Published: 7 March 2017

The art of making videos on your phone

Image: Pexels / CC0. Creative Commons

According to Cisco’s Visual Marketing Index, global consumer internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2019. The need to use video as a marketing and PR tool will only increase.

But the cost can be prohibitive. Using a video production company might be ideal, but for many charities it is out of reach, especially if you want to keep your social media channels fresh with new content.

Producing videos on your phone means you don’t even need to invest in a video camera, and expensive edit suites. All you need is your smartphone, a laptop or PC with free editing software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, a little bit of know-how and some affordable pieces of pieces of kit (a mini tripod is approximately £15, you can get a good quality microphone for about £45, plus an extension cable for less than £10).

However, producing an engaging film that conveys your message memorably is not quite as simple as heading out with your fully charged phone, pointing and shooting. You'll need to follow a few guiding principles if you want your finished films to be good enough quality to share. Here are some handy filming tips:

Do:

  1. Get a good variety of shots – wide and close up, of both people and details. This makes your video more interesting, and makes it easier to edit. 
  2. Put your video in context. If your video is about churches, make sure you film enough wide shots and details which show that the building is in fact a church. If it is to launch an environmental campaign, film conservationists outside, in action.
  3. Double check your shots. Is there a dirty mug in frame? Does the sign have graffiti on it? Does your subject have a plant sticking out of her head? 
  4. Film at the same level as your subject rather than from above (important if you are filming children or animals).
  5. Film sequences of shots. If you are filming an activity, a simple guide is to get a close up of their hands, or the activity taking place, a close up of their face, a shot over their shoulder looking down on the action, and a wide shot. 
  6. Provide additional interest to the shot, if you're filming an interview. Try adding pictures, flowers or a lamp. Make sure you can see enough of what it is so people are not wondering, which can distract from what your interviewee is saying.
  7. Make sure you brand your video. Put your subjects in branded T-shirts, position your subject in front of a poster or outside your offices with the name plate in vision.
  8. Film moving subjects entering and leaving your frame. This enables you to create a passage of time easily and makes your final edit look far more professional.
  9. Keep an area clear if you are planning to float in graphics/text over the shot,
  10. Keep your videos short. It's hard to maintain attention spans, especially for a film of talking heads.
  11. Think about the position of your subject. Place him or her in the middle of a room, rather than against a wall. This will help give your shot some depth of field, and make it more interesting.

Don’t:

  1. Wobble. Hold your camera steady as any tiny movement is exaggerated when you are filming. Find techniques, such as resting your elbows on a steady surface, holding the phone with both hands. Ideally you should use a tripod.  
  2. Move your camera – it's incredibly difficult to do smoothly. If you want to move, use a tripod which helps you pan and tilt smoothly or follow this advice for holding your phone
  3. Follow the action – leave the camera in one position, as this will make it far easier for you to edit together different shots. 
  4. Film against a window or bright light. Your subject will be backlit and overexposed, making them difficult to see.
  5. Film your subject from too far away. Staying physically closer to your subject ensures better picture quality, less digital noise and better focus. 
  6. Film in a place with lots of background noise, particularly music.
  7. Assume you can fix it in the edit. Try to collect good footage from the start – it'll make editing much easier. 

Ann Wright, director, Rough House Media

Ann runs Rough House Media, which provides expert media relations consultancy to the charitable, not for profit and public sector. Its services include strategic media advice, media and presentation training courses, video production and regular public relations support. Ann is a trained journalist who spent 25 years as a print reporter and TV producer, working at the BBC for 14 years.