How to shoot terrific video on your mobile device

Technology has made pretty much everyone a potential cinematographer. The issue is quality. Follow these guidelines to make the most of your opportunity—and avoid common mistakes.

These days, most of us walk around with an HD video camera in our pocket.

Thanks to people’s growing appetite for mobile and video, the technology in our phones, tablets and other mobile devices gets better and better.

Marketers and other content creators are turning to mobile devices to capture behind-the-scenes glimpses of their office, industry events and trade shows, and spur-of-the-moment videos for social media.

Although mobile devices make video storytelling easier, executing a high-quality video is not as simple as whipping out your smartphone, pointing it and shooting.

So, don’t press that record button so fast. Consider these tips to create polished video content on the go:

1. Orient yourself.

Although vertical video is becoming more widely accepted (given the popularity of video messaging app, Snapchat), content that lives elsewhere will most likely have to conform to a widescreen player and horizontal orientation.

Before you start shooting your video, decide where and how you’ll use it, and then orient your video recording device accordingly.

2. Hold your shots.

As a rule, you should hold each shot for at least 10 seconds. Then, when you reach the cutting room, you’ll have enough video to play with to create a scene. You can always trim the clip, but you can’t add what you didn’t shoot.

Be careful of panning and zooming too much, as it could become jarring. Think about the way your eyes naturally view the world. You might scan a crowd, but generally your sights land on one image at a time, whether you roll your eyes or turn your head.

Finally, steady your shots. Use a tripod whenever possible. Otherwise, find another way to lock down your camera and hold it in place.

3. Shoot in sequence.

Just as you write a story sequentially, make sure you shoot video in sequential order.

Let’s imagine you’re shooting video of a dog on a treadmill (because even pets have summer weight loss resolutions).

Start with a wide shot to set the scene. Without adjusting your angle (we’ll get there, just not yet), move in a little closer to get a medium shot, cropping out most of the treadmill and focusing on the dog’s body in motion.

Shy away from using the zoom feature, because that can lead to shaky video. Instead, let your feet do the walking.

Finally, get a close-up shot, perhaps filling the screen with the dog’s panting face.

You just shot one sequence. Now it’s time to adjust your angle and shoot a similar sequence. You can shoot from above, from below, from another side or from behind. Have fun with it.

4. Set the stage for interviews.

Avoid conducting interviews in front of a generic background that adds little to your overall messaging and story.

Instead, put your interview subject in a relevant environment. For example, if the interview is about the benefits of bicycling and offers safety tips, let’s see the person with a row of bicycles behind them, or suit them up in gear and put them on a bike trail. You get the picture.

Shooting interviews on a mobile device is often challenging because of the audio quality. So, get close to your interview subject. If you have another phone handy, use one to record video and the spare to capture sound in an audio file.

Before you start the interview, clap your hands together once in view of the camera. This will create a mark that you can eventually use in the edit to sync the video with the audio.

Make sure your shot is framed up nicely. The last thing you want to see is some pole or a plant growing out of someone’s head. Provide head room, and leave enough talking space for your interview subject. This is known as the “rule of thirds.”

Horizontally, one-third of the frame should appear above the person’s eye line. Another third should cover the person’s face and shoulder area. Leave the bottom third for the person’s upper body.

When shooting an interview with the person looking off screen, leave enough room (about a third of the screen) in front of the person (favoring the direction he or she is looking) to create talking space.

5. Insist on quiet on the set.

Noise—particularly irrelevant sound from the crew—can pollute an otherwise terrific shot. Although audio is often overlooked, it can really enhance and drive the video’s story.

You want to capture the cleanest possible audio, especially when it’s vital to the shot. It’s arguably never more important than when you’re conducting an interview.

Bottom line: When the camera’s rolling, hold your tongue. The camera picks up virtually everything on its microphone, and you can’t edit it out.

To connect with your audience and convert them into customers, follow the guidelines above to create high-quality, visually engaging content.

Wes Benter is a senior online community services specialist at ProfNet. A version of this article originally appeared on Beyond PR.

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