Making videos with smartphones

From Faster Than 20

The higher-end smartphones (e.g. iPhone, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy) tend to have very good cameras, which make them very good for capturing video. People have filmed some incredibly professional movies without any additional accessories. It's more about the know-how than the cameras themselves.

That said, there are some accessories that can really up your film-making game:

  • High-quality audio recording
  • External lighting
  • Gimbal (for stabilizing your movements). Two good, low-cost options are the Zhiyun Smooth 4 and the DJI Osmo Mobile 2. We're experimenting with the Smooth 4.


Many filmmakers seem to like the FiLMic Pro app, especially on iOS. For editing on iOS, try LumaFusion.

It sometimes helps to use the exposure lock (AF/AE lock). This enables your smartphone to hold focus and exposure on one spot. On the Google Pixel, tap and hold on screen until in focus, then release. You should see AF / AE Lock indicator. On iPhone, just tap on screen.

For inspiration, here's how Apple made their commercials about the 2018 iPad Pros using their iPad Pros!


How journalists can improve video stories with shot sequences

10 Tips / Hacks for Better Smartphone Videos

  • Sound advice
  • Moment lenses
  • ND sunnies
  • Clip it
  • Sticky timelapse
  • Suck it
  • Box slider
  • Egg Timer Lapse
  • Fidget panner

Gimbal Techniques

  • The Hover Cam
  • Path Cloning
  • Matching on Action
  • Underworld Transition
  • Multi-Operator
  • Follow Shots
  • Through the Window
  • The Dutch Twist
  • The Whip Pan
  • The Jib Shot


Julia Pinces and Eugene Eric Kim made a video while they were cutting foam boards in Eugene's garage. They spent maybe 10-minutes talking through what they would do, then took a sequence of shots using a Google Pixel. Eugene cobbled together the shots using YouTube's built-in editor. Even though the lighting is terrible and the audio mediocre, this is by far our most watched video.

Amy Wu and Eugene Eric Kim made their Goals + Success Spectrum tutorial video using a Google Pixel mounted on a tripod, an iPad running the Parrot Teleprompter app, and a Blue Yeti USB Microphone for recording audio. It took them each two days from start to finish to storyboard, record, edit, and publish the video.