Michigan State University students making films at a Smart Film School workshop in Berlin



Equipment to produce good video with a mobile phone.


1) The bare essentials

This is what you need to start making better quality video with your mobile phone.

See how to use these items in this short video form our online training.



Power

Video sucks a lot of power from your smartphone. Robb Montgomery uses this powerbank because it lets him charge two devices at the same time, holds a lot of power and is ultra reliable in the field. (He went through a score of cheaper ones until he found this unit.)

Microphones for Android and other special situations

Montgomery carries several microphones with him, because capturing broadcast quality audio in tough field conditions is challenging.

Here is a great lapel mic from Rode that works on Android and iOS devices. This mic is great for formal interviews.

This stick mic from IK multimedia (Android, iOS) is super because the audio enters the device on the digital side. This is really important as this type of connection improves the quality by lowering the noise floor.

If you already have some pro microphones like shotguns, radio mics or reporter sticks, there are some handy interfaces that will bring your audio in on the digital port of your iPhone or iPad.

Yes, you can produce commercial quality work with an iPhone. These bits are important to getting your audio to that level.

Lighting

When you want to achieve better quality in harsh lighting and sound locations, you will need a few more items.

This is a close up of Robb's interview rig.

What's in his rig:

  • Shoulderpod R1 Go
  • Shoulderpod H1 Handle
  • Shoulderpod G1 Grip
  • Luxpad 22 face light
  • Sony battery and charger
  • Røde VideoMic Me microphone
  • IK Multimedia iKlip case

This gear all neatly wraps around an iPhone 6Plus and is lightweight and super secure in the hands.

Note, that in the exploded gear photo above he also carries the Sennheiser ClipMic Digital lav mic in his kit as well.

Sound bites, voice-over and piece-to-camera audio often sounds really professional when it comes into the iPhone on the digital side.

There is lower noise, better gain control and you can engage a digital limiter with the Senheisser app which prevents clipping.

If you want to go ultra-compact, try the R1 Go with a Manfrotto Lumimuse 6 LED lamp. Montgomery avoids small LED lights and prefers the softer and more natural-looking face lighting he can get with the Luxpad22.


Professional journalists need small, light and durable equipment to be able to record high quality video in the field.

Montgomery takes a tripod with when necessary.



His carbon fiber tripod easily folds down to pack inside a suitcase and can be extended to full height to interview tall people.



Stabile camera shots for mobile filmmaking

Montgomery is using the DJI Osmo steadicam with a gimbal and the Z-Axis stabilizer to make super high quality shots for not a lot of money.

Have a look at that rig and the shots that result.






Wireless microphone systems
Using a radio mic system is the ultimate hands-free way to record interviews and pieces to camera. In the videos below are three new systems that support mobile journalism and budget filmmaking with mobile cameras like the Osmo, GoPro, and smartphones.

First up is a Sennheiser wireless mic system that works with any camera. The pro-level AVX combo set includes a lav and handheld mic with a tiny receiver. Solid build quality. Built to succeed in the most demanding field conditions.



If all you need to do is connect a mic wirelessly to your iPhone, This low cost Samson wireless mic set can connect to an iPhone via the USB to lightning adapter. Here is their stick mic kit in the video below.




Røde makes a wireless mic set called the RødeLink Filmmaker kit that sounds really impressive. It is priced between the Samson and Sennheiser units.

In the video above Montgomery compares the audio from the Filmmaker kit with two other Røde mics that also use the mini-plug adapter that the DJI Osmo cam accepts. The Osmo is a stable cam for capturing smooth video tracking shots and also interviews, now that we have found some mics that work with it.


In addition to a wireless mic set, he carries a few more items for my documentary filmmaking assignments.

All of the gear in the photo above fits into a waterproof backpack (one originally designed for surfers)

This pack is light enough to use as carry-on luggage and also to bicycle across sand dunes and film scenes like this.



Look closely and you will see there are actually two special-purpose rigs in the gear bag.

1) A handheld camera for filming sequences (the DJI Osmo).

2) A rig dedicated for filming interview subjects and reporter stand-ups.

Montgomery tests a lot of gear for mobile reporting and video filmmaking so that e can advise students on what works and what doesn't.

We wish to thank the makers of Røde Microphones, IK Multimedia, iStabilizer, Shoulderpod, iOgrapher, UniGrip Pro, Sennheiser, Genelec monitors, Neumann microphones, Apogee Electronics, Rollei, Samson, Rotolight, GoPro, Jorg, and Olloclip for their unwavering support as I test their gear in the field.


Full disclosure: the gear links are affiliate links. You won't pay any extra, but referrals help support the school.