How To Use Your Smartphone To Make Pro Quality Video Lessons

hacks Jul 29, 2016

Too many people ask me about what cameras to get, what microphones, lighting options or hiring a pro …. My usual response is,

“Dude, just use your iphone.”

And there’s a moment of silence before the, “really?”

Unless you are building an extremely professional lesson stack, then my answer is simply – “yes.”

I have worked with one of the best videographers I can think of, and will continue to use his company for high-level work, but for day-to-day lessons, my iPhone rocks. This article will explain why, and also show you how you can begin building your Online Studio right now, with zero investment other than your phone bill.

Your smart phone is equipped with technology that couldn’t be matched only a few years ago, yet it’s now all in the palm of your hand.

This small, super intelligent device has some amazing video recording capability, so to get you started – there’s really no reason to go out and drop a few thousand dollars on a video studio when it’s just not necessary.

Let’s use the iPhone, (as it’s extremely popular) as an example of what you can do with a simple smartphone, to build an incredibly bad-ass lesson stack for your online studio.

Ok, first thing. If you just whip out your iPhone to record a lesson, it will probably not be that great. At the time of writing this article, the immediate video quality of the iPhone could of course be better, good news is – we can fix that easily. Hopefully, by 2017 Apple will have caught up with the video recording quality of some of their competitors.

While the following tips are iPhone specific, they are certainly valuable for other smartphone models. Let’s get to work…

Regardless of how strong you chi is, you can’t hold multiple angle shots on two or three iPhones with one steady hand.

Even if you’re using a single angle, invest a few dollars in a tripod or tripod adapter to mount your smartphone on and get the best angle for your lesson.

There are a few favorites I have, but the most common is the Joby mount. You can also get different, flexible stand and accessories for your needs.

Without a doubt, this is the most common thing I say to people when they are shooting video with their iPhone.

“Landscape, not portrait!”

With so much video dominance online, there is no reason to ever hold your video in portrait mode, unless you actually want to cut out 2/3 of the video…

Do yourself a favor and invest in a fifteen-dollar wireless lavaliere microphone. Audio quality is way more important than video quality, so pay close attention to this. Having a mic’d subject will increase the retention of a viewer and deliver a more professional lesson.

You want to go with a solid, omni-directional mic that will transfer quality audio into your iPhone, my recommendation is the Miracle Sound Deluxe. Let me point out that this is a wired system, and thus is not really appropriate for moving lessons. Use a voice over for that in your video edit.

It’s just that simple. When you use the iPhone’s zoom feature, you are not changing the optical quality, you are only enlarging the digital image – you will be viewing a lower resolution image that’s pixelized.

If you want a closer shot for your lesson, simply move closer.

When shooting indoors, it’s best to have the widest angle possible. The iPhone’s native lens doesn’t offer a wide frame, so you will need to consider using a third party product to clip on to your rig.

Currently, I am running the Olloclip 4 in 1 lens adapter and getting some great results with it.

I have over 800 video lesson I’ve created, each having a final slow motion display of the technique I’m teaching. To do this correctly, it took learning Finalcut Pro, then applying it in every video. Years of work to get there, I’m not kidding.

The slom-mo feature on your iPhone is a miracle feature for people like us, as the video quality is fabulous and the ability to add it into a lesson is no different than a regular clip. Be sure to disable your audio on the slo-mo tracks or your lesson will come out sounding like there are demons in the background.

Do not count on the light that you have on your iPhone to create anything substantial. It can’t. Overhead lights will give you shadows under your eyes and pointing a light right at your face will make you look like a creepier version of Bela Lugosi.

Keep your lighting soft and not pointed directly at you. If you can, invest in these lights…
Amazing results with a very small investment. Basically, you will have a semi-professional set up at your studio that will make a clear difference between cheesy 1940 Dracula movie lighting and modern, professional video.

This is critical, especially considering your lessons will be mostly focussed on movement. The iPhone is constantly re-focussing when video is rolling. This can create moments of jittery and blurry video results. By enabling the exposure focus lock you will keep the focus and exposure constant throughout the lesson shoot and not have to deal with the video re-focus issues.

While there are tons of applications you can download to edit video on your iPhone, do yourself the favor of saving time and frustration. Use a solid video editing platform like iMovie or Finalcut. Yes, I’m Apple bias because I’ve been using apple since the IIe in 1983. Whatever you use, make sure that it’s easy and not overburdening with high level functionality that you just don’t need for professional looking, five minute tutorial videos for your students.

That time is just better spent teaching, versus figuring out how to edit video.

I hope this article helped motivate you to get started building your Online Studio and not wait until you have the money to invest in an un-needed video studio to make lessons.

Start today, do what you’re best at and serve your students with great lessons. Keep the video stuff simple.

Let me know if you have any questions, always here. Adam


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