They say the best Camera is the one that you have with you. Well, if that’s the case, then the iPhone gets my vote. Not only because it’s convenient to have a small device that produces great photos in my pocket, but also because the quality of the video recording is awesome too. So AWESOME in fact, that I’ve started not to use my DSLR camera to record the tutorial videos on this site and now only rely on my iPhone.
So in this post, I’ll be sharing my favorite iPhone video tips for capturing great videos on the iPhone.
But First, Let Me Share a Quick Story.
A while back, I received an email from a reader requesting help with pairing the iPad to the Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard. I became so inspired to help this person that I saw it best to record a quick video tutorial explaining the process.
But knowing myself well enough by now, I held back and thought, that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. You see, I’m somewhat of a perfectionist: which means that I over tweak things and end up spending more time on projects that I honestly care to admit.
Unless — I modified my workflow
- Working with a short timeframe — meant spending none or little time editing the project.
- To prevent getting caught in the never-ending tweaking cycle — meant not shooting with my DSLR camera or using my Mac (for editing and publishing).
So, Here’s What I Did
I mounted my phone on a portable stand on top of the kitchen table, lit the room as well as I could and then recorded my video. After wrapping up my project, I was able to make some minor editing adjustments using iMovie and uploading the video to YouTube using the (YouTube) Capture app, this was all done on the same phone.
The iPhone is NOT a (Cheap) Webcam
Honestly, before this experience, I never would have thought that I was capable of recording, editing and publishing a video to the web with such ease and with a PRO quality. My big takeaway from all this — was finally realizing that my small handheld device was freaking AWESOME at recording videos.
So if you’ve stumbled upon this post in hopes to feed your curiosity to learn how to record (Pro like) videos on the iPhone. I put together a list of my top iPhone video recording tips to help you stop treating your iPhone like a cheap webcam — and more like the PRO camera that it was made to be.
My Top 10 iPhone Video Recording Tips
1. Don’t Use the iPhone Camera App
The Apple Camera app is nice — but it’s not designed to record at the highest quality that the iPhone can. That’s why, my first video recording tip is NOT to use the Apple Camera app, but instead use a premium video recording app like Filmic Pro that’s in the App Store.
One of the main features in Filmic Pro is the option to select a higher Video Bitrate. The highest quality being 50.0 Mbit/Sec, which is a huge improvement over the standard (24.0 Mbit/Sec) bitrate found in the iOS Camera app. So just by not using the Apple Camera app, you’ll produce a higher quality video.
Plus, you also have the options to record using different frame rates as well as having full control over focus, exposure and other neat stuff that’s important if you want your video to have a PRO quality.
To learn more about the features in Filmic Pro: stick around we’ll be covering more throughout this post.
2. Know your Lighting
Although the camera on the iPhone has seen its share of improvements over the years, capturing images in low (or poor) light is still difficult. But in all fairness, most cameras on mobile phones have the same limitations.
So, unless you’re not outdoors (in daylight), do your best to record your videos in a well-lit area. Doing this will prevent your videos from looking grainy (like in an old photograph) and overall boost the quality.
Q: But where to start (with indoor lighting) on a small budget?
When it comes to lighting most folks, start out using what they can and mix stuff together, but combining lighting sources is a bad idea. So, don’t move the fluorescent floor lamp from the living room and place it next to your old incandescent light.
- You may not notice it, but each lighting source gives off a different color cast. For example, tungsten bulbs make things seem a bit more orangish, and fluorescent bulbs give off a green cast. When lighting sources are mixing, our eyes do a better job to adjust and capture the right colors — than a camera lens.
A good place to start with lighting (on a budget) is to look into Continuous Fluorescent Lighting kits that use compact fluorescent bulbs. These kits are excellent low-cost options that output very low heat and deliver a proper amount of lighting. Most of these kits are designed around a multi-light-head fixture holding anywhere from 4 to 7 bulbs and come in a softbox.
Note: The softbox lighting kit that I use is this PBL Studio Lighting Kit that I bought on Amazon.
By the way, if you’re going to use fluorescent bulbs in a DIY project, only use bulbs that are daylight balanced with a 90 or greater CRI rating. Avoid using regular fluorescent bulbs.
To learn more on the topic of lighting your video project, watch later this video: Cheap Video Lighting 2013.
3. Set White Balance Before Recording
Considering how this might be a strange habit to get used to, since the Camera app does it automatically. Nevertheless, It’s important to remember that manually adjusting the white balance is always the best option.
It guarantees that our video:
- Gets the right colors
- Everything appears natural.
To set the white balance in Filmic Pro: take a white sheet of paper (or a napkin) and place it in front of the camera lens, (covering the entire lens for a second or two) and then tap the White Balance button (as shown in red in the photo).
For further reading (later) see the post: “Introduction to White Balance” on the DPS blog. It’s a great read on the topic.
4. Use the Grid
*A picture cropped without and with the rule of thirds
One other essential practice in video composition that’s essential (and effective) to add to our video recording tips is to know how to frame correctly using the Rule of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds is a reference guide that’s quite handy for figuring out the framing of a subject, object or a background. In applying these principles, you’ll benefit by getting the correct vertical and horizontal balance in your shot.
In Filmic Pro a grid, (like in the example above) can be enabled to align your talent. Turned it ON by going to Overlays, then to the Settings page and swiping the button (right), next to the Thirds Guide option.
To learn more about how you can frame your video correctly, watch (later) this video explaining the Rule of Thirds.
5. Set and Lock the AF/AE
Similar to the Auto Focus and Auto Exposure features found in the Apple Camera app these settings can also be adjusted and locked in Filmic Pro.
Q: What’s the advantage of adjusting the AF/AE settings on the phone?
- Placing the Auto Focus tool over an area tells the iPhone that the target area is the central focus point, this prevents the iPhone from changing focus to something else.
- The Auto Exposure tool works the same — if your subject appears too dark (or light) move the tool to other target areas on the screen to adjust the exposure.
To turn both tools ON you’ll need to select Dual Reticle in the app.
Here’s how: Go to Settings ->Camera ->Reticle and choose DUAL.
Once enabled — both tools will appear on the main screen, the blue square icon (sets the focus) and the green circle icon (sets the exposure). To lock the tools — tap the matching button at the bottom left. A red icon indicates that the tool is locked.
6. Keep it Steady
One sure sign of an amateur video recording (besides a video done with low lighting) is a shaky video. So, stop holding your iPhone and mount it on a stand. Working with a mounted iPhone will also prevent your shot from going out of focus.
What I used to mount my iPhone (and recommend) is the GripTight GorillaPod stand made by Joby. This flexible iPhone mount is an ideal accessory for all videographer on-the-go.
The stand is compact; it doesn’t take up too much room and holds the phone safely and securely and can also be set up in many unique angles, (even on a nonflat surface) as you see in my two examples photos. And the GripTight mount can also be attached to most other tripods via a universal ¼” screw.
One other great option to mount the iPhone is the Glif Plus, by Studio Neat. This mount comes with two easy to attach small pieces, (the main one) being the Glif and the Serif (an extra support attachment). It’s important to know that Studio Neat makes two versions of this mount. The Glif Plus is the best one to get.
Note: if your iPhone has a case you’ll need to take the case off to use the Glif mount.
7. Don’t Count on the iPhone’s Battery
A fully charged iPhone can’t handle the task of recording for the long-haul. If you think otherwise, not only are you setting yourself up for failure, but you’ll also experience a good amount of downtime.
Let me explain why the processing on most premium camera apps like Filmic Pro use more memory and processing power. So be warned. The battery on the iPhone will drain very quickly.
Q: How do you keep the iPhone fully charged when recording video?
If you don’t want to rely on the iPhone’s internal battery your best option are:
- Plug it into an outlet
- Use a battery pack
The first option is always the best since it’s FREE. The second is an excellent choice (not only) for maintaining a fully charged iPhone but also if you shoot outdoors.
My pick for the job is the Mophie Space Pack, not only does this two-in-one battery pack (and case) add battery life, but it’s available in different storage capacities (16GB or 32GB) to save all your videos, photos, and document files.
If you don’t need/want a case, look into Mophie’s other quick charging gadgets like the Powerstation.
8. Put the Damn Thing on Airplane Mode
Turning on Airplay during recording prevents unwanted distractions and interruptions, (which are the two most obvious reasons) but in the long run, putting the iPhone in this mode will also help with battery life.
9. Shoot Horizontal
Turning your phone horizontally (to landscape mode) is the best way to record all your iPhone videos. Period!
- It’s much easier to handle the phone this way.
- You won’t see those annoying black side bars when watching back your video on a large screen.
- And don’t forget that your TV and Computer Monitor sit horizontally and not vertical.
Plus everything looks much beautiful recorded in horizontal (more room) vs. an ugly compress square. This format might be okay for Instagram photos, but not for videos.
10. Don’t Let Bad Audio Ruin your Video
It’s a known fact that folks are likely to be less annoyed to watch a poorly done video with excellent audio than to sit through a video recorded with terrible sound.
And really, there’s no reason to allow your audio to SUCK. You can find many good and affordable microphones available today for the iPhone.
Here are two examples:
Both Microphones are excellent for recording audio and deliver remarkable quality. They also plug directly into the phone and work great with our favorite video recording app Filmic Pro.
By the way — you could also use the iPhones built-in microphone. I’ve used it, and it sounds good, but the trick is that you’ll need to get real close to the source. If not, the other sounds in the room will mask out the primary source. So, the closer you get — the better.
11. Bonus Tip
This nifty way to remotely start/stop a recording, (without tapping the screen on the iPhone) might not improve your videos, but if you need to be away from your iPhone and need to start recording it’s a quick solution.
Here’s how: take the Apple white in-ear headphones and plug it into the phone, then tap once on the + volume button on the earphones to start recording, to stop tap + volume button once again.
Note: this bonus tip works on most camera apps.
What Would you Add?
I’m sure you can add some great tips of your own to this list.
Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.
And if you enjoyed this article, I’d be grateful if you could share it. Thanks!