with photos, add a soundtrack and so on. Also, by simply trimming the beginning and the end of a video, you can improve its quality many times over. And most likely you’ve also made several shots that you want to merge into post-processing instead of capturing everything in one take.

There are good apps for editing videos on your mobile device, such as Videon (5.49 euros) or Splice (free), but in order to work accurately, a desktop program still works better. Apple users do not have to buy anything, they can use iMovie, which is already standard on a Mac. Or, like Windows or Linux users, they can take advantage of it for free Shotcut. This program has been in existence for over ten years and is ad-free.

Tip 12 Bite into the basics of video editing to make your video look professional.
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