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How to film YouTube videos with a smartphone

A few months back I went with Liv to a race (she runs a lot) on Dartmoor in Devon, England.

It’s basically where Hound Of The Baskervilles is set. Wild unclaimed moorland with bogs and huge granite outcrops, peppered with forests and lakes and rivers.

While beautiful and a wonderful tourist destination, it’s not without its share of danger and incidents of people becoming injured and even dying aren’t uncommon.

While Liv was racing a 6 mile off-road race described as “not for the faint of heart”, I decided to use the brilliant vistas, gorgeous weather and spare time to film a few videos.

I climbed to the top of Haytor (if you want to Google it), and watched the runners struggle up the long, long slope. The main outcrop was heaving with kids and families, but as a sort-of-local, I knew that the smaller outcrop behind the main one, would be quieter.

It’s trickier to climb, with a slight overhang and iron rungs worn away from years of harsh weather. But I ascended to the top and took in the views.

It’s higher than you might expect, with a sheer cliff face on one side, and stunning panoramic views of the moor, all the way down to the ocean.

I set up my smartphone, pointed the forward facing camera at myself and positioned the tripod. The families below were slowly clearing away and it looked like I might have the entire tor (granite outcrop) to myself.

I was already isolated being at the top of the tor, but now the lower levels were getting quieter too. A perfect opportunity to shoot a video outdoors.

The ato-second I started recording, I saw from the corner of my eye another gentleman climb up the tor and hoist himself over the edge. I decided to keep recording, as I figured when he sees me, he’ll turn around and leave.

You see I still get a little self-conscious filming in public. It’s very exposing and your mannerisms are different on camera. So you feel a little unnatural and narcissistic filming yourself.

While filming and talking to the camera, this man who had just climbed up, saw me and clearly saw that I was filming.

He walked over, stopped and stared at me as I was filming. I thought he was going to ask a question, but he stayed totally silent.

He stood about 8 feet from me. He was so close that even though I was looking at the lens, I could see in my peripheral vision that he had a pair of glasses in his shirt pocket.

I assumed that after a few seconds he’d catch himself staring and look away or wander off.

After a couple of minutes I wondered if he was looking at something else.

At one point, I thought of stopping and asking “can I help you?”, but I was in the middle of my video and thought that I should just try and get through it.

I kept thinking “he must be getting bored now. He’ll leave any second”. But he didn’t. He committed as much as I did.

And he watched me for the entire 10 minutes that I filmed.

From the very start of filming until I pressed the stop button, this man watched me and stared intently as if I was giving birth to another head.

Throughout the entire recording, I had a man stare at me with a puzzled look, without saying a word. He was so close that even with the wind, I could hear him breathing.

As soon as I stopped recording, he turned around, climbed down the tor and left. He literally did not say one word to me.

Since then, I haven’t felt as self-conscious about filming because nothing will be more awkward than that day.

Anyway, I’ve got video here talking about all the gear and equipment I use to film YouTube videos with my smartphone.

I filmed it in my office.

Are you paranoid about filming in public? I’m still very self-conscious, but most people don’t care. I also talk about that in the video.

I film a lot of YouTube videos and people have asked how I film with my smartphone. I use an Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy S8+.

I’ll usually create my YouTube videos just using my smartphone and a Rode Video Micro microphone.

If you want to learn how to shoot, create and film videos for YouTube using just your smartphone, I’m going to cover everything I do.

YouTube video script:

📷🎤💻 Gear I use:
● My webcam: https://amzn.to/2zMgljM
● Phone (S8+): https://amzn.to/2Dg8JJf
● Joby gorilla tripod: https://amzn.to/2Cv5DzB
● Smartphone microphone: https://amzn.to/2B532wV
● Desk mic: https://amzn.to/2zV9ep8
● Tripod I use: https://amzn.to/2QFqLsH

*some links may be affiliate links.

The video I was talking about above, is here.

In this post I’m going to talk about how I film and edit videos using my smartphone. I’m also going to talk about the equipment that you need in order of priority and perhaps most importantly, how to shoot your first video as well as how to shoot multiple videos using just your smartphone, which is probably a piece of equipment that you already own.

This is one of my most requested posts and it’s really interesting because I’ve only made a few videos. My channel hasn’t been around very long. I haven’t got very many subscribers and yet a lot of people ask me, “Mike, how do you make videos repeatedly?”

And one of the answers is that I’ve really utilised the power of my smartphone. So I want to talk about how you can use something that you already own, to create regular video content and the equipment and the stuff that you need.

It’s a bit of a breakdown, bit of a tech review. I’ve spent a lot of money on a lot of different tech and I’ve found what I think works for me and my business and being able to shoot videos regularly.

A lot of the time we think that we don’t want to shoot videos because we’re worried about the quality of the film that comes out. And what’s really important is to know that GIFs and short videos on Instagram and Instagram stories, have kind of blown that away

The quality of the video content isn’t as important as the story. And we’ll come onto that in a little bit. But your smartphone probably can shoot at 1080p, which basically means it’s 1080 lines worth of detail going up and down, which is what we consider HD or high definition.

That’s what YouTube publishes in. That’s what my video are published in. That’s very, very clear. So your phone probably is as high quality camera recording equipment as you need.

And if you can’t afford expensive camera equipment, like I for example, have got my Nikon D5600, which even then is not the world’s most expensive camera. Not by a long shot.

I’ve got a Tamron Lens and I’ve also got my Logitech Brio, which is like a $400 Webcam. But if you already own a smartphone, you already own everything you need to create regular videos.

The difference is that you should be filming regular videos anyway using the best camera that you’ve got at your disposal. The biggest misconception if you want to film regular video content, is you do not need an expensive DSLR camera with a telephoto lens. It’s a huge misconception.

A lot of the Vloggers, like Casey Neistat, those guys have that kind of equipment, but they’ve got the money to spend on it. Your smartphone is capable of 99% of what you need it to do.

Even if you don’t have a smartphone, chances are you’ve got like a point and click digital camera. I guarantee that shooting videos on that regularly, is far more advanced than the majority of the cameras that people used when YouTube first started and they still managed to grow their audience.

You also don’t need expensive equipment. I’m going to go through some of the gear that I use to make shooting videos a little bit easier. But to be honest, a lot of the time I literally just have my smartphone and I hold it out in front of me. I don’t even have like a selfie stick or anything like that.

I’ll talk about the tripod, the microphone, the other tripod I use and some of the lighting equipment. But to be honest, you don’t need expensive equipment or any additional equipment just to film videos using your smartphone.

The point of this post is that content beats equipment every single time. There are Hollywood films now that use the iPhone 7 is or the iPhone X to film videos, because the quality on them is so good now.

It’s not applicable to every film obviously, but the reality is that phone camera technology has come on so much that chances are whatever you use now is already good enough to film, potentially even 4K videos.

I sometimes record in 4K, but I tend to upload in 1080p. I have my old Samsung Galaxy S7. I also have my S5 lying around here somewhere and my S3. I’ve got a bunch more camera equipment and more than anything I’m finding I’m using my smartphone again and again and again.

But the difference is that content beats equipment every single time. If you’ve got a good story, if you’ve got a good hook, if you’re willing to talk to the camera, be animated and show your energy and produce useful or helpful or entertaining content, the camera equipment comes second to the story or the script.

So I’m kind of listing these in order of priority.

I use my Samsung Galaxy S8. It’s already two generations old and frankly, I can’t tell the difference now. The galaxy S9, I have used it, it does have a really good camera on it.

I personally use Android. I’m not really in the Apple ecosystem. But anything from the Galaxy S5 onwards and the A2 for example, or the Xiaomi or the Huawei phones like the P20 Mate, the Google Pixel, and of course the Apple iPhones. All of these phones probably record in as high quality content as you could possibly imagine.

The quality now, even on the front facing cameras, is so good that you don’t even need to have the rear facing cameras as the one that you use. I usually record using the front facing camera because it’s at 4K.

So I’m able to record talking into my camera really easily and I use a microphone on top and I’ll talk about that in a second, but a lot of the time I’ll just hold the phone like this without the tripod just so I can get a really nice panoramic shot.

The only thing about smartphones is their microphone quality. The built in microphones are pretty lousy. The rule of thumb that good audio is the most important thing to have.

You’re better off having really clear audio and slightly lower resolution or lower quality film. Compared to a lot of people think you’ve got to have really crisp, clear, beautiful imagery and that the sound is kind of second place. We found that particularly on our videos, and I believe it’s a rule of thumb, that if you have a better quality audio, you can get away with lower quality video.

As a rule of thumb, that if you have a better quality audio, you can get away with lower quality video.

This microphone I use is the Rode VideoMicro. This basically plugs into my smartphone. And I have to use a special adapter, which is basically what they called TRS and TRRS.

The microphone is really good quality considering how small it is and how inexpensive it is. It’s not very expensive.And I also have what we call a wind sock or a “cat” on top, which is kind of like this huge furry blob on top. That eliminates wind noise. So when I’m outside and about and it’s windy, I still have relatively clear audio.

That to me would be the only thing that you really should invest in. If you’re going to buy anything and I suggest you don’t because you can just use your headphones and plug that in and start talking to that.

I know a lot of guys who use that. It sounds fantastic and there’s no need to go wider than that. And also you can change the distance at which you hold the video and it won’t affect the audio. Whereas if I get further away, obviously I get quieter using this microphone.

The next most important thing is nothing to do with the phone. It’s just good lighting. I’ve got two lights up here that have a total of three bulbs and diffusers to kind of soften it a little bit. I found that good lighting increases the quality of my videos 10 fold and for really, really cheap.

You don’t have to have lighting. For a lot of the time I face my window and if it’s daylight outside I’ll just have the window with the daylight streaming in.

I’ve got this huge window in front of me and that’s usually enough to light my face. But I’m recording now, it’s about nine o’clock at night. So I’ll have the two lights on to give me as much light as possible and I’ve got a big white background so hopefully I stand out above everything else.

Lighting is one of the biggest things and just paying attention to lighting. But the problem is it’s another one of those things where you’re never going to get it perfect. Your first few videos are probably going to look really bad after you’ve published them in, you’ll go back and you’d go, “Oh my God, the lighting’s so terrible.”

But it’s only through filming repeatedly using a phone or a camera and creating video content that you ended up understanding why lighting is good or bad or important.

Next up is tripods. I use a Joby tripod, from the Gorilla Pod guys. I’ve got a little ball tracker on top as well that allows me to rotate the head tracker so I can move my phone at slightly different angles.

I have the Movo grip, which allows me to slide my phone into and hold it at different angles.

I absolutely loved the gorilla pods. I think they’re absolutely fantastic. However, it’s not as tall as I might need. So if I’ve got it on a desk, it’s just about fine. It just comes to eye level. Just goes down a little bit, which is why I also have my Manfrotto pro.

This is my Manfrotto. This is a Manfrotto Compact. It’s compact and crazy small. And this is usually the one that I’ll take to the office. I don’t really take this travelling cause it’s still quite heavy.

This was about $100. Tripods are super, super useful if you want to set up a point in shot.

If you’re using a smartphone, the auto focus technology on them is fine. It’s not brilliant. So moving around and kind of doing video shots, it can work against you.

Whereas setting up a tripod and just talking to a bit like I’m doing now with my Webcam can look amazing on a smartphone. Having said that, for portability, and like I said, as long as your audio is clear, people will put up with blurry and sometimes out of focus video as long as you’re talking and are compelling and you’re giving away value.

And your sound, sounds good. That’s kind of the most important thing.

But having a tripod can make a massive difference. Again, it’s not necessary. A lot of the time I’m just holding my phone, talking to it and making sure that I’m engaging with the with the audience as much as possible.

I already talked about script as well, which I’ve embeded above, that I use to record videos really, really quickly.

It’s similar to the script that I’m using here. It allows me to talk freely and openly and talk about the content that I want to talk about. So that’s kind of in my opinion, probably the most important piece maybe, is having a good script.

If you have a good script, you don’t really need to worry about anything else because people will put up with low quality video. The audio is maybe the only thing I’d really focused on if you have to get anything.

And lighting is a very cheap way of making your videos look good, but a script and a decent script, that kind of moves through the beats really quickly in a really profound way. That is what’s going to get views and it also makes it easier to create video content.

Finally, get over filming video in public.

Take your camera out and just start filming yourself in quiet streets. Go to the country lanes, go to public areas that are quiet like parks and just talk to yourself.

Then put in your headphones and talk to yourself again and you’ll find that most people think that you’re just on a video call. Here’s the interesting thing.

I’ve filmed in airports, on ships, I’ve filmed in restaurants, I’ve filmed in shopping centres, in high streets. I filmed down on like our dockside. I film in our office and now, even now, I still get a little bit like … “This feels a bit uncomfortable.”

But the reality is most people actually don’t care. They’re more concerned about what they’re doing and if anything, they’ll kind of come up to you and go, “Are you filming like a Vlog? What is it that you do? Most people don’t care.”

No one thinks you’re crazy anymore. Everyone’s filming everything all the time now. So just get over that fear because actually no one cares what it is you’re doing. No one cares at all. So you have to get over your fear of filming in public.

Tell me what phone you’ve got down in the comments below and what’s stopping you from starting your video content. Or if you already have a YouTube channel, let me know in the comments below ’cause I’d love to check it out and I’d love to see what it is that you can film just using your smart phone like I have. I’ll link to a couple of smart phone videos that I’ve made down below so you can see what happens.

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Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.