9 Rules of Mobile Video Production for Home Movies

Creating amazing quality HD videos with your mobile is now easier than ever. Follow my 9 Rules of Mobile Video Production and you’ll be creating great quality family videos with your iPhone or Android device in now time.

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Rule 1 – Less is More. Film in Shots

When you’re creating a video story you want to try and keep it short and sharp, as we all have limited attention spans these days. I’m sure we’d all sit there and watch hours of videos of our family, but if someone else asks you to watch hours and hours of videos of their family we get bored pretty quickly.

So the key thing here is think about your audience, which could be your family and friends and even your kids and your grandkids in 20 years’ time.



Rules for filming in shots:

  • Hold your shots for 4 – 6 seconds
  • Try to hold it still, don’t move around too much
  • Film in different angles to make your videos more interesting and exciting

Time Guidelines:

  • To share with friends = Less than 3 min
  • To share with family = Less than 15min

So to recap, don’t film everything, film your videos in a series of shots. Keep your videos short, sharp and sweet. We all have limited attention spans these days.

Rule 2 – Tell me a story

As social creatures we love stories, it’s in our DNA. Therefore, your videos will be much more interesting and watchable if you tell story, instead of just cutting together a variety of video clips.

Now in the previous activity we’ve already touched on this, when we created a video story of the content we already had. But how do you capture video clips that best allow you to tell a story? The answer is film events or create events to film.

I say this because firstly it will allow you to have a story to tell, but secondly it makes the task of creating the video so much easier. The perfect example is a birthday party, it only goes for say 2 hours and that means you can focus on the task and have a rough plan for what shots you want to get to tell your story. To give you some ideas, here is the video story I created for my Son’s 2nd birthday.


Now this video is great, because it’s short, it captures the moment and it tells a story. It was also easy to do because the kids where having fun and doing activities, all I had to do was point the camera at the and capture the action.

But you can literally tell any story. In fact, one of the best family videos I created was when I just grabbed the camera and spent half the day filming what the kids got up too.

One of the reasons this video is so important to us is that we now no longer live in that house and both of those dogs have sadly passed on. Now this is especially important for my daughter as she doesn’t really remember living in the old house, but this video helps her see what it was like and helps her remember how much she loved her puppies.



Now I’ve said this a few times, but I want you to change your mind set here about what you film and why. If you want to create something special and unique, pick and event or create an event to film.

Story Structure Once upon a time?

Now believe it or not you already know how to do this, you probably just haven’t thought of it. Ever since we were children we’ve been taught the classic story structure and that is that a story must have a beginning, a middle and an end and obviously you do this with using sequences made up of shots.

When I’m creating video stories I might have the beginning as a graphic with some text, or a wide shot of the location to set the scene or get my kids to talk to camera and set the scene.

The Middle is less structured and contains the action, what’s happening at your event and will make up the bulk of the footage in your video Story.

With the end, most Hollywood films will often finish on a wide shot of the characters riding off in to the sunset and this tells the audience that the story is over. So what you need to do is create something similar to let the audience know the story has finished. At a birthday party, this could be a shot of the kids leaving the party or finishing on a shot of your child waving to the camera or blowing out their candles. But if you can’t find the perfect shot to finish your story on, you can always just slowly fade out the music and fade to black.

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With the end, most Hollywood films will often finish on a wide shot of the characters riding off in to the sunset and this tells the audience that the story is over. So what you need to do is create something similar to let the audience know the story has finished. At a birthday party, this could be a shot of the kids leaving the party or finishing on a shot of your child waving to the camera or blowing out their candles. But if you can’t find the perfect shot to finish your story on, you can always just slowly fade out the music and fade to black.

Rule 3 – You’re Holding It Wrong

A lot of you will be guilty of this, this is such a simple thing to do and can make a massive different to your videos.  When you film video with your mobile you need hold your mobile like this and not like this. Why is this and issue? For a start if you every play footage filmed in portrait mode back on a TV on computer monitor it will have black bars on the side.

We all have limited attention spans these days, so when it comes to making Family videos less is certainly more.


I know that when you’re filming for snap chat or Instagram, you can film like this, but don’t do this for your home videos as when you want to watch them back on your computer or laptop you’ll be forced to watch them back in portrait. And this means that they’ll have black bars on the side, which just doesn’t look very good. 

You’ve also got to take this into consider ration when you’re taking photos. Now you can use portrait photos in a video edit, but you’ve either got to zoom them in a long way or have black bars on the side, which doesn’t look that great.

 So please do me a favour and always film in landscape so I can stop going up to random people in the street and tell them they are doing it wrong.


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Rule 4 – To Zoom or not to zoom

One of the few downsides of filming on your mobile is that mobiles have a wide angle lens as they are designed to film subjects close to the camera, like a selfie for example. Now I’m sure that this issue will be fixed over time as Mobiles lens get better and better. In fact, the new iPhone 7 plus has two lenses a wide angle lens and a 2x optical zoom which is great and goes a long way to addressing this issue, but if you zoom in from a long way you’ll still have issues.


And that’s because the zoom on your phone is a digital zoom and not an optical zoom. That means that your phone is using software to sort of fake zoom in instead of using a normal zoom lens, like you might have in your digital camera. Now because your phone is using software to zoom in, it means that it will affect the quality of your video or photos and the more you zoom in the grainer and blurrier your footage will look.

Also you’ll notice here that the more you zoom the shaker your footage looks, especially if you’d filming hand held. So the rule here is that although it’s tempting to zoom in, it’s always better to use your feet and get closer to your subject. That said sometimes that easier said than done at some events like a school concert at sporting carnival you might find yourself along way back from the action, so you will need to zoom.

In these situations, all you can really can do is arrive early and get as close to the action as you can and then zoom in after that, but as I said it’s a compromise the more you zoom, the poorer the quality of the video.

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If you’re serious about zooming, one option is to invest in a telephoto lens that can literally screw on top of your current mobile lens, there are quite a few of them available on the market and they will defiantly give you better quality footage at your next school concert or soccer game. There are a lot of options out there but one that really stands out to me is the new Moment telephoto lens. It works on both iPhone and android, it’s are compact, stylish and the build quality is amazing and as you can see here they make a big difference and get you a lot closer to the action.

One of the things that I love about it, is that if you use it with the iPhone 7 Plus, it will turn your 2x lens into a 4x lens – that means you’ll get 4 times closer and that can make a big difference.

It’s a great little lens but the drawback is, that you need to remember to bring it with you. With mine I find that I just take it with me when I know I’m going to use it like if I’m filming a school concert. Now you can get a lot of cheap lens on ebay, like this one that kind of looks like you’ve mounted a telescope to the front of your phone, but unless you’re going to use a tripod, they’re not really usable and they do look a little silly.

So in summary, want to zoom? Use your feet or buy a telephoto lens. But if you have to zoom, just be aware that it will affect your image quality.

Rule 5 – I can’t hear You

When it comes to getting the best quality video, most of it comes down the light in the environment your filming in.

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that you need to go out and spend heaps of money on lights or spend hours making your own out of torches, cardboard and pipe cleaners. In fact, you don’t need lights to capture great video, you just need to think about lighting and how it can affect your shots.


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As I said audio is just as important as video and that’s why I use this. It’s a Rode VideoMic Me and if you want good quality sound it’s the best $80 you’ll ever send. It’s really small so it’s easy to carry and just clips right onto your mobile or tablet. RODE hasn’t released a VideoMic ME for the iPhone 7 yet, so if you have an iPhone 7 you’ll need to use the Lightning – 3.5 mm headphone adapter that came with the iPhone 7 to make it work.

The best thing about this is that it’s a directional mic, which means it only records what it’s pointing at rather than everything else around it like your mobile does. If you’ve ever filmed a school concert or awards night with your phone, you’ll find that you end up hearing the people talking next you rather than what you’re pointing the camera at. This little baby with fix that and give you much better quality audio.

You can see in these examples that when you use an external mic like the Rode VideoMic, the audio quality is so much better and therefore your videos will be so much better.

The microphone also comes with a wind sock, which you can use if your filming outside in windy conditions. The windsock will protect the microphone so that you don’t get that terrible wind noise in your audio.

So do your audience a favour and get super close to the subject you’re filming or buy an external directional microphone – otherwise you’ll give your audience a headache.

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Rule 6 – Follow the light

When it comes to getting the best quality video, most of it comes down the light in the environment your filming in.

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that you need to go out and spend heaps of money on lights or spend hours making your own out of torches, cardboard and pipe cleaners. In fact, you don’t need lights to capture great video, you just need to think about lighting and how it can affect your shots.


In general, when your filming on your mobile, you want even natural light, like me here. What you don’t want is to many extremes like bright backgrounds, low light or to many shadows and highlights, your mobile just isn’t powerful enough to handle these types of conditions. And the default camera app on your mobile automatically set to auto, which means that it changes the exposure based on the light in the frame.

Now this isn’t a terrible thing, but you’ll find that it will mean that sometimes your mobile will not film how you want it to. For example in a backlit situation, where you have a strong light behind someone in the foreground you’ll find that your mobile will focus on the light and the person will be really dark. And as I said this isn’t ideal and if you want to have full control over your video you can switch your camera app to Pro mode and manually set the exposer and even focus.

Now obviously in most cases you’re going to be filming kids running around like crazy so this stuff is good in principal but not always possible. But if you know the effects of the light in the environment your filming in, then at least you can give them so consideration before you start filming.

You can also use apps like Filmic Pro to control the footage you’re capturing, but I’ll go into that a little later. Another option is to just give the light some consideration before you press that record button.

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Going Manual

Now if you really want to take control of the way your video footage looks, you should think about getting Flimic Pro or a similar app. In fact, you have an iphone, Moment who made the zoom lens I demoed before also have a great app too.  But for now, let’s take a look at Filmic Pro.  Flimic Pro is available on both iPhone and Android and costs about $26. The great thing about this app is that it allows to take full control of your footage, by locking and manually adjusting the exposure and focus, which means you can take control of your footage.

Now I love Filmic Pro and I use it for most of my filming, I love it, because it can be really useful when you have tough lighting conditions, say where you might have some back light or when you might what to do some creative shots.

Now there is an old Mike Tyson saying that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” filming kids can be a little like this, you might have a plan of what you want to do, but the kids have other ideas. So, my advice here would be just be flexible and take into consideration how different light can affect the quality of your video.

Rule 7 – Hold it still

Now I’ve said poor quality audio can give you a head ache, but do you know what else can give you brain pain and even make you throw up – shaky footage. Now I’m not arguing that you should use a tripod to film your home videos with your mobile, but you should hold your phone in a way that keeps the camera still as possible. You can do this by resting your arms on a table, leaning on a tree or wall or at the very least holding it with too hands.

If you have a look at these examples you can really see the difference.

I so often see people filming with one hand, when you should really be filming like this. By holding it with 2 hands it will give you more control over the device and allows you to keep it as still as possible to insure that you capture that great footage.


Now you can get mounts and brackets to help you stabilize your device and some of them like the iographer mobile bracket even include a variety of lenses you can mount onto your camera. But once again this is a case of it would be great to have if you had a big shoot planned, but you’re not going to carry this with you everywhere.

Also, as a general rule, you’re always best to not move the camera around too much and instead let the action happen in your shot.  The more you move the camera around by panning or tilting as without stabilisation it will look a little shaky.  So once again do your audience a favour and don’t make them quezzy with shaky footage, keep your shots simple and keep it still.

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Rule 8 – Copyright and consent

Ok, so now it’s time to get a little bit serious and talk about 2 important subjects Copyright & consent. Now let’s start with Copyright, what I mean by copyright is using commercial music, photos, designs and videos that you don’t have the rights to use in your productions. For example, using a Beyonce track on your home video. My advice here would be don’t use any copyright protected work, like music in your video stories especially if you are going to share or publish them online. For a start most social media platforms like Youtube and Facebook will block your video, but you might even find yourself getting in trouble from the copyright owners, or at least their lawyers.


Now that said, if you don’t publish the work online and you just keep the videos as part of your home video collection, there is no way that they would ever know. Now I’m not telling you to do this…. I’m just saying. But if you do want to share your videos online Some video editing apps like iMovie, we-video and adobe clip include quite good free stock music that you can use in your productions, if you want to publish it online which is great. Another option is to go to a website like www.bensound.com where you can download royalty free music to use in your family video productions.

Ok so the next serious issue here is consent. The key thing here is that you must have permission from the parents of all of the children featured in your video before you broadcast it on social media. For example, you might think your 6-year daughter looks so cute at her dance recital that you want to share it with the world, but the parents of the girl standing next to her might not want video of their 6 year old daughter in her tu tu broadcast on the internet.  When your recording video of children you have to be considerate of other parent’s wishes and the general rule is don’t broadcast video online unless you have the consent of all of the parents featured in your video.

This is starting to become a serious issue in a lot of countries and people have been taken to court, so be careful and play it safe.

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Rule 9 – Keep it clean

And finally, one last bonus rule. Clean your lens.  If you’re mobile is like mine, it gets treated pretty rough, it gets thrown in my pocket, my bag, it gets food on it and every time I put it up to my ear to talk it gets my big fluffy hair on it. So my point here is that the everyday use of your mobile is making your lens dirty and a dirty lens will affect the quality of the vision your shooting.  So treat your Mobiles lens like you’d treat the lens of your Digital Camera and get in the habit of giving it a quick clean before you start recording.