How to Shoot Great xVideo With Your Smartphone

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The best camera is the one that you have with you. It’s a nice sentiment, and very often true: When it comes to capturing life’s most important moments, a camera’s first duty is to simply be there at the right time—everything else is a bonus. Flip-style cameras are small and easy to carry; smartphones, many of which are also serviceable xvideo cameras, live in pockets and purses, perpetually within reach.

But there’s a difference between documenting a moment and filming it. Too often, cheap xvideo cameras and smartphones produce xvideo that’s shaky, washed out, improperly exposed and grainy. With the right tools and techniques, however, you can take your smartphone xvideos from good enough to, well, pretty good.

Camera Compromises

Before you canovercome your smartphone camera’s limitations you need to understand them. How, exactly, are these cameras different from a high-quality, dedicated camcorder? After all, both share the same basics—lens, aperture, sensor and software—and record at either 720p or 1080p. Yet they produce very different xvideo.

The single most important difference between an HD smartphone camera and a more able HD camcorder or digital SLR camera is the image sensor. While midrange camcorders house sensors that measure up to two-thirds of an inch diagonally and typical xvideo-enabled DSLR sensors measure at about 1.1 inches, smartphone sensors tend to be much smaller. (The iPhone 4 utilizes a 0.31-inch sensor for photos and xvideo, and that’s on the large side for a phone.) The reason this matters is simple: A sensor’s job is to collect light, and it’s easier to collect light over a greater surface area. As a result, smaller sensors must be extremely sensitive to light, which reduces color quality, increases image distortion and results in jarring, multicolored speckling, known as image noise.

The second major limiting feature of a cheap camera is its lens. Rather than the generously large zoom lenses found in camcorders and DSLRs, phones and pocket cams have small, fixed optics. Typically these are neither very sharp nor particularly good at letting light reach the sensor; worst of all, they can’t zoom (digital zoom doesn’t count).

Sensory Tricks

Marty Martin, a director and cinematographer from L.A., is accustomed to shooting in professional scenarios with professional-level gear. Yet almost immediately after the launch of Apple’s smartphone, he used it to record a music xvideo for his friend Steve Fallows (aka flakjakt). “Since I first dove into filmmaking I always kept one piece of advice in mind,” Martin says. “It’s not about the instrument, it’s about the person behind it.”

The resulting xvideo was impressive, but to Martin the camera’s limitations were immediately clear. Above all, he remembers struggling with rolling shutter, a phenomenon that causes a rippling effect in xvideos. This is because the sensors used in smartphone cameras record by scanning each frame from one side to the other in a sweeping motion, rather than snapping the whole frame at once. If something in the frame is moving quickly—or, more likely, if the whole frame is moving as the result of a shaky camera—the image expands and compresses in conspicuous ways. (Use your smartphone to take a closeup xvideo of a guitar string or a spinning fan for an extreme example of this effect.)

To avoid the rolling-shutter effect, stabilize your camera. If possible keep the camera absolutely still by resting it on a fixed mount. Many flip-style cameras feature tripod mounts, so investment in a cheap miniature tripod or monopod is well worth it. Devices like the Joby GorillaPod double as grips, preventing the vibrations and twitches that are so apparent in freehand-shot xvideos. Smartphones lack tripod mounts, but cases can be purchased to add ¼-inch screw mounts to many common models. (The following page offers some DIY alternatives.) For his friend’s music xvideo, Martin took stabilization to the extreme. “I really limited the range of movement,” he says, which was key to the success of his xvideo: The majority of the footage was shot from a static mount, which rendered the rolling-shutter effect unnoticeable—and gave the impression that the xvideo was shot with a much better camera.

If you absolutely must shoot freehand, and without any kind of stabilizing accessory, there are a few rules to follow. Hold the camera with both hands and grip it firmly—a tentative touch inevitably results in shakiness. Move slowly, turning the camera with your whole body rather than your wrists; fast movements don’t translate well with almost any camera, but cheap ones amplify the problems. Lastly, if you’re using a smartphone, turn the handset sideways. It will be easier to hold steady and ensure that your xvideo is shot in the correct aspect. A xvideo can look only so good with giant black bars on either side.

Smarter Smartphone xvideo

1. OVEREXPOSURE

The sky is white when it should be blue.

SOLUTION If possible, shoot on an overcast day. If inside, don’t aim at a light source.

2. ROLLING SHUTTER

Tent pole appears bent; areas of photo look compressed.

SOLUTION Stabilize the camera, or move it more slowly.

3. IMAGE NOISE

Areas in the shadow are grainy.

SOLUTION Ensure even lighting, or apply noise reduction in an editing program.

4. COLOR TEMPERATURE

Little boy’s skin is strangely tinted.

SOLUTION Ensure multiple light sources are the same color.

5. POOR FRAMING

He’s also awkwardly centered.

SOLUTION Learn and abide by the rule of thirds; move subject to left.

Posted on May 3, 2013

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