SHOOTING BETTER VIDEO ON YOUR PHONE
Your phone can take you to Cannes, and we don’t mean by using the Qantas app
Some smartphones are packing high-end video features that are good enough for filmmakers – Sundance festival hit Tangerine and Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane were both shot on iPhone. There was, of course, a talented production team also involved in making those movies. However, if there’s just you, a few mates and a hunger for filmmaking, some well-chosen kit and a little know-how will enable you to create your own film. Or even just a stellar home movie.
When it comes to gear, there are some essentials: you’ll need a DJI OSMO Mobile 2 to stabilise footage, a Rode VideoMicro to capture audio, Manfrotto’s Lumimuse LED light to illuminate your actors, and the Filmic Pro app (from $18.99) to boost your phone’s filmmaking potential. These are just the basics and all are relatively inexpensive. You can also add extras such as the Olloclip Filmer’s kit, which gives you a range of lens options for extra style.
Next, consider the video resolution. You have a choice of 4K or 1080p on most current phones, but how do you decide? You should definitely film in 4K if you can, but create your final version in 1080p Full HD. Doing it this way gives you extra flexibility so that you can recompose the scene post-shooting by cropping into the higherres video. If no cropping is required, gain better-quality video turning 4K into 1080p through a process called ‘oversampling’. Basically, each pixel in the final 1080p vid will have four pixels of 4K video information to draw from, so you get sharper detail and more realistic colours.
Although iOS and Android come with video apps, these are pretty basic. Equip your phone instead with an app that has more clout. Filmic Pro is feature packed and enables you to increase the bit-rate at which video is captured, equating to literally more data per frame – and the more data you capture, the more detail the video can contain.
With the foundations taken care of, we can now look at the handling of your smartphone as a super-portable film rig. To avoid shaky footage, invest in a stabiliser. The DJI OSMO Mobile 2 is a gimbal and grip that supports you in holding the camera comfortably and absorbing your natural hand twitches to make movement smoother.
Due to the way video compression works, having stable footage helps with the overall detail and quality. To save data, videos reuse as much of the frame as they can, so new data is only used for areas that change. If your footage wobbles, each frame requires more information about what has changed. There is an upper limit, though, so detail has to be binned to catch all of the movement. Less unnecessary movement means more detail.
Although audio is often overlooked, it can elevate the quality of your film. The Rode VideoMicro can help here and is easy to use – plug it in and the mic handles the rest.
Lighting is an essential element, and the Manfrotto Lumimuse is an excellent choice for this. When using it to illuminate a subject, only increase the brightness of the LEDs so that they just start to brighten the face or scene. You want lighting to lift the scene, not drown it in unnatural light. Remember: some shadows are good because they help to create structure and depth.
And that’s it! Now that you have learned about the essential kit and the basics of filmmaking, the next part is down to you and your creativity.