Film director and video expert Tanya McQueen shares the five most important things to do when ﬁlming yourself with a smartphone.
Within two to three seconds of meeting someone we make our minds up about whether we want to do business with them or not.
The exact same psychology applies when watching video online. People are drawn to business owners who are authentic, real and professional.
Everyone knows that the most innovative way to market your business today is using video online. But if you want to get attention your videos must be outstanding.
Social media experts are telling us to use video to increase exposure; web developers are suggesting YouTube to increase trafﬁc to your website; business coaches are pushing us to ﬁlm ourselves and get in front of camera! Yeah, I hear you saying, “but how?”
I’ve been making movies for more than five years. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and seen a lot of mistakes people make when ﬁlming themselves. So here are my five most important things to do when ﬁlming yourself with your smartphone.
1. Getting YOU present
If you are NOT YOU in front of camera everyone will know and they will NOT believe YOU. If you cannot be you, seriously, do not bother to start ﬁlming. Be real, authentic and you. Here are three tips to help you get camera ready!
- PRACTICE in front of your camera – get your phone out and talk to it, sing to it, yell at it, make loving words with it. Film for two minutes every day for 30 days. Practice is really the only way to overcome the fear of what people will think.
- Have FUN – have you ever seen a child ﬁlming themselves? Childlike, fun energy enables us to relax, be real and, more important, be in the present moment. People engage more with present moment energy, versus serious, boring disconnected energy.
- Make the camera or smartphone your BEST FRIEND, and imagine you are talking to your best friend. Look down the lens and see them inside your phone (I put a smiley-face sticker next to the lens and look at that).
2. Making the light work
Good lighting is critical. Lighting and colour is used to create emotions. Check the light before you push record.
Here’re some lighting tips:
- Inside ﬁlming – be aware of overhead ceiling lights that create dark rings under your eyes. Place table lamps or professional lights near your face to balance the light. Be aware that mixing light temperatures (warm vs white) is not a good idea.
- Outside ﬁlming – the sun is your main source of light and can be very useful. But make sure you are not looking into the sun, as this causes you to squint – or the sun is not directly behind you, which causes over-exposed footage and lens ﬂaring. Stand to the side and play with it, and be quick – the sun moves, and clouds go over the sun.
- If you have professional lights and you’re ﬁlming inside, get rid of all outside and other lights. Make the room dark. Set up your lights on you, then add light if necessary. This way if you are doing a longer shoot the sun will not impact on the footage.
- On your smartphone you can adjust the exposure to bring in more light if your environment is too dark. I use my iPhone as an example. When in video mode, click and hold on the subject you wish to ﬁlm; a small circle comes up – hold your ﬁnger on this and then slide the sun up and down the vertical line to add more or reduce light.
3. Recording your voice
Listen to the noises around you before you start ﬁlming. Are there cicadas in the background? Is it raining outside? Before you start talking, acknowledge the noise to the viewer. This way the viewer is not subconsciously thinking ‘what’s the noise in the background? They will be more present to you and your message.
I recommend you avoid using your smartphone microphone, it does not pick up your voice vibrations because you’re too far away. There are wonderful lapel microphones for smartphones, either with a cord or wireless. They range from $13 to $120 and your local sound or video shop can advise you.
4. Positioning your smartphone
Film making is all about the viewer, NOT YOU! Basically the higher the camera tilt in relation to you, the lower you appear. You look submissive, which means the viewer ﬁnds it harder to take you seriously.
The opposite occurs if you hold the camera lower to yourself, making yourself look all powerful and knowing – great for your ego perhaps!
My recommendation is to position the smartphone slightly above eye level. So you are almost level with the viewer watching your video.
Distance is important too. The closer you are to your camera the closer the viewer is to you. Get too close they will feel uncomfortable. Too far away and you’ll lose viewer connection.
Shown above is a mid-shot example from my online Film You course.
My recommendation on distance is called a mid-shot. A mid-shot is from the waist up. We can see your hands and we’re closer to your face. It’s not too far away, yet it’s close enough to see your facial expressions, eyes, and hand movements – therefore building trust.
Film with your phone horizontal NOT vertical. The video will look great on Facebook and YouTube or anywhere else, with no black bands either side!
5. Keep your smartphone steady
There are on average 25 frames (or photos) per second when we film video. When we are ﬁlming it’s hard to keep the phone steady as our hands move, our arms get tired – this is called camera shake. Editing apps can fix it, however one thing I learnt at ﬁlm school was ﬁlm as perfect as you can, eliminating the need to ﬁx mistakes.
There’s nothing worse than trying to watch a video of someone who had used their phone swinging around or jumping up and down while they’re walking. Holding the camera can also take you ‘out of’ being present to YOU while ﬁlming.
A tripod is the best solution – it allows you to choose exactly where you want the smartphone to be for ﬁlming. You’ll need a cage to hold your phone onto the tripod. I prefer to use the onset ﬂip mount smartphone holder which costs around $43. It ﬁts most tripods, monopods and camera frame holders.
It’s amazing to think we can make quality videos on our smartphones. However, ﬁlm making and engaging with clients is more than just a great phone. You owe it to yourself and business to get camera ready.
Once you’ve positioned your smartphone using a tripod and cage, hooked up your lapel mic, double checked the environment for sound and light (don’t forget to check your phone’s battery life and storage capacity), then its lights, smartphone, action!
To learn more about Tanya McQueen’s Film You courses go to www.globalspiritfilms.com