Mobile phone in someone's hand showing video playing

There are more ways than ever for video producers to bring their stories to life. Years ago, technology and its price, were deterrents to aspiring storytellers. Times have changed and now it’s easier than ever to get an idea from your head to screens in front of thousands of viewers. The advent of smartphones and tablets, combined with the ease of online video sharing has caused a new crop of filmmakers to emerge. 

Now it’s possible to produce your movie – cameraless, computerless, and wirelessly. The ability to do so is available to everyone, but if you want a great video to attract a broader audience and open lucrative opportunities, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Recording Quality Footage on Your Phone

Your smartphone’s camera has come a long way since the blocky pixel days of yore and it’s possible to record high quality footage with it. It’s not about the technical abilities of the camera, but your proficiency using it. The best camera can’t make up for ugly angles or poor lighting, so remember the shooting basics and plan ahead. Failing to do so could result in lack of coverage, poor video quality, and countless headaches.

Despite obvious differences between your smartphone and full-sized cameras, there are many ways they should be treated the same.

Side-by-side mobile phone stabilizers. A tiny tripod and a small dolly.
Side-by-side mobile phone stabilizers. A tiny tripod and a small dolly.
Recording good footage means keeping the smartphone as stable as possible. Fortunately there’s a wide range of tripods available for your smartphones, allowing you to capture the best footage possible.

Managing your sound is also important when shooting with your phone. Recording sound with a phone’s built-in microphone isn’t the best way to tell your story. The sound captured won’t be ideal and could harm the overall quality of your video. External devices exist to alleviate this problem, and we suggest using them. If you record with the internal mic, make sure you're in a quiet area (limit background noise) with your actors close to the phone, er camera.

As is the case with any project, properly lighting your shot is vital. Just because you’re using a smartphone doesn’t mean natural lighting is the way to go. External light sources can make your images pop in ways you never thought your phone could manage. Nothing says amateur video quicker than poor lighting and sound, so ignoring those aspects will negatively impact your final video with viewers.

Possibilities

While it’s important to keep certain things the same when shooting on your phone, you should also take advantage of the unique capabilities available to the platform. Smartphones weigh significantly less than regular cameras, and thus, are able to record in angles and places that would otherwise be inaccessible. 

This doesn’t mean you should play fast and loose with your camera angles, or forget the basics of shot design. Using a phone will allow you a little more freedom to experiment, however, and capture angles you may have otherwise been unable to get before. Like video transitions in post-production, doing things just because you can doesn’t mean you should use them.

The ability to produce a movie cameraless, computerless, and wirelessly is now available to everyone.

While a shot may look cool, it might not mesh with the other shots or the overall pacing of your movie. If you plan your shots ahead of time and design them according to the best way to tell your story, then the versatility of recording on a camera phone can be fully taken advantage of.

Handling Your Footage

You’ve shot footage, now what on Earth should you do with it? With camcorders, storing your footage is as simple as putting the cards, drive, or tapes in your bag and popping in the next one. In this way, shooting on a phone may seem more limited due to the fixed storage space they come with. Fortunately, there are some easy solutions out there for storing your footage, allowing you the freedom to shoot as much as you want.

iCloud Photo Sharing site showing tablets, laptops and phone sharing abilities.
iCloud Photo Sharing: This is the easiest option for those of you shooting on Apple devices. A photo stream automatically uploads your pictures/video into iCloud; making it easy to store as much footage as you want without worrying about your phone’s memory limits.

WeVideo: This cloud based option is accessible on any device in any browser, so if you’re working with other smartphone devices, this might be a good way to go. The other advantage here is that it features a cloud-based editor as well, allowing you to edit your video without transferring to another program. 

DropBox: DropBox, like WeVideo, can be used with any device you have; so you’ll have versatility in both how you shoot and how you edit. While it doesn’t come with its own editing program, DropBox has some nice features that let you organize the footage you upload to it; making for a smooth transition into post-production.

Kingston Wi-Drive and Wi-Drive+ MobileLite: Portable wireless storage can be smaller than your phone. The Wi-Drive video files can be shared with three others, and will act as a wireless hard drive. If the capacities at 16GB, 32GB and 64GB aren’t up to your liking perhaps you’ll try the Wi-Drive+ MobileLite which acts as a wireless card reader for SD and microSD cards.

There is a wide variety of ways to store your footage once it’s recorded, and many plans that eliminate restrictions on the amount of footage you want. Be vigilant for new methods of storage, as it continues to change.

Using the Tablet for Post-Production

You’ve recorded and stored your footage, now it’s time to move into post-production. Plenty of options exist to edit your video without requiring a computer, but for the best results you’ll want to move your work onto a tablet. While editing programs are available for smartphones, a tablet provides a broader workspace, making them easier to use and gives the ability to make finer edits that post-production sometimes necessitates. The difference between a great final product and a poor one shouldn’t be your fingers getting in the way of each other due to a smaller work surface.

Fortunately, if you use one of the apps we discussed above to store your footage on, it’s very easy to bring them onto your tablet. Since you’re putting the footage back onto a physical device, space limitations crop up again and this is where footage organization and proper planning can save the day. If it’s a big project, perhaps editing it in sections would be best, rather than eat up all of your memory.

Apps for Editing

Now that your footage is handy on your tablet, the next step is to actually edit your video together. There are a number of free apps available if budget is a big concern, but they tend to limit you to the most basic editing like dropping in music and cutting scenes together without fine tuning. If you want a more robust platform to edit your piece, it’s time to drop some cash.

Don’t worry though; since we’re talking about tablet apps, the amount of money you’ll spend is in the $20 region. Considering the hundreds, or thousands, of dollars desktop software can cost, the paid apps are friendlier on your budget while giving you plenty of options to work with.

Clesh: When editing on a tablet, it might not be a bad idea to do so using a cloud-based editing program. Then it’s easier to work and share your project with others via multiple tablets, instead of requiring you to use the same one. Clesh is one of those programs, and if you’re on an Android, it’s probably your best option for video editing.

WeVideo: Mentioned earlier, WeVideo is a way to both store and edit your videos all within the cloud. It’s one of those all-in-one options, allowing you to keep everything together in a single spot.

iMovie: Apple’s simple editing software seems to work better in the mobile realm than on desktops. Through iMovie, you can trim footage and cut it together, while adding effects and sound smoothly. If you’ve worked with iMovie before on projects this would be easy for you to pick up without a steep learning curve.

Pinnacle Studio: Of the purchasable apps, Pinnacle Studio is the most robust. It features a storyboarding tile editing layout, yet also lets you to delve deeper with track editing for finer details and edits. It’s simple to use for novice editors but features plenty of depth for more experienced editors to take advantage of.

Regardless of the program you use, the same basic editing principles still apply: don’t hesitate to make the hard cuts (stuff that might look great but doesn’t fit in your story or pacing.) A slimmed down editing system doesn’t mean the quality of your movie has to suffer. Take your time and make it look great!

Publishing to the Web

The beauty of handling everything from mobile platforms is how easy it is to upload your finished video to YouTube. The video sharing site is integrated directly into every mobile device out there; meaning all you have to do is select your finished video, click the share button and pick the YouTube option. While Vimeo isn’t integrated directly into the system in the same way, publishing to it is merely a free app away.

It’s easy to share your videos, but to optimize their visibility you need a catchy title, relevant tags, and a fleshed out description. Putting “This is my video!” as your description just isn’t going to cut it. Craft descriptions that describe your video and why it’d be of interest to viewers (i.e. the quick synopsis on the backs of DVDs). Doing so can be the difference between a handful of views and thousands.

Social Marketing

Now that your video is available, you need to ensure that people actually view it! The Internet is vast and merely posting a video doesn’t guarantee it’ll be watched. You’ll have to put in effort to promote it. For projects like these, social media is the best way to market and garner interest in your video.

Sharing with friends and family via Facebook and Twitter are great starts, but why stop there? Pinterest is a hub of user created projects to share with the masses, allowing you to reach an audience beyond your network. Vine lets users upload short six-second videos for their followers and anyone else who happens across it. While this may not sound like the greatest marketing tool, it’s perfect for crafting a mini-teaser to drive attention to your video.

Opening the Future

Will you become rich and famous from your mobile movies? Not necessarily. For aspiring video producers without the budget to acquire fancy cameras and costly post-production equipment, the ability to craft a story wirelessly, cameraless and computerless is an opportunity to practice. Videos produced entirely via mobile platforms can show your versatility and ability, while building a portfolio to share with clients/employers.

Anyone can craft these types of movies, but by taking your time and following the filmmaking basics, you can stand tall above the rest; opening the doors of opportunity. Don’t let hardware limitations hinder your creativity when the ability to craft incredible videos is literally at your fingertips.

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Premiere on the Big(ger) Screen

Just because the video you produced was created using phones and tablets, doesn’t mean you can’t show it off on a bigger format. Thanks to Apple TV or Google’s Chromecast, it’s easier than ever to take Web content and display it optimally on your TV at home.

Both are external devices you can attach to your television set, meaning any TV anywhere can become the screen for your video, and be controlled through the same mobile devices used to create it. Chromecast is the cheaper option, but Apple TV can play videos directly from any other Apple device without going through an external service like YouTube.

Which one you go with comes down to personal preference or compatibility. Either way, the ability to watch your video on the television gives you the chance to show off your work anywhere in ideal conditions.

Jordan Maison is an editor and VFX artist who's plied his talents in Web content for Disney Studios as well as movie and videogame websites.

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