4 smartphone video snafus

Everyone shoots video these days, but few do it well. Here are a few common yet avoidable mistakes that can undermine your best intentions.

Recording video has never been easier; nearly everyone has a smartphone camera.

Yet as the barrier to entry drops, so does video quality.

Here are four common video miscues to avoid the next time you hit record:

1. Ignoring audio. “The YouTube generation will let you get by with shaky video,” says Intel video producer Rob Kelton, “but they’ll click away if the audio is bad.”

The solution is a good microphone. “A decent Rode lavalier runs about $17 on Amazon, plugs into your iPhone earjack and works wonderfully,” he says.

The new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X won’t include earjacks when they’re released in October, thanks to Apple’s wireless push. “They’ll have better 12 MP cameras,” Kelton says, “but you’ll need an adapter if you’re a big fan of the Rode mic.”

[Register for PR Daily’s Sept. 22 “Vibrant Videos” virtual summit for more tips from Rob Kelton (Intel), Drew Keller (Microsoft) and Ms. Candy Blog.]

2. Posting without editing. It’s tempting share videos right after shooting them, but editing can transform so-so clips into must-watch hits.

“The best bet is to edit on a laptop, but you should get more used to doing it on your phone,” Kelton says. Free editing apps are fine, he says, but videographers usually steer away from apps that seem too easy or limited.

For example, “iMovie is free and intuitive, but it also has advanced features,” he says. “You can add transitions, voiceover, fades and more—all on your iPhone.”

Kelton uses Lightworks, Sony Vegas Pro and Adobe Premiere when it comes to editing on a PC or laptop. “Of those, Lightworks is the best free editing suite,” he says. “Adobe is my go-to after iMovie, but it can cost several hundred dollars and is more suited for high-end editors.”

3. Going exclusively vertical. It’s clear that social media is leaning more toward vertical video. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube now all publish vertical videos without black borders.

The reason? Smartphone users hold their devices vertically nearly 95 percent of the time, according to a recent MOVR Mobile Overview Report.

“That doesn’t mean you should abandon horizontal video,” says Kelton. “For example, record with your phone horizontally if you’re going to show your video in house on a computer or widescreen.”

His rule of thumb: “If you’re shooting video for internal communication purposes, go horizontal. If it’s for external or social audiences, go vertical.”

4. Pinching to zoom. “Forget about depth of field on smartphones,” says Kelton. “Get in tight, and capture expressions. That’s where video magic is made.”

Almost as bad as shooting from afar is finger-pinching to zoom.

“It kills the resolution,” Kelton says. “Instead, use your feet to zoom—not your fingers. Get moving. Get in there and be a participant—not a spectator.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Drew Keller, video content developer at Microsoft, Rob Kelton, video producer at Intel, and award-nominated YouTuber Ms. Candy Blog will reveal more video techniques in PR University’s Sept. 22 virtual summit, “Vibrant videos: Master video storytelling and livestreaming to captivate audiences.”

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