Using Your iPhone for Video and When To Call the Pros
So, yes, there are some cool video features on your smartphone that can create some impressive shots for such a little tool. How can you decide when using your smartphone is ”good enough” for marketing purposes and when it is not? Are you able to forgo the professional crew in favor of using your smartphone for marketing videos?
In some cases, your phone can be a remarkable marketing tool. When used correctly, it can produce some decent quality materials that can be edited right on your device and easily posted to social channels. It’s a huge time saver and, let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun to play with various filters and apps.
I spent a couple years as a video resource in a corporate marketing department where the goal was always to maximize quality and minimize costs. Seeking to do more low cost video projects for social, one of my colleagues was ambitious enough to commit to interviewing one of the brand’s high-end clients with her iPad. Prior to her interview, she approached me for tips on how to get the best quality interview she could.
I recommended the following tips to her, which I now offer you.
*Please note that the suggestions below are one of many options you have. Do a little digging to see what suits your personal needs.
• Lighting: Make sure wherever you are is well lit. Either use strong natural lighting to your advantage or look into portable lighting options for your device. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you can find lights that plug into the auxiliary on your phone - or you can purchase a simple lighting kit with tree lights that adds a more professional look to your video.
• Tripod: Going hand-held while using a small device is not recommended, as it can be hard to keep steady. There are tons of little table top or full tripods available and you can find an appropriate attachment specifically for your mobile device.
• Audio: There are microphone options for devices that can capture decently clean audio. One tip for audio if you are trying to save a little money is using two different devices: one to use for the visual (on a tripod) and one to hold off camera near the speaker. If you have a little money to spend, you can try an external mic (if you're not already using the auxiliary to plug in a light).
• Framing: Depending on the look you want, your speaker should look directly at the camera (if directly addressing your audience) or off to one side (interview style). When your speaker is looking off camera, give space in the direction they are looking. Keep their eye line within the top thirdly position of the shot. You want to make sure they aren’t too far back or too close to the camera. Fill the frame with your subject or speaker.
• B Roll: B Roll is your cutaway footage. For example, your speaker could be explaining the process of how he draws designs for hand-made jewelry and you cut to a shot of him drawing a design. Having B roll shots to lay over the speaker can help make your content more interesting to watch.
When my colleague returned from her interview with the client, she gave me the clips to edit. I realized that it had been tricky for her to execute all of the tips I had suggested. While she certainly did her best to keep everything in mind while filming, her focus was split between getting the shots and the questions she needed to ask, so the quality of what she captured was compromised.
The framing was too wide and her subject looked small. The audio had a humming from background noise and phones rang in the background throughout the interview. The lighting was weak and the speaker was too dark. The B roll wasn’t steady and made you nauseous watching it. Needless to say, her appreciation for professional videographers increased when we reviewed it together.
Lowing the cost on the front end resulted in adding editing resources on the back end to address errors that were made when filming. While there is a lot a strong editor can do in post-production to address mistakes, sometimes its just too challenging to be worth it. I had to spend hours minimizing the background white noise or fix coloring on shots that are too bright or dark, etc. Ultimately, it the standard of quality she wanted to present her client.
If you are looking to make a short video for social, practice the above techniques beforehand and make sure you are comfortable with the result, especially before you commit anything to a client. Become familiar with the editing apps like iMovie: can you add the titles you where you need them and add music you would like. While programs like Adobe Premiere is the ideal way to edit, as it gives significantly flexibility, however its understandable that time and experience matter with advanced tools like this. Taking on video in this capacity will require a commitment to learn prior to execution.
You may find that for specific client based projects or highly branded materials that is in your best interest to call in the professionals. There is an advantage to having experienced people helping you execute your project. For one, they do this every day and they will naturally pick up on things you didn't notice in the shot, manage noise pollution and make sure the lighting is appropriate. This allows you to focus on another important part of the process: the content. There is a lot to think about when you're filming and being able to pay close attention to your message and objective is key.
Whether you are brave enough to master iPhone video projects or utilizing a professional crew, make sure your remember to prepare yourself before your project. It’ll save you a huge amount of time and potentially money in the end.
Heather E. Wright
Coordinating Producer at Frontline Productions
Heather is the Coordinating Producer for Frontline Productions and is the resident marketing guru with experience in video production, trade shows and project management.