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7 tips on using a mobile phone to file school videos

This blog is from one of COBIS’ Supporting Associates.

Here are 7 tips on creating videos using a mobile:

1. Filming on a personal mobile? Firstly, I’d suggest you should never be using your own personal phone to film on for your school, or take photos either.  It’s important to ensure that all school content should be captured and held on a school device and not on something you would take away from school, for safeguarding reasons.

2. Which phone? There are so many options available out there.  As an iPhone geek, I would recommend iPhones and if you can get a 12 or 13 Pro version, then you are at the top of the range. Both have 3 different lenses, which does make a big difference when filming and if possible, I would recommend going for 256GB of memory or higher. If your budget is lower, but you still want to go with Apple, then go for the SE. If Apple have not lured you in yet, the best Android bet tends to be Sony or Samsung and their Xperia and Galaxy phones. There are lots of others out there and the Google Pixel 6 camera with two lenses is a good choice to go for, but do some research as things do change fast in the marketplace.

3. What extras are needed? Whatever phone you go for there are some extras that I’d recommend:

  • A tripod, so you can place your camera steadily on the floor, or table in front of you.
  • A microphone, so that you can record good audio.  Although phones do have good microphones you are likely to be some distance away from your subject. Having a lapel microphone with a 3m or 5m cable will be a great help.
  • Use Filmic Pro. It does cost a little, but it also turns your phone into a proper video camera. Giving you access to focus, aperture, recording size and monitoring your audio.
  • Get a gimble to place your phone into and you can then move around as though you are on a Steadicam.

4. How do you film an interview? If you are filming an interview or recording a piece to camera then you need to position the subject in the correct place within the screen. If you are recording a Vlog or talking directly into the camera then you should be positioned in the centre of the frame. If you are interviewing a pupil, member of staff or the Head of your school, you may want to position them to the left or right of frame looking into the empty space. However, since Covid there has been quite a dramatic change in how interviews are filmed, due to the use of video conferencing. It may well be that you want to conduct all of your interviews with the interviewee looking directly into the camera and talking directly to the audience – the decision is yours.

5. What other footage do I need to capture? For the majority of films, they should be two minutes or less and part of your social media strategy. This may be based around an interview, or a script that you have produced. With either you need to film ‘cutaways’ or ‘b-roll’ which is footage to accompany what is being spoken about. If the Head is talking about a fantastic sports team, you should overlay some footage of the team playing in the edit. 

6. Should I edit on my phone? Although you can edit on your phone and there are programmes such as iMovie designed to do this, I would highly recommend that you don’t. It may be that I have reached an age where using a small screen is a struggle, or a case of fat fingers, but it is so much easier to be able edit using a proper computer, or a laptop and ideally a second screen. 

7. Do I need a video camera, or is that obsolete? So much has changed over the past 10 years, that in truth having a separate camera or video camera does really depend on what you are hoping to produce.  If you are taking video production seriously then a mobile phone is a backup, but it shouldn’t be your main device. You should be using a digital SLR camera. The biggest noticeable difference is the shallow depth of field you get with a DSLR camera and the quality for both stills and video. This is something that the iPhone can replicate in portrait mode on photos and now they are looking at ways this can be done on video – but they are not completely there yet. 

Charlie Gauvain is the Managing Director of the UK production company Eye Film. He has worked with COBIS schools to produce video content all over the world, from The British School Tokyo to Doha International College in Qatar. Eye Film also train school staff and pupils how to produce their own video content.