We now live in a world where almost everyone carries a pretty good video camera around in their pocket; possessing smartphones which come packed with cameras that are more than capable of shooting good quality, high-resolution videos…when used right. That’s the key — when used right!
Below are a few quick tips and settings to look out for to make sure you’re getting the most out of your phone’s camera.
One of the quickest ways to increase the quality of videos being taken on your phone is to change the resolution it is recording in. Basically, bigger is better — with some small caveats.
In layman’s terms, resolution is simply the size of your video (i.e. the amount of pixels across the whole screen). So when a higher resolution is used, you get a much sharper image with a higher level of detail. This is the same principle that your new 4K TV follows; it has more pixels, therefore, looks better!
So on our smartphones, we want to make sure we are shooting in 4K resolution where possible. This will get the best out of your phone and make sure the video is as sharp to the viewer as it can be. Most platforms and social media allow 4K video now, and when shown on a small screen such as a phone, the quality of the picture usually looks even better.
This option is usually only a click or two away, depending on which smartphone you are using. On an iPhone, for example, at the top right portion of the screen it says HD — click on that and it will now say 4K!
The only feasible downsides to shooting in 4K are file sizes (each video file will be around 3-4x bigger in size, so will take up more storage space on your device) and they will be more taxing on a computer if you’re editing the footage. So bear these things in mind before choosing!
Now frame rate is a setting that can get a little confusing, so I’m not going to over-explain it. In short, the frame rate is how many individual photos make up each second of video (that’s how video works, if you didn’t know). So the higher the frame rate the more images per second you get, and the smoother the footage appears!
Major films tend to be shot at 24 fps (frames per second). British TV tends to be at 25 fps, similar to movies and American TV shoots usually at 30 fps. The difference isn’t always clear to the naked eye, but on closer inspection it is!
Now your phones will let you shoot up to 50 or 60 fps usually, so this is doubling the frame rate. This is something that’s becoming more and more popular online as it creates a more “real” feel to your video. It is closer to the way our eyes can perceive images in the real world. We do not see in frame rates as our eyes don’t refresh that way, but that’s another conversation! So a higher frame rate can be pleasing for this naturalistic style.
A high frame rate is also how we shoot slow-motion footage. If you were to shoot in slow motion mode on your phone, the phone will increase the frame rate. Then play it back at half speed or less to create a slow-motion video. So if you want to shoot slow-mo, pick a high frame rate or a dedicated slow-mo mode!
Another thing to be aware of is when shooting at a higher frame rate, camera shake and jitter will be a lot more noticeable! So if you’re shooting handheld and not slowing the footage down later, stay away from anything above 30 fps.
Well, that got a bit wordy didn’t it? Let’s talk about something not technical at all.
If you are going to be shooting video at all regularly on your phone, invest in a tripod for it! There are a million models out there now and most will do what you need, which is simply to hold the camera still and steady. A shaky video, or a video that’s warped and blurry due to the phones stabilisation software, is a top giveaway of amateur video-making. Unless there is a good reason to have movement in your video, put the phone into a tripod and film away.
A top tip for you — even if you are, for example, shooting a video that looks around a room, it’s always good practice to use a tripod when manoeuvring your phone. This further reduces shake and makes the footage cleaner still.
Next level Video
If you have been doing all of those things and still want more from your phone’s video abilities, you should consider investing in a professional video camera app. There are a few on the market so I won’t list them individually, but they all give a range of camera controls back to you. Many of these controls are initially made inaccessible to the user in order to simplify the settings, but you know better!
On iPhones for example, the control you have over exposure, ISO, frame rates and all of those things, are a little lacking in the video app. This is great for starting out, but if you want to elevate your skills and really use your phone as a camera, you’re going to want those features back!
A bit more of a technical one today, but it’s as relevant as ever to understand what your phone can do for you and your videos. As we know, video marketing is currently even more prominent than usual and only continues to grow in popularity.
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