Recording video on your Mobile

Recording Video on a Mobile

Why use your phone to record video?

The best camera is the one you have with you!
– Chase Jarvis

Most of us these days always have our mobile within easy reach, which makes it the first choice for recording the world around us. Another great reason to explore your mobile is how good most the cameras in smartphones and tablets are these days. Most are capable of shooting hi-definition video, are particularly well-rounded in terms of performance and are able to shoot capably in low-light. While you’re probably never going to reach Hollywood production levels the fact that you carry around a video camera and editing suite in your pocket is truly astounding and something you can take advantage of.

Use video to share what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and the world around you.

Video is an extremely effective story telling medium – so tell your story!

12 Tips for shooting better video

To help you get started here’s some quick tips to help you shoot great video right from the start!

  1. Lighting. Try and get as much light as possible. Cameras are all about capturing light and the more there is the crisper and better looking your video will be. If you’re indoors turn on the lights or even head outdoors and make use of all that beautiful sunlight! If you’re planning a shot it’s always good to position the subject on the opposite side the light source. So shoot with the light coming from behind you to reduce shadows and silhouettes.
  2. Audio. Getting amazing audio from the built-in mic on a mobile is going to be a challenge. To help improve what you will get move away from background noise & try to speak up.
  3. What’s Behind You?. Make sure you’re aware of whats in the background. If there’s a lot of movement or people doing things unrelated to your video it can be quite distracting to viewer.
  4. Keep the Camera Steady. Keeping the your footage stable is important to the viewer. Footage that moves too much can be unwatchable or distract the viewer so much they lose attention. To help try holding the camera close, use both hands, lean against something and if you can try use a tripod!
  5. Film in Landscape. While our phones are designed to be used in portrait the vast majority of screens are widescreen. Widescreen is more naturalistic and compatible with more screens – like our computers and TVs – so try to hit record with your phone in Landscape. It helps hold the camera steady and use two hands!
  6. Plan Your Production. It’s vital that you have an idea about what you’re going to say, the shots you want to use and how you plan to capture them. This will make it quicker and easier to get things done, particularly if you want to use a specific location or involve other people.
  7. Only the Important Moments. Unplanned video can bore people quickly and makes editing much more difficult. Try not to record a whole process in one take too, by recording only the important moments you can reduce the chance of having to do a redo of a lengthy piece.
  8. Don’t Zoom, Move. If you need to get in close don’t use the digital zoom on your camera as it just reduces the quality of what you’re filming. Instead move yourself and the camera closer. This will ensure you get the best quality shot but also helps create a more dynamic piece and frame the shot better.
  9. Tell a Story. When putting together your video think about it telling a story. Even when it’s something simple, make sure there’s plot and that a flow from one shot to another. Think about recording some short snippets – showing the location, the people, the subject you have – as a B Roll so you can add those in later to help build up the storyline.
  10. Tap to Focus. Most devices will allow you to focus and change exposure settings by tapping the what the subject to be on the screen. This explicitly tells the camera “this is what I want to shoot” and ensures that things are in focus and that lighting settings are optimised. This technique can also help when you’re shooting in difficult lighting situations.
  11. Don’t Just Sit There. Don’t shoot all your video as a kind of static observer. The device is small and easy to hold so change the angle you’re shooting at and move the camera to find more interesting perspectives.
  12. Finally – Remember to charge your phone! Video uses a lot of processing power and requires a lot of features on your device to be running at the same time. It will chew through you batteries quite quickly! So make sure your charged up beforehand if you need to shoot a lot, bring a charger!


If your keen on shooting video you can upgrade your mobile with a couple of extra peripherals:

Add a lens (or two) to your phone so you can shoot wide-angle, macro, telephoto or fisheye. This kit will fit almost any phone!

Add an external microphone to improve the quality of the audio. There are a range of microphone available so choose the one to suit what you want to record, but an upgrade to a good mic will make a huge improvement. This article provides a good overview of the types of microphones available and how they work.

Add a case to improve grip and feel. A phone is usually pretty light and may not fit your hands in an intuitive way to shoot video. There are a range of cases available that add a little weight and change the shape to be more friendly for shooting video. These cases (like the mCam) allow better movement and ensure thumbs stay out-of-the-way!

Use a tripod! A steady shot improves the quality of your video to no end. A shaky camera can be pretty off-putting – particularly if your recording a piece to camera like an interview. You can start out small with a GorillaPod and an adapter mount for your device.

Go MoJo! Reporters are depending on smartphones as the backbone of their work and we are seeing a huge growth in Mobile Journalism (MoJo). Searching for MoJo will provide you with links to projects, types of gear and kits that are available. If you want to see a project in action the Cherbourg MoJo project is a fantastic example and an inspiring story too! This video gives a great overview of the project and the gear they were using.

Action Life Media provide a range of products and packages for MoJo and their site is a great start!

Image credit: Kevin Baird on Flickr

I’m the Innovation Technology Officer here at CSU where I make, think, help, support, train and advise on technology in Education.

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