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How To Make the Best News or Lifestyle Video on Your Phone

Photos and videos are crucial to garnering attention on the Internet today. Many have firsthand experience taking thousands of pictures on our smartphones to post on social media, but videos are another beast entirely. Do you need fancy equipment to make a good video? What exactly makes a video good?

First off, with today’s smartphones you don’t need fancy equipment. You can record a stellar video and edit it all in the palm of your hands. You can even buy extra lenses to attach to your iPhones on Amazon. It’s pretty amazing how small and portable everything is getting.

Secondly, there are some common ways to make a great video. You don’t just want to record it, you want to record it well so people want to watch it and share it. What follows are five essential components to making the best video on your phone!

1. Planning and Choosing Content
Write down the plan and plan good content. The worst thing you can do is press record, sit in front of the camera, and repetitively say “uh..um…and…” It looks unprofessional and it appears as if you aren’t taking it seriously, so neither will your audience.

If you’re planning to do something unplanned on purpose, such as taking a video of someone’s reaction to something, then you should still plan the steps. What happens before the reaction and after? How will you record the reaction? Where will you stand? Videos become much easier to make when you’ve got a real plan.

An important component of planning is choosing your content. If you plan to talk about something, have a general script (be careful not to memorize lines though, as non-actors tend to look stiff and unrealistic when they do this). Pick your content wisely, considering audience reactions and ensuring that your message is clear.

2. Visual Aesthetic
A few quick tips on creating a great visual aesthetic are to:
· Hold the camera landscape – this looks the most professional. Although, with Instagram and Snapchat that doesn’t work so well. But if you’re doing a regular video for YouTube or something similar, go landscape. Don’t shoot video vertically. Turn your smartphone sideways. In other words, when filming, position your smartphone to mimic the look of a television.
· Keep the camera steady – even with handheld, try your best to keep it steady. No need to nauseate your audience.
· Use your best settings – If possible, always use a 60 frames per second (60 fps) setting, especially when filming anything with significant movement. Anything less than 60 fps produces a film-like look, which can be very unnatural and off-putting to many viewers. And, in the off chance that you need to, you can always very easily convert 60 fps to a lesser frame rate while the reverse isn’t true. Filming with a higher frame rate is also an excellent way to ensure your content stays relevant as more and more places, most notably YouTube, are now offering video uploading at 60 fps and viewers are increasingly expecting and appreciating the stunning visual difference. Remember: The types of videos you’ll be producing will likely have a dated look with anything less than 60 fps and you want your efforts to have long-lasting value.
· Ensure you have ample lighting – people often undervalue lighting, but with a phone camera you definitely have to prioritize it. The better lighting you have, the more pixels your phone will pick up. Essentially, more lighting means better video quality. So filming in a dark room with one lamp is not going to show up very well, but filming outdoors in direct sunlight will give you a crisp and clear image. It’s important to keep the subject’s face well lit. When it comes to recording on your phone, you want all the light facing the subject so stand at an angle where the light is shining down on the front of whatever you’re recording. Do not have your subject standing with the light shining behind them. This happens a lot on places like balconies because you’re facing a certain direction to get the best background shot. But if you’re recording on a balcony, you have to determine when the sun is in the best location prior to deciding what time to shoot. Essentially, as the person holding the camera, the sun should be on your back. And if you’re indoors, you’ll need more lighting than is probably naturally found in the room. Grab some extra lamps from around the house and set them up around the subject. The more light, the better!
· Frame the content wisely – use well-liked photos on Instagram as a miniature guide to framing aesthetics. Attempt to frame your videos with just as much finesse. Framing is all about what is inside the frame of the video (as if it were a picture frame). What can the audience see and what angle do they see it from? This subtlety takes practice to envision, but take note of what makes pictures look more artistic. Think about what you’re cutting out of the shot. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a pier jetting out into the ocean. How much of the pier will you show? Just the portion over the water? Or will you also show some of the beach? Will you stand far away from the pier or close to the pier? Will you include those palm trees on the far right? If you decide to show half of the pier, what point will you cut off exactly? Perhaps you’ll cut off right before a post, or maybe you’ll use a post to line the side of your frame. There are dozens more choices to make in framing than people realize and it’s those purposeful choices that make a photo more or less visually pleasing. All of these rules apply to videos, but there’s even more choices to make. Will you keep the camera in the same place and just let it record as people walk by? Or will you walk towards the subject, giving an immersive feel to the audience? When you’re recording a subject, will you just show them from the waist up? Or will you show their whole body? All of these questions are about framing the camera and you should consider them carefully!

When it comes to news and lifestyle videos, the visual aesthetic is often forgotten. The camera is set on a tripod or table and the person merely sits in front spouting out information. But before you press record, turn on the timer and take some pictures! Change the angle and record the entire piece from those different angles. Take some videos far away and some close-up.

You should also always take what the industry calls B-Roll footage. These are any extra shots. It could be close-ups of items that you’re discussing or camera pans of the area you’re in (which is a great idea if you’re in a pretty place). When you take videos of people, ensure they have enough “head room” (don’t frame the camera so that the top of their head is too close to the top of the frame) and ensure there’s enough light on their face (find the light!).

3. Sound
The biggest rookie move in the film industry is giving zero attention to sound quality. When you’re recording on your phone, the mic will pick up all the noise around you. So if you’re speaking to the camera, you’re best choice is to record in a secluded area with the least amount of background noise. You’ll also get the best sound the closer the camera is to the person speaking.

If you have video that’s mostly visual and you plan to record a voiceover, then make sure you record that voiceover in a completely quiet area with your mouth relatively close to the mic. You can record audio tracks on your phone and then lay them on top of the video.

4. Editing
You may hear a joke on set that “we’ll fix it in editing” because editing can honestly do a lot for you. It can help you cut out anything unnecessary. It’s important to keep your videos as short as possible because nobody likes to sit through unnecessary silence or repetitive talking.

A good window for your video length is the one-minute to three-minute mark. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to micro videos you’d see on Instagram. In that case, you’re stuck with 15 seconds and you really have to stick with what’s most important. Videos that go past three and a half minutes tend to have audiences fast-forwarding and either waiting too long or losing interest. Remember to start your video off strong – give the audience a great visual or topic to make them want to keep watching.

Text overlays look impressive when they’re placed well and not overdone. Also, if you can figure out how to do this, put your logo, website or handle in the bottom corner of your videos – branding 101. Editing can give you several ways to share your brand besides your logo. Opening title sequences or closing sequences of even three seconds can help give you a continuous look throughout your videos.

Of course, if you want to step up your editing game you should download your video file to your computer and edit from there. iMovie on a laptop or desktop offers more than on your phone and the more industry standard programs would be Final Cut and Adobe Premiere.

5. Consistency
When you’re making more than one video, they all need to follow the same style. Consistency makes a brand, even if you’re making news videos. CNN and FOX both keep a certain style to all of their TV material. You’ll want to keep a consistent camera style, editing style and color scheme at the very least. You should also consider adding something to your videos to make them unique, something you can put in all of the videos. This really helps your brand, as people will recognize it as your own.

To ensure consistency, you’ll need to go back to essential component #1: Planning and Choosing Content. Before you embark on making videos, plan your style. Do some test shots and practice editing just to get a feel for your options. Whatever you do for your first video, you’ll need to follow the same style for your second – so be sure you like it!

Ultimately, anyone can make a video. Just take out your smartphone and press record. But making a great video takes true intention and finesse. People respond to careful selections, visual aesthetics and well-chosen content. So make sure you’ve covered all your bases and go above and beyond. Don’t just make a video – make a great video!

The five essential components summed up: Plan and choose your content wisely, create an appealing visual aesthetic, be serious about sound, go for exceptional editing and consistency makes a brand. Also, don’t forget to charge your phone and bring your charger with you!