If you have a recent smartphone, you’re probably in possession of an awesome video camera, one that actually rivals expensive DSLRs for ease of use. And as amazing as it seems, it can actually get pretty close in terms of quality.
For $400 or so, you can get some really cool new accessories that can take your productions to the next level, from amateur to cinematic.
Start with a gimbal
Watch any great video on YouTube, and, odds are, you’ll see some soaring shots from the skies, via a drone, and smooth movement on the ground that you’re just not seeing with your smartphone shots.
The drone is $1,000 and not legal in many areas, while a gimbal is just over $100 and you can use it anywhere. DJI, the company that dominates drone sales, sells a variety of portable gimbal stabilizers under the Osmo brand name. The newest, the Mobile 3, is not just my favorite of the bunch but my preferred gimbal of choice.
The new unit is more responsive than the earlier edition, and to these eyes anyway, it seems steadier. Plus, you can’t beat the $119 price.
The Osmo Mobile connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and instructs you to use the DJI Mimo app for tools like timelapse, and hyperlapse, a moving timelapse.
I actually prefer leaving the app and using the native smartphone camera. For my tests, I shot on the Samsung Galaxy S10, which has a dynamite ultra-wide-angle lens, a lens that doesn’t show up in the Mimo app. And the wide really rocks when used with a gimbal for sweeping shots like dashing down a supermarket aisle or cruising the office corridors of USA TODAY.
What’s new with edition 3? It’s foldable, which makes it less of a burden to carry around, and engineers adjusted the design, so it that it now can fit an accessory microphone without being blocked.
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Speaking of sound, can you imagine watching a film that was recorded on the crappy internal mics of our cameras, the ones that pick up your sound, street noise and everything else in town?
Of course not. If you’re going to interview your parents or kids for a family memory video, make some money photographing a local business for use on social media, or look to make vlog videos on YouTube spotlighting your adventures, you need a good microphone.
I’m in love with Rode’s new Wireless Go system. I love the tiny form factor, the fact that it easily snaps into place on anyone, that it can work on either smartphones or DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and the $200 price.
If that sounds like a lot, consider that I usually use a $500 Sony wireless mic on my videos and the Go system is the most affordable wireless system I’ve come across.
Rode also has a wired lav that sells for around $75, but the cord is really short, so you’ll need to spring for an accessory extension cord that can get unwieldy when you’re on a shoot.
When you’re producing videos, there’s often an awkward moment when you ask the subject to wear the lav mic, to string it inside their clothes to hide the cord. The Go system has a microphone built in the pack, so all you have to do is clip it on the subject. No wires.
Note: You will use a wire to connect the receiver to the phone or camera. For the phone, you’ll need to spend an extra $10 with an accessory cable because the one that comes with the unit works only with cameras. If you have a phone with a headphone jack, the 3.5 mm TRS to 3.5 mm TRRS Patch cable will fit directly into your device. If you shoot on an iPhone, you’ll also need a Lightning to headphone dongle, which sells for $9.
Smartphone Tripod adapter
Sometimes, you don’t feel like shooting on the gimbal and want to put your phone on a tripod.
This is an important accessory, not just because it makes your camera steadier. (Think of the last movie you saw, and imagine that the cinematographer held the camera in his or her hand for eight hours a day.)
But if you pick up an adapter with a “cold shoe” on top of it, you can insert the Rode clip-on receiver directly into it, or dramatically improve your lighting with accessory No. 4.
I like the Ulanzi metal tripod mount, which sells for $14.95 on Amazon. (Tripods are extra. You can get a cheap model for as little as $25.)
Again, I take you back to the movie analogy. Do you think pros shoot movies in natural light?
Occasionally, yes, but not all the time. Not when they’re in a dark restaurant, outside at nighttime, at a party – get the idea?
The Lume Cube ($80) is a cool little light that fits on top of any tripod attachment with a cold shoe, or the hot shoe of a camera. It’s little, but produces lots of light and can be charged up via USB.
Have fun filmmaking! Questions? Reach out on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham