This article was originally posted on March 11, 2016 and has been updated to reflect new pricing and equipment choices.
There are gazillion gizmos out there to stabilize, strap, and mount your phone. If you live in Manhattan like me, just look at all the tourists with their idiotic (sorry) selfie-sticks. And there are equally as many apps to enhance your in-phone camera, and help you edit, distort, and upload video. If you have extra time: knock yourself out. A popular camera enhancement app is: http://www.filmicpro.com/.
But for shooting a straight into camera talking-head, some b-roll footage, or an interview, the camera itself is just fine.
I’m going to stick to the basics and focus on getting you something you can achieve in a timely manner and use without a PhD in video production!
First and foremost, make sure you have enough memory on your phone to shoot! Under Settings => Photos & Camera => Record Video, it will tell you your recording format choices and how much memory is being used in the process. I recommend you shoot a test at “1080p HD and 30 fps” and see how your memory stacks up. Note that the iPhone selfie-camera only shoots at 720p.
If you do NOT have enough memory for a few 30 – 60 second video clips, borrow a phone, before you spend ANY money.
In my mind, there are two approaches to shooting with a smart phone camera:
- You and your phone, period.
- You (maybe a friend), your phone, and a few accessories. Accessories can quickly get out of hand, so here a skinny and a beefier version:
- Accessories under $100
- Accessories around $250
I’m jumping ahead a bit here, but if you do decide, that shooting with an iPhone works for you, I would suggest a few items that will make your live much easier. Note: Below items are suggestions and not professional grade. They are adequate however for staring out and tinkering….
Accessories under $100
The items below add up to a total of $64 (May 2016, with Amazon Prime delivery):
- For an adjustable phone grip and tripod with carry bag, check out this bundle for $30:
- A lavaliere microphone and an additional audio cable with a long enough cable to reach from your tripod to wherever you are (6 ft is too SHORT) for $34:
Clip on Mic with Extension CordStony-Edge Microphone/Headset/Headphone Audio Extension Cable for iPhone or Smartphones, 3.5mm TRRS Male to Female, 13 Feet (Read Reviews)$19.95Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone for iPhone and Smartphones (Read Reviews)$90.00Was $109.95Buy together for: $90.48You Save $19.47 (18%)
Accessories under $250
The items below can range in price. But you’re going to squeeze in just around $250depending on your choices.
- See above for a clip-on lavaliere microphone with a long enough cable to reach from your tripod to wherever you are (6 ft is too SHORT), the cable gives you an extra 13 ft: $34.
- See above, for an adjustable phone grip and tripod with carry bag: $30.
- Alternative to #2: I love my Silk tripod from B&H. If you can, go Showrooming and try it out before you buy. Make sure the legs extend high enough for you to be eye level with the lens of your smart phone, and look to find the sweet spot between sturdy and bulky. If it has a head make sure it pans and tilts smoothly, and has a watermark for leveling. My silk tripod retails around $130 at B&H. This is the only item here that is above ‘beginners’ level. I’d call it a “prosumer” product (it lives somewhere between consumer goods and professional equipment).
- White backdrop (a white, or lightly colored wall is great too, and free!): $60.
White Backdrop with FrameLimoStudio Photo Video Studio 10Ft Adjustable Muslin Background Backdrop Support System Stand, AGG1112 (Read Reviews)$34.65Neewer 6x9 feet/1.8x2.8 meters Photo Studio 100 Percent Pure Muslin Collapsible Backdrop Background for Photography, Video and Television (Background Only) - White (Read Reviews)$12.50Set of 6 - 4.5in-Studio Backdrop Clamp-A Clamp-Muslin Clamp (Read Reviews)$7.99Was $55.14Buy together for: $54.63You Save $0.51 (1%)
- A light kit. I have two versions, both cheap. Make sure the bulbs are TUNGSTEN, that means a warm “interior” light. If you have tons of daylight in your shooting space you don’t need a light, because nothing strong enough to counter or enhance daylight you’d want to carry, store, nor pay for. Here two options: the all-in-one kit from Amazon, is a bit flimsy, but at $95 (with all of my accessories I added) a great price break. The “poor man’s” light kit is much cheaper if you pick everything up from Home Depot, but I like the convenience of Amazon and Prime delivery. It came in with the same accessories at about $115.
Poor Man's Light Kit with ALL Accessories, 2 Lights
And, since I’m at it, here a few non-Amazon related items you want to have at the ready:
- A DropBox account (or iCloud) that automatically syncs files with your phone
- A good internet connection where you shoot or shortly thereafter to back up files
- A quiet pace with a window with daylight coming in – no sun, a white or light colored wall
- One trusting friend, or family member, who isn’t prone to giggle-fits, or over critical of you
- Tons of post-it’s and a sharpie
- Your script
- A comb and some powder, or a blotter
- A nice, simple top to wear
- A rubbery protective cover for your phone, because you will (and yes, you will!) forget that you’re tethered to the camera via your microphone, and walk away, and pull the entire enchilada with you, so PROTECT YOUR PHONE
- Time and patience
Ok, ready, set go, and ACTION!