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So you want to…create videos on your smartphone?

In a world where smartphones are becoming  ever more popular, Rochester Arts in Mission asked Jenny Ross, the Strategic Framework Communications Adviser, to share her advice on creating videos using them.  

When it comes to the online world, we love to watch and share videos – Facebook’s own figures suggest that an incredible 100 million hours of video are watched every day through the site!

We are by nature visual creatures and find it easier to comprehend and retain messages conveyed to us through images.

So, if you’re looking for a new way to engage a wider audience with a regular activity you hold; want to try a new way to tell a story or share a message you care about; or just want to develop a new skill and have some fun, then exploring what’s possible with the camera in your pocket might be a good place to start.

Still daunted?

Well the good news is that getting creative today with film doesn’t have to break the bank when it comes to equipment, and you don’t even need a huge amount of previous experience. Fire-up your smartphone and you’re just about ready to go.

By bearing a few of the following steps in mind, and with a bit of practice, your first forays into film may not be as stressful as you think,

Firstly….

Getting to know you

Get to know your phone’s camera. It might seem obvious, but do you know where the lens is? Is it clean? Does it have a front and a back camera? Have a go at filming yourself to check where you need to look to make sure you, or the person you are filming, end up on film looking straight at the audience.

See what features the inbuilt camera has too. What resolution is it set on? Have a check that it is set to at least 1920 x 1080. Some phones will allow higher but bear in mind that this will increase the size of the file which will quickly eat into your phone’s internal storage.

Tip – buy some extra memory to insert into your phone or investigate storing footage in a ‘cloud’ system for example iCloud, Googledrive or Dropbox.

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App happy

Although not necessary, downloading a video filming app can be a good idea. This can give you more control and options over how the actual footage is shot, such as resolution and focus. One of the biggest problems that can affect the look of a film can be lighting. An app such as Moviepro on iPhone will allow you set something called the ‘White Balance’ – a setting which can affect whether your final footage looks slightly dull and yellowy or too blue.

Tip – Before you film, turn off the auto-white balance setting of your app. Reset it by holding the camera up to a white piece of paper or a white wall and click to reset.

Keep it short

It’s true, attention spans are dwindling, particularly in relation to film online – 90 seconds or less in fact. If people see a duration of anything more than two to three minutes, then they might not bother at all. This doesn’t mean longer films are out of the question, but it depends on what you’re trying to achieve, who your audience is and where it might be seen.

If you’re wanting to tempt people along to your next church activity though, keep it brief.

Tip – why not look at some videos online that grab your attention and make you want to stick with them. It may give you some ideas.

Steady Eddie

Nothing gives a film a professional finish than a steady hand. Simple inexpensive accessories such as a small table tripod or hand-held grip or ‘shoulder pod’ (a device actually held in your hand), will stop the wobbly phone footage we’re all too familiar with. This is especially good if you want to move around when you film.

Tip – If you don’t have any accessories to hand you can become your own human tripod. Stand with feet slightly apart and clamp your arms to your sides as you hold the phone.

What did you say?

If your films are going to involve people speaking, poor sound can also be very off putting. In-built microphones will only get you so far, so invest in an inexpensive lapel mic (from as little as £6) to bring out the best in your interviewee.

Tip: Clip the microphone down away from the person’s mouth, or slightly to the side to avoid big bursts of breath or ‘popping’.

Read my lips

While sound is important over 80% of videos watched on social media are done so with the sound off. YouTube and Facebook now both have inbuilt facilities for creating subtitles when you upload your video to their sites. So find yourself an online tutorial –  like this one –  and learn how to add them. Subtitles are not just great for wider accessibility, but a must all around!

Tip: Don’t rely on the automated scripts produced by YouTube and Facebook. The software relies on voice recognition to work out what’s being said and may not always be right. Check and edit the transcript until it is correct.

And cut!

Finally, you have recorded your footage, now what? Most phones will have some basic editing features, such as trimming and cropping, however, downloading a video editing app will allow you to be more creative. From adding transitions between shots (fades), adding creative stickers and labels, to music and more. iMovie on iPhone is popular and I particularly like VideoShow on Android.

Tip: Buying a set of clip-on lenses for your phone can produce some interesting effects (wide angle or ‘fish eye’) before you get to the editing suite. Giving a little thought before you start filming to what you want your video to include and achieve will also mean less editing later.

Smartphones are a great way to create short films on a budget but that still have the power to engage, inform and entertain. So be emboldened. Go, create – and don’t forget to share the results with others!

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Rochester Arts in Mission also asked Revd. Saju Muthalaly what particularly websites he used for his presentations and films.  His top five were: 
1) https://www.canva.com for posters
2) https://spark.adobe.com/ for photo stories 
3) https://prezi.com for presentations
4) iMovie for films
5) Lightroom to edit and organise photographs.